It goes without saying that New York has a lot of bookstores.
Living here, I stumble across bookstores I’ve never seen before on a regular basis — and in an age where many people seem convinced that print has gone out of style, that’s a pretty magical feeling.
For the past few months, we’ve been featuring different bookstores in the spirit of encouraging people to shop local. Even with such a vast array of options where I live, I immediately knew what my first pick would be. Greenlight Bookstore has been one of my favorites since I moved here; it’s one of those places I simply can’t walk past without taking a look inside, no matter how recently I’ve been. Maybe it’s the enticement of the books on display in the windows, the quaint green awning over the entrance, or the glow of the hanging circular lights inside, but this place lures me in like it’s the flame and I’m the out-of-control moth who has absolutely no business spending any more of her money on books.
Although Greenlight now has two locations in Brooklyn, for this post I’m going to focus on the original Fort Greene store, which opened in 2007 and has, over the course of a decade, become a staple of its community.
I’ll admit that before writing this, I didn’t know much about Greenlight Bookstore’s origins. Upon researching, I was delighted to discover that the store was founded by two women. Jessica Stockton Bagnulo was an editorial assistant at a major publishing house when she decided that what she really wanted to do with her life was open a bookstore. After several years of working for independent bookstores and a course on economic development, she entered a business plan contest and won the first prize: a grant from the library system for $15,000. Shortly thereafter, Rebecca Fitting, a sales representative for Random House, joined Stockton Bagnulo as an investor and business partner, and together they opened their first location on Fulton Street. Less than two years ago, business still booming, they opened their Prospect-Lefferts Gardens store.
I have to admit that I’m more inclined to support something when it’s owned by women (hmm, I wonder why), but there is a lot more to love about Greenlight than just its origin story. The store is laid out beautifully, the space well-utilized to give as much attention to the books as possible, which is probably why I rarely leave the store without something I don’t need.
Like many bookshops, Greenlight has a staff picks section with a range of choices from staff members and little blurbs about why each book is so great, but what’s extra cool about Greenlight’s is that all staff picks are 15% off — not just in store, but online as well. Which brings me to another great thing about Greenlight: they have a website where you can find thousands of titles and have them shipped to you, so even if you’re in a tiny town with no local bookstores, you can avoid the guilt of buying books from Amazon! They also have a book subscription service called “First Editions Club,” which gets you a brand new collectible book each month. 2017’s selections included the latest from Jeffrey Eugenedies, Jennifer Egan, Jesmyn Ward, and more.
Greenlight also hosts a wide variety of events at both of their locations, from author readings and signings to storytime for kids. In addition, Greenlight has something I think most listeners of our podcast will appreciate: book groups! Between the two locations, there are seven book groups covering a variety of categories, some fairly broad (fiction, nonfiction) and some more specific (young readers, romance). They meet monthly to discuss selections, and book group picks are also 15% off!
There’s seriously so much more I could say about Greenlight, but I just want to focus on one more thing, my favorite thing: the Independent Presses display. This is where Greenlight spotlights books from smaller publishers, books that you might not hear about unless you’re actively searching for them. While many bookstores might carry books from indie presses, I really appreciate Greenlight’s choice to put these books on prominent display, making them look just as important as the work coming out of major publishers — because they are just as important, and they deserve more than to be crammed onto a shelf at the back of the store.
I think the attention paid to indie presses is something that exemplifies the spirit of Greenlight Bookstore, what’s made it so successful. You can feel the love and passion for books radiating out of this place, and not just for what’s already selling, but for what deserves to be sold, read, and cherished. So, for the rest of the month, we’ll be linking to Greenlight for all of our podcast book picks — if you plan to read along with us, please make my heart happy and order from this wonderful place!