- Corinne Durand for New York
A few years ago, a girlfriend and I moved into a Park Slope apartment together and were so serious we combined our books, which led to quite a few redundancies. What to do with these duplicate copies of Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Hitchock/Truffaut, and others? Some made it to the curb in the Park Slope sidewalk-swap meet tradition that had already bestowed upon us so many good books. But we also figured we might be able to get ourselves some new used books by trading them in. And a quick Google search led us Brooklyn natives to a nearby used-book store we had never heard of.
This was the first time I visited Babbo’s, on Prospect Park West, just across the border in Windsor Terrace. And I was enamored from the moment I walked through the door. Here was one of those archetypal used-book stores that are increasingly rare: narrow aisles, tall wooden shelves, a cat (!), and tall stacks of miscellaneous trade-ins wherever there was space enough to put down a tall stack. The store opened in 2007 and pretty much instantly claimed “the monopoly on used and new books in a large chunk of South Brooklyn,” as one blog put it.
As the clerk went through our books, she pulled out a copy of The Unbearable Lightness of Being. (My memory is fuzzy, but I think that’s what it was.) “Oh good,” she said. “One of my customers has been asking me for this for years.” Which I thought was funny: who waits years for the local used-book store to get a book in stock? But such was the sense of community around Babbo’s. There’s no rush; you could read whatever you wanted to whenever it became available, Amazon be damned. (I’ve since become the same way: I’m not reading Martin Amis’s Money until someone sells it to PS in DUMBO. Hint hint if you’re reading this, Mr. Amis; take a long walk!)
Of course, we didn’t get much credit for the modest stack we brought in, but it was enough to cover the sorts of books you hope to find in a used-book store: Ransom by Jay McInerney, The Breezes by Joseph O’Neill, etc. The curious selection reflected the curious neighborhoods it served. This year we named it The Best Used Bookstore in Brooklyn.
But now it’s set to close. “Leonora Stein, the wonderful owner of Babbo’s books, was ready to move on to other things,” the co-owner of Park Slope’s Community Bookstore told DNAinfo. The good news is that it will remain a bookstore. Community Bookstore will take over and rename it Terrace Books, continuing to sell a combination of new and used books—with the new option of bicycle delivery! (Babbo’s sold some new books, like many used-book stores, but they seemed a small percentage of the stock.) The opening is set for June.
I’m glad Windsor Terrace will retain a bookstore—I just hope Terrace Books retains Babbo’s loveliness.
Follow Henry Stewart on Twitter @henrycstewart