What the guidebooks won't tell you

Our editors chose the city's most vital places, people and things-and then tracked down un-Googleable, ultra-valuable tips about each. Plus some quizzes to see what you already know.

Photo: Joshua Kristal

Housing Works Used Book Café

If we could take one local reading series to a desert island, it would be this bookstore’s. The writers who pass through Housing Works’ doors are a high-minded mix of the establishment and up-and-comers: Lydia Davis, Jonathan Lethem, Samantha Hunt and Dave Eggers, to name a few. And our boy George Saunders is a repeat offender; if anyone could cheer us up when marooned on an islet, it’d be him.

The secret:
Housing Works has secrets aplenty—e.g., there’s a subbasement, stocked with 100,000 extra books, where staffers have been known to get frisky between the covers—but the juiciest ones smack of a more tabloidy, voyeuristic ilk. Not only do celebs shop at the UBC (sightings include Winona Ryder, Keanu Reeves and Parker Posey), they donate their books too. Volumes from Salman Rushdie, Woody Allen, Paul Giamatti, Gwyneth Paltrow (who inscribed her name on the sides) and Cindy Sherman have all graced the shelves, and you can tell what Peter Sarsgaard has been up to by what he brings in: war titles when he was filming Jarhead and natural-pregnancy books donated after the birth of his daughter, Ramona. 126 Crosby St between E Houston and Prince Sts (212-334-3324, housingworksbookstore.com)