Saturday, May 23, 2009

A bookstore for the worldly

What kind of dreamer opens a bookstore in a recession, gives it a nostalgic name that means nothing to most people under 40, and stocks it with travel guides and obscure foreign novels?
Meet David Del Vecchio, owner of Idlewild Books, who says business is thriving despite the odds against independent bookstores, the travel downturn and an economy that was already heading south when Idlewild opened in May 2008.

"Since January, we've recorded double-digit growth every month," he said.
But Del Vecchio admits that customers often have no idea what Idlewild refers to. Before New York's international airport was named for John F. Kennedy in 1963, the airport was commonly known as "Idlewild."
If the name of the store, located on 19th Street near Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, is old-fashioned, so, in some ways, is the concept. Idlewild offers personalized service to match customers with books, and it showcases a carefully curated collection of 7,000 books from 100 countries. More than half the mix is literature; the rest, guidebooks.
"Every book in the store has a strong sense of place," Del Vecchio said.

Books are organised geographically – by state, country and continent – not alphabetically. "The Iliad" is amid books about Greece, along with "Dinner with Persephone," a contemporary travel memoir. "Ghosts," by Buenos Aires writer Cesar Aira is with Argentina books, along with classics by Jorge Luis Borges. "The Conqueror," by Norwegian Jan Kjaerstad, is with other Scandinavian noir novels.
You could find these books on Amazon or in a superstore – but you might never hear of them if Idlewild weren't handpicking them.
Read the full story at


lillyanne said...

I think this shop must be inspired by the Daunt's bookshops in London, started by James Daunt. Graham, you must know these, I think? The first one was in Marylebone High Street but there are three or four others now as well - maybe more. I think James Daunt "invented" the idea of stocking a bookshop according to countries - so that each section not only has travel books but also the fiction of the place. It's a joy to shop in them.

Beattie's Book Blog said...

Thanks lillyanne, Indeed I know and love the Marylebone St store.
Read my earlier post about this
wonderful bookshop here.
Don't miss it if you are lucky enough to be in London.