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Best Bookstore for Used Books

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A world away from the taxis honking in Fourth Avenue traffic, Alabaster Bookshop is small and sepia-tinged, with crisscrosses of books that extend as far up as the ladders alongside the shelves can reach. The endearingly cluttered shop is peppered with figures: a gnome on the light switch, a butler carrying a tray of real books, a bust of Chopin at the cash register. Old, colorful paperback editions of books like 1984 and Princess Pamela’s Soul Food Cookbook are in plastic bags pinned to a mounted shelf on the ceiling. Books here are time capsules, with different editions of the same title arranged side by side. The monochrome khaki cover of Wuthering Heights from 1978 and the manga-ish cover of Wuthering Heights from 2013 speak volumes about the years they were published. But the more they change, the more they stay the same: The cover of a book marked 60 cents and titled Why Are You Still Single? features a woman on a fainting couch, smoking a cigarette. Books the size of matchboxes (Fashion: Bustles to Bikinis, Quotations From Chairman Mao); a book of poetry written in code, called The Policeman’s Beard is Half Constructed, which claims to be the first book ever written by a computer; and novelizations of movies and TV shows are among what you’ll find in the atmospheric heaps. “I like the surprised looks on people’s faces when I find a book they ask for,” a clerk imparts. “It’s a store full of surprises.”

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