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The Floating Library and five other unusual reading spots

Written by
Tiffany Gibert

This month's pop-up Floating Library got us wondering: What other under-the-radar locales cater to readers? While there are plenty of coffeeshops for doing work, out-of-the-way parks and secret places for peace and quiet in NYC, they aren’t always ideal for those wanting to hunker down with a novel or four. No comfortable chairs, no stacks to browse. For the bookishly curious, the Floating Library on the Hudson River is a good place to start. It will be open on the historic Lilac Museum Steamship at Pier 25 through October 3, and they have a full schedule of events—like a workshop with the Center for Book Arts on September 20 and a multimedia performance by Peruvian-Japanese artist Pauchi Sasaki on September 28. Visitors can BYOB (bring your own book, obviously) or borrow from the library's growing selection. Best of all, the ship's an unplugged zone, so you’re guaranteed not to see—or hearanyone playing Candy Crush.

But for those who get seasick really easily, here are five more unique spots, perfect for diving into a new fall book, perusing one-of-a-kind collections and just getting some damn reading done.

  • Proteus Gowanus Study Hall. Gowanus, Brooklyn. Mon–Fri 10am–6pm.
    Proteus Gowanus is a goldmine for nontraditional creative types. Sound like you? Then meet some of your brethren at the venue's study hall, a casual co-working space with chairs, tables, WiFi and black gold, a.k.a. coffee. It's $50/month or $125 for a 3-month period, and if you're ever lacking inspiration, the building is also home to the Reanimation Library—an independent library of books that have fallen out of circulation.
  • Poets House. Battery Park City, Manhattan. Tue–Fri 11am–7pm; Sat 11am–6pm.
    Granted, Poets House felt a little more cozy and exclusive in its old, musty space on Spring Street, but the modern, light-filled venue overlooking the Hudson River is still one of the most phenomenal and underused public places in the city. They've got over 60,000 volumes of poetry, lots of chairs, free WiFi, and it never gets crowded. All the more poetry for us, right?
  • Brooklyn Art Library. Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Daily 11am–7pm.
    The Sketchbook Project is an independent organization that collects artists' books from around the world. They've got over 30,000 so far, and the Brooklyn Art Library is the gem of a space that exhibits the contributions. The walls are lined with sketchbooks, which visitors are welcome to search and explore, and the library also functions as an intimate public reading room. No artistic talents necessary.
  • The Chancellor Robert R. Livingston Masonic Library. Gramercy & Flatiron, Manhattan. Mon, Wed–Fri 8:30am–4:30pm; Tue 12–8pm.
    Unlike many specialty libraries and cultural clubs in the city, the Livingston Masonic Library is open to the public—no membership or proof of Masonic ancestry required! Borrowing privileges are limited to Masons, however, and while the stacks are closed, staff members can retrieve books for you...if you're really into Freemasonry. Otherwise, just take advantage of this little-known nook, where you definitely don't be disturbed by anyone you know.
  • The Uni Project. Various locations throughout New York.
    A brilliant endeavor, the Uni Project brings the books to you. It's a portable, pop-up, open-air reading room that moves around the city, partnering with community organizations and prioritizing underserved neighborhoods to bring high quality books to parks, farmers' markets, museums, schools, beaches and more. The Uni's season runs May through November; check the project's website to see where it's going next.

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