Huntington, New York, is the home of Walt Whitman along with several art galleries and museums. It’s also the home of Book Revue, the largest independent bookstore on Long Island. Established in 1977, this book shop sells new, used, and discounted books, and it’s still going strong during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Co-founder and owner Richard Klein is a house painter turned book seller who has a long history in the book selling business. He moved from New York to D.C. to work in two different spots, Savile Books and Second Story books. The latter offered lessons in used, rare, and collectible books. He, along with his brother Robert and a friend John, came back to New York to open up a shop on Long Island called Encore Books in 1977. They changed the name to Book Revue (a name created by their cousin) when they found out a bookstore chain in Philadelphia had already used Encore. Richard says, “The public liked us. We were very informal, very personal, we had a lot of character.”
They also have a lot of books. They sell used and remaindered books mostly, plus the books you find on everyone’s current contemporary to-read list. They have room for an incredibly large selection since they’ve expanded their space over the years from 3,000 square feet to about 15,000. They love stocking used books because they buy them from everyday readers—which means they also get a bonus of old bookmarks or whatever people use as bookmarks (receipts, fliers).
If you’re looking for collectibles, they’ve got those, too. You want a signed first edition? Ask them if they have it. You want a leather-bound volume of Shakespeare? Drop them a line. If you’re looking for lots of children’s books, sure thing.
If you want something other than a book, they’ve got T-shirts, literary pins, candles, and tote bags. While the COVID-19 shutdown has been sad, they found some joy putting together specialty book-and-gift bundles, especially for Mother’s Day. They were closed for three months, the entire staff furloughed, but now they’re back!
In addition to the organized book labyrinth, Book Revue offers events. One that sticks out in the mind of Publicist and Events Coordinator Loren Limongelli is hosting comedic legend Joan Rivers a few months before Rivers’s passing. Loren says, “She was one of the funniest and most genuine people I’ve ever met.” Also, “Anytime we worked with the Secret Service, it was exciting.” Let’s pause: imagine you’re working at a bookstore and then suddenly you’re dealing with Secret Service. Jimmy Carter and other politicians have been to the store, which means Secret Service detail.
You can also go into the store and have your Tarot cards read during Tarot Tuesday. Masks are required, and they have hand sanitizer at the ready, of course. Another option is to sit at a bistro table on the sidewalk and enjoy a coffee from the café.
As part of the arts community, Book Revue also supports visual artists. Once a month, they feature an artist’s work on a wall in the Fiction section. “We believe that the literary and visual arts are natural kin and are happy to celebrate and support both in our bookstore,” they said.
General Manager Julie Wernersbach, who recently joined Richard Klein at Book Revue after Robert Klein retired, is currently catching up on some fall releases. She says Luster by Raven Leilani “blew [her] away.” She also suggests White Rage by historian and professor Carol Anderson and Leave The World Behind by Ruman Alaam, which is a forthcoming novel set on Long Island.
Clearly, everyone who is part of the Book Revue community has an incredible passion for books. As readers, we can join in that passion. In the words of the folks at Book Revue: “It cannot be overstated: the only way local, independently-owned businesses will survive the long term economic effects of COVID-19 is if shoppers make the choice to support our stores and keep our towns vibrant, healthy, and in business.”
My favorite part of book browsing at Book Revue are the discount boxes. Buy one book for $3 or buy five books for $10. That means you’re buying five books. Unlike the rest of the store, these boxes have no rhyme or reason behind them. The last time I was picking through, another patron asked me how they were organized and I answered, “Just jump in and see.” I snagged Steve Martin’s An Object of Beauty and Maureen N. McLane’s This Blue. These two books have been on my to-read list, and BLAM! there they were in the bins. Talk about book serendipity. Book Revue is magic.
Book Revue is located at 313 New York Ave, Huntington, NY 11743.