‘My 1980s & Other Essays’, a book by Wayne Koestenbaum at 192books, New York
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192 Books, New York City. A mirror of the Paula Cooper Gallery

In the absence of bookstores in the Chelsea area, Paula Cooper and Jack Macrae persisted in operating a bookstore for the community of inhabitants for this corner of Manhattan

192 Books, New York

Explicated from the cavity of the art world is 192 Books, New York – an homage to the perseverance of art and its forms. The owners Paula Cooper and her partner, Jack Macrae opened the doors to their store on May 22, 2003. The bookstore, being situated at 192 of 10th Avenue in the Chelsea neighborhood of New York, holds significance to Cooper and Macrae. Cooper, one of the two co-owners, is a gallerist who first began her career in 1968. Having founded her first gallery in the Prince Street area of the SoHo neighborhood, Cooper relocated her establishment to Chelsea in the 1990s. «The name of the bookstore is a derivation from the location where it lies – at 192 on Tenth Avenue», shares book buyer and store manager Evan Dent. Having acquired this role from a peer and predecessor of 192 Books, New York the creative writing and literature graduate states that the second co-owner of the bookstore is a prominent figure in the publishing industry. Dent states that Macrae, who was an editor at publishing house Henry Holt, oversaw the curation and the distribution of books from authors like Hilary Mantel, Carl Safina and Adam Nicolson to name a few. «Macrae was responsible for shepherding authors from the United Kingdom for the demographic of readers in the United States». 

Paula Cooper and Jack Macrae, owners of 192 Books, New York

Coming from varied interests and backgrounds, the two co-owners’ shared assiduity can be seen across the titles carried and sold within the confines of 192 Books, New York. Paula – who’s know-how lies in art – curates a selection of art books whereas Macrae has added in a selection of literary works within the realm of fiction and non-fiction books.  When it was established in 2003, the owners, who had a predilection for translated literature, wove these bodies of work into their inventory. «When the Paula Cooper gallery relocated itself to the Chelsea neighborhood, the owners took over this space on 192 at 10th Avenue and formatted the bookstore as we know it today». Dent adds that in the absence of bookstores in the Chelsea area, as compared to Greenwich Village and the Lower Manhattan area, the owners persisted in operating a bookstore for the community of inhabitants for this corner of Manhattan. 

As Dent shares, the ideations and objectives that have persevered through the years at 192 Books, New York was the insistence of purpose and a pivot to literary goods in its forms. The manager who has been in-charge of book buying and overseeing the ins and outs of the store over the years has ensured that 192 Books stands itself apart from bookstores adjacent to it. Noting that while bookstores – commercial and those who are self-sustaining – have an inventory of items that are sought after by its consumers, they succumb to carrying goods that are sought after. As such, bookstores lose their essence in identity and have similar shade to those in the book selling business. «Books in 192 have been vetted by me and a buyer who is in charge of bringing in our collection of children’s books. The collection of books here are of quality – a necessity to the forming minds of young readers and those who are seeking recondite reads». 

192 Books’ stance in maintaining a niche library of books, pivoting away from those that are in vogue, has benefited the establishment over time. Allowing themselves to stand apart, 192 Books, under Dent’s orchestration, has brought along a reading experience for customers who are in search of literature that is varied when visiting the store. The physical space of the store, where in its infancy, was an extension of the Paula Cooper with a coalescence of art books has shifted over time. «The change has molded 192 Books into a trove of discovery for readers – where art books mingle with fiction and non-fiction titles». 

The Interior of The Bookstore in New York

The space that was once utilized to showcase artworks diminished in size over time to accommodate for the surge in books that were given focus to. As Dent notes, the shelving units at the rear of the store was an addition that was inserted in recent years. «Our intention to utilize space to include a variety of books shifted over time under the vision of the buyers». Prior to having taken over the space at 192 10th Avenue, the lot belonged to a window store. Dent shares that the space exists within a four hundred square feet lot, where the space is fitted with three floor-to-ceiling windows, a token from its predecessor prior to it being the bookstore. 

The store is flooded with lighting – adorning the books on display. Whilst co-existing alongside bookstores in the area, 192 Books location benefitted the gallery as it is a six-minute walk from each other. Cooper, who was in charge of the physical design of 192 Books, New York led the arrangement with minimalism as the pivoted aesthetic. «This played in tandem with the artists who were involved in minimalism and were showcased at the Cooper Gallery. Creators like Donald Judd and Sol LeWitt are some artists who have been featured and have worked with Paula Cooper». Along to getting featured within the confines of the gallery, artist LeWitt was the individual who was in charge of designing the typeface and logo of 192 Books – the logo of which resides on the flag at the anterior of the store. The layout of the store has been arranged similar to being in a gallery – a mirror of the Paula Cooper Gallery. The walls within the store are affixed with shelving units and the middle spaces by the windows are complemented with tables that house art books and translated literature. «In between the tables by the windows is a ‘staff picks’ segment of books from authors like Virginia Woolf and James Baldwin».

The Purpose of The Bookstore in Chelsea

Having begun the business selling art monographs to compliment the artwork being showcased at the gallery, 192 Books wove in genres of books over time. Having pivoted their focus to translated works from authors of multifarious backgrounds, Dent remarks that bookstores that were formatted after the birth of 192 Books followed suit in variegating their inventory of reads. «While the bookstore goes against the grain of function – to cater to our audience’s needs, our stance to instead curate literary works has over time amassed a following». Here, works by queer authors and those of marginalized-cultural groups are showcased with content – flocking in audience members who share like-minded interest and an invitation to begin discourse in matters of literature and art. Dent adds, «During the protests, we did not seek to monetize sales off the struggles of communities. Rather, we curated a section of books with no traction in the realms of existence. These titles discussed these matters in depth, to assist in the education of those who stopped by». Another stance that Dent took to align himself with 192 Books’ beliefs was to redirect customers to black-owned businesses during the protest period as a means to show solidarity to the movement. 

192books, New York, interior view
192books, New York, interior view

Items Carried at 192 Books, New York

«I am standing on the shoulders of giants when it comes to curating reading materials in the bookstore». Since being instated as the primary book buyer for the store, Dent has delved into the minutiae of authors and their books while remaining esoteric. As he shares, the intention to plateauing a specific author comes from no pivoted nucleus. Dent states that in certain situations, books vary – where there would be a catalog of books from a single author or a single book from a list of authors. «Art books are varied from the fiction and non-fiction titles that are carried in store». Dent states that this is due to the dexterity in comprehension and palpability in art consumption that varies in its consumers. As such, Dent has curated a varied selection of art books featuring artists of sorts and the movements of arts they reside in. «There are works from contemporary artists that lay beside renowned creators like Picasso and Dalí. The praxis here is the carrying of up-and-coming artists’ leaflets from the Paula Cooper Gallery. This is to give customers and visitors an opportunity to learn matters in art that are away from the repeated discourse in the subject». Along to Dent’s recommendations, co-owners Cooper and Macrae suggest books based on their individual prowess. Dent adds that due to their niche attractions and set of customers who consume esoteric works, he receives title recommendations and on occasion, adds these works to 192 Books’ library.  «While we stray away from literary works that are sought after by readers, our library follows no rubric standard. We peruse titles based on the existing authors that we follow in vein with that when seeking to update our shelves». 

192 Books and its future

Having collaborated with online platform Bookshop.org during the period of the pandemic, Dent shares of  192 Books’ intention to partake in aspects of business matters to sustain themselves. He adds that due to the limit in employees at the store, there are hiccups that play into factors that can render the bookstore into stagnation. «Bookshop.org is in partnership with book distributor Ingram. They act as the middleman for self-sustaining bookstores who utilize their platform». Dent elucidates that bookstores across the United States utilize the online platform to allow for their subset of customers to purchase books through online means besides from known shopping platforms. «This solves stocking issues within the realms of small-scale bookstores. Using the platform gives us an opportunity to gain a profit from the sales as well – an effort that has been upheld by Bookshop.org». 

Inculcating the sales of external items like Moleskine notebooks, tote bags and sweatshirts, Dent shares that he is hesitant to incentivize the identity of 192 Books through the sales of merchandise.  «It is a stance against consumerism – one that has taken off over the years through social media». Having hosted events prior to the pandemic, gatherings that Dent regards as «the lifeblood of 192 Books», the bookstore looks to host events once again in the near future. In the past years, the bookstores have hosted readings of authors, exhibitions of artists and book signings from creators like Zadie Smith, Rachel Kushner and Colm Tólbín to name a few. «There are New Year’s events that 192 Books hosts where there would be a twenty-four-hour reading of a book. When events like this happen, renown names who happen to be in the city stop by to indulge in the reading». 

Working within city guidelines in means of operations, 192 Books recycles their waste with the assistance of the city’s waste management. «There are some waste items that are not accepted by the waste management department. We take it upon ourselves to dispose of this with the use of the appropriate bodies». Dent states that due to the nature of the business of book selling, the reduction in the carbon footprint of the store is one that he intends on seeing through at his time there, even if it could reduce in minute measurements. In the coming months, the bookstore and its team of staff members look to further their imprint on the New York City reading scene through the curation of books in fiction, non-fiction works and in art. 

192 Books, New York City 

192 10th Ave, New York, NY 10011, United States

Situated in the Chelsea neighborhood of New York’s exalted island, Manhattan, 192 Books operates as a disseminator of art, fiction, and non-fiction books alike. Having included a children’s section over time, 192 Books persists as an independent-bookstore promulgating to its consumers printed literary goods, events and book signings. 

Pravin Nair

The writer does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article.

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check and buy on Prototipo Store
item collections in limited edition
crafted according to our editorial search

Hemp / made in Italy
Lampoon is working to restore
Hemp production in Italy
as hemp is the one and only
natural vegetal fiber sourceable in the country
for more info, please email us at [email protected]

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