There are plenty of pubs where literary legends have drunk, but we’ve tracked down the best bars with books in NYC, so you can endure the freezing weather with booze in one hand and a good read in the other.
The Peacock, 24 E39th St (pictured above)
Nestled inside The William Hotel is The Peacock restaurant, which specializes in British cuisine. It also has a rather nice Library Bar which has an air of refined literary elegance, well-stocked bookcases, generously upholstered couches and a fire. Get them to fix you a fortifying hot toddy, whilst you sink into E.B. White’s Here is New York.
Raines Law Room at the William, 24 E39th St
Also within the William Hotel – but a different establishment – this speakeasy has a book-lined library room with a roaring fire, antique furniture and a hushed atmosphere. Take your book, relax in a velvet wing-backed chair and read while a perfectly mixed cocktail and delicious bar nibbles are brought to your table. Enter via the basement Shakespeare Bar, and you will be taken via a secret staircase to your destination. Auntie Mame would approve.
The New York Library at the Iroquois Hotel, 49 West 44th Street
This little antique library only contains books about New York, and usually has delicious apple cider on offer in the winter. In a room just off the lobby, it’s primarily for guests, but visitors to the hotel’s Lantern’s Keep cocktail lounge can also browse its titles, such as Great Blizzards of New York City, whilst sheltering from Snowpocalypse.
Housing Works Bookstore, 126 Crosby St
This wood-lined room has floor-to-ceiling books, many for just a dollar. You can enjoy a beer or wine from its café while you devour your latest find in a bohemian, welcoming atmosphere. It also has excellent evening events; everything from concerts to Moth story-slams. Try to track down Kafka Was the Rage: A Greenwich Village Memoir about the Beats, as Ginsberg would have loved this place.
Morgan Library and Museum, 225 Madison Ave
The plush Morgan Dining Room is inside the restored 19th-century brownstone which was formerly the Morgan family’s home. The vintage vibe continues with a menu inspired by early 20th-century New York cuisine. Brunch includes a mimosa, brioche French toast, cookies and coffee for $25.50. And who wouldn’t want a Gilded Manhattan cocktail, made with 23-carat gold dust, whilst reading The Age of Innocence?
The Library at the Nomad Hotel, 1170 Broadway
A beautiful bar in a two-level library, with a minstrel’s gallery reached by an antique spiral staircase. The book collection is eclectic and features sections on everything from The History of New York to Food and Drink. Raise a glass to luxury and literature while re-reading The Great Gatsby. It’s what Fitzgerald would have wanted.
Carnegie Club, 156 W56 St
As long as you don’t mind the smell of cigar smoke, the Carnegie Club is a divine place to read. Choose a leather-bound title from its hand-carved 18th-century bookcases, warm your feet before the fire, and sip a Churchill cocktail in a toast to the great man.
Bookmarks Bar at the Library Hotel, at 299 Madison Ave
Book-themed cocktails – such as Tequila Mockingbird and Hemingway – dominate the menu in this romantic rooftop bar. It has an interesting selection of literary works, as well as titles on philosophy and technology, to read in front of the fire. Read about how even the greatest of New York characters can fall in Budd Schulberg’s The Disenchanted.
Beekman Bar & Books, 889 1st Ave
There are plenty of reading nooks and crannies in this plush, intimate library bar, which also contains a humidor for those wanting to enjoy a cigar. The main bar area is non-smoking and has an impressive cocktail and scotch selection, including a ‘Tour of Scotland whisky-tasting flight’. Pair with a reading of The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner, for the full Scottish effect.
Hudson Hotel Library Bar, 356 W 58th St
Styled on an old English drawing room, this bar has an extensive collection of books, on topics from film, theater, fashion and art, to travel and politics. It gets livelier as the day progresses, so those actually wanting to read should head over around lunchtime for a nice Pinot Noir in front of the fire with The Harder They Fall, which is set in the same neighborhood.
Campbell Apartment, 15 Vanderbilt Ave, Grand Central Station
Not actually a library, but during the day it certainly has the atmosphere of one, and it’s a dream spot for readers. Formerly the private office of 1920’s tycoon, John W. Campbell, it has been fully-restored to its original baronial splendor, with a vast stone fireplace and hand-painted beamed ceiling. Take Bonfire of the Vanities and sip a martini.
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