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There’s No Place Like Here: Brazenhead Books

Jul 12, 2011

by AndrewDavidWatson

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(Music by The Album Leaf)

I first heard about the secret bookshop, Brazenhead Books, from my friend Rachel Rosenfelt, founder of the literary website The New Inquiry. Rachel described Brazenhead as a mecca for book lovers and as one of those rare New York City gems, an extremely fascinating, yet unknown, spot.

Rachel invited me to a salon being held at the space, and although I’m not a literary type in the traditional sense (I read a ton — just mostly nonfiction), I jumped on the opportunity to visit.

I arrived at the building a little nervous, like I was about to engage in an illegal act. After a short wait I was buzzed upstairs. From the minute I walked in I was in love with the space and knew I wanted to photograph it.

Rachel introduced me to Michael, the owner of Brazenhead and a lifelong bookseller. There was something about Michael’s extremely unpretentious approach to books and his engaging personality that really impressed me. Over a few drinks Michael and I had a conversation about his life as a bookseller and the current state of secondhand shops. I seem to be attracted to people who are extremely dedicated, borderline obsessed, with their passions (probably because I frequently find myself in this realm), and Michael was no exception.

A few weeks later I asked Michael if I could make a short film about his bookstore and to my surprise he said yes. I know for a fact that Michael has turned down multiple interview requests in the past so I was extremely excited by his answer.

Michael is so engaging that I ended up shooting over an hour of just interview footage with him. What you see here is a very small glimpse into his bookshop and his life. What I love about my work is what I learn from my subjects, and I think the most important thing I learned from Michael is how rewarding it is to live your life by your own terms.

While I hope this video translates into a few more book sales for Michael, I also hope his shop remains one of those special, hidden delights New York City has to offer. I also want to thank Rachel at The New Inquiry for all her help and Michael for letting me hang out and try to sum up his life — and bookshop — in 3 short minutes.

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104 comments

  • MegansMenagerie

    MegansMenagerie said 5 years ago

    Great post!!!

  • TwinkleStarCrafts

    TwinkleStarCrafts said 5 years ago

    Fabulous! Reminds me of my favorite used book stop...The Book Barn in Niantic, CT.

  • BirdaloooBeads

    BirdaloooBeads said 5 years ago

    An inspiration indeed!!!

  • LivingVintage

    LivingVintage said 5 years ago

    Wonderful! I remember the old Leary's Bookstore in Philadelphia.

  • Earleyimages

    Earleyimages said 5 years ago

    Great post here....

  • BlueRoseRetro

    BlueRoseRetro said 5 years ago

    Borderline obsessed is a great way to be. I can almost feel the energy of all the lives that delved into those old books. Well done!

  • VintageScraps

    VintageScraps said 5 years ago

    Hands down, my favorite places in the world! You go Michael!

  • ClothandPatina

    ClothandPatina said 5 years ago

    Very endearing...both the shop & Michael. Thank you for sharing.

  • MootiDesigns

    MootiDesigns said 5 years ago

    Great article. Thanks

  • hellflower

    hellflower said 5 years ago

    Wonderful story, thank you. Some 15 years later I am still heartbroken that my favorite used book store in an old victorian house, run by a husband and wife who probably had been hippies in the younger years, shut down. Bought out for a tiny strip of stores. These special places seem to be fast disappearing. The place served as my haven and showed a scared 18 year old kid she wasn't crazy by serving up Kerouac and Buddhism and so many other things. I can still close my eyes and navigate the place...

  • VintageEye

    VintageEye said 5 years ago

    A life lived for the love of books....it's wonderful!

  • funktionslust

    funktionslust said 5 years ago

    I love the smell of books, libraries and bookstores...I bet his store smells incredible, especially mingled with the smell of his pipe : )

  • MarthyMay

    MarthyMay said 5 years ago

    How beautiful! Loved it!

  • RareDesign

    RareDesign said 5 years ago

    Awesome, LOVE secondhand book stores!!!

  • anotherghostquilts

    anotherghostquilts said 5 years ago

    Nice story.

  • BingoBox

    BingoBox said 5 years ago

    Congratulations Michael. Cheers - to a life well lived.

  • AlannaRK

    AlannaRK said 5 years ago

    A secret book shop. My inner bibliophile just took a big sigh of joy. I need to find this place.

  • NecessiTees

    NecessiTees said 5 years ago

    I hope places like this never go away!

  • spicedish

    spicedish said 5 years ago

    What a FANTASTIC film!! I'm with funktionslust, I adore the smell of old books. What a find.

  • Challand

    Challand said 5 years ago

    It looks like a great place to visit off the beaten path!

  • pillowfactory

    pillowfactory said 5 years ago

    my husband will love this

  • paramountvintage

    paramountvintage said 5 years ago

    books, books, books. i love books. my house is full of books and this video makes me think i need more :)

  • Natik

    Natik said 5 years ago

    Its really amazing....I adore reading and this video really made me excited

  • MadisonStreetBeauty
  • TheScarfTree

    TheScarfTree said 5 years ago

    I love second hand book stores (and books in general)! Hours can go by without even knowing! They each have their own special aura in them! If only each book could talk and tell us their story! We have a great second hand book store on 6th Street in New Westminster (Vancouver, Canada)! Thanks for sharing!

  • pinkbijou

    pinkbijou said 5 years ago

    Great post, i love books too!

  • SELVIDGEByRachidaS

    SELVIDGEByRachidaS said 5 years ago

    Whoa, I love this :)

  • SkippyG

    SkippyG said 5 years ago

    Does anyone know where this shop is? Or a phone number? I am going to NY soon and Would love to see it!!! Thank you for helping me!

  • WhisperingOak

    WhisperingOak said 5 years ago

    Great article. Love bookstores where the owners help the shoppers and discuss the books.

  • ScarletLark

    ScarletLark said 5 years ago

    What a lovely portrait of a fascinating person and a unique place. Thank you for sharing this.

  • inbook

    inbook said 5 years ago

    I want to take a trip to NY just to go here and talk about books.

  • stockannette

    stockannette said 5 years ago

    This short film brought tears of joy to my eyes! There is hope for us yet.

  • katrinaalana

    katrinaalana said 5 years ago

    Love reading. It would be great to visit this place someday.

  • artpapers

    artpapers said 5 years ago

    I can smell the coziness from here..I luv it! thanks for sharing and I love to see this place one day..

  • ShoponSherman

    ShoponSherman said 5 years ago

    I could browse second hand book stores for HOURS. I wish I lived near NYC. Nice video!

  • starmekcreations

    starmekcreations said 5 years ago

    I love shopping for books and reading through them.

  • GardenApothecary

    GardenApothecary said 5 years ago

    Oh my gosh, this looks fantastic! Thank god for people who run bookshops! xoxox

  • mamif

    mamif said 5 years ago

    books are a good obsession!

  • SoliDeoGloriaSDG

    SoliDeoGloriaSDG said 5 years ago

    What a lovely little film on a lovely subject ... i adore books - especially old, used books. There is nothing nicer than to curl up in a quiet corner and loose myself in the pages of a good book - that is absolute bliss! So happy for Michael - to do what you love! Continue from strength to strength!

  • antiquelace23

    antiquelace23 said 5 years ago

    Wonderful! :)

  • Parachute425

    Parachute425 said 5 years ago

    Ooooo - and is there a secret, sliding, hidden panel in the wall to get in? coz that would be cool. Andrew - nice video. Michael - best of luck to you. Thanks for the peek.

  • purrkatya

    purrkatya said 5 years ago

    I love this! There is something so magical about a second-hand bookstore. I could wander for days. And the secret stories behind all of them - the lives that they have passed through.

  • LittleWrenPottery

    LittleWrenPottery said 5 years ago

    Fascinating video, I love how much of an intimate portrait it is not just of the place but the person too. Theres something in the character of people who run second hand bookshops, its a great form of recycling thats so under used.

  • catiques

    catiques said 5 years ago

    Superb! Wonderful video

  • itselemental

    itselemental said 5 years ago

    As a lover of books and words (and secret spots), here is one word- "Kudos."

  • Squarekitty

    Squarekitty said 5 years ago

    Awesome! Here in New Zealand is a fantastic 2nd hand book shop called 'Hard2Find Books'. I LOVE it there and know the manager (plug away haha!). Seriously, it's a great space, all higgildy-piddildy and quirky; narrow staircases and fireplaces, nooks and crannies - have spent many hours in there happily browsing away. Much more intimate than a new bookshop (but I do like those too!). Ahhh for the love of books! Would love to own a place like this one day soon *daydream time... :)

  • TheQueenoftheNorth

    TheQueenoftheNorth said 5 years ago

    I love this series of video posts. Thanks for sharing!

  • myvintagecrush

    myvintagecrush said 5 years ago

    Awesome, live life on your own terms! Rewarding indeed ;)

  • AndrewDavidWatson

    AndrewDavidWatson said 5 years ago

    Thanks for checking out the short!

  • smellyrhino

    smellyrhino said 5 years ago

    Wow. I am actually emotional after watching that video. There is nothing like a good used bookstore. I am so thrilled to see Michael's lifelong passion is still going strong, but even more moved that it is about the love of literature and not the dollar. He will have a new patron in us! Thanks for this article!

  • smellyrhino

    smellyrhino said 5 years ago

    um, so...no Etsy shop? I would like to click to buy now...

  • iluxo

    iluxo said 5 years ago

    I love the wall to wall bookshelves. Thanks for giving us a peek into this exclusive space.

  • accentonvintage

    accentonvintage said 5 years ago

    Give me a bookstore any day. Love old books and reading them. Great article!

  • girliepains

    girliepains said 5 years ago

    awesome

  • TheAdornedArticle

    TheAdornedArticle said 5 years ago

    Gorgeous gorgeous bookstore! Love that I can see a copy of Dorothy Parker in the background!

  • mimsytoo

    mimsytoo said 5 years ago

    What a treasure - the secret book store and the video! Thank you!

  • marylr

    marylr said 5 years ago

    like the purloined letter!

  • Furiousdreams

    Furiousdreams said 5 years ago

    What a great little film - beautiful! And thanks to Michael for keeping one independent bookshop alive....even if a well guarded secret.

  • whenwer64

    whenwer64 said 5 years ago

    Did you see anything on illustrator George Stavrinos??

  • Soul2Hand

    Soul2Hand said 5 years ago

    Puffing the pipe...very classy ;0)

  • rbcquilts

    rbcquilts said 5 years ago

    This space reminds me (in feel, not in design) of my favorite bookstore: The Book Cliffs, in Wabasha, Minnesota.

  • Iammie

    Iammie said 5 years ago

    I hope to have my own library someday.

  • dragonhouseofyuen

    dragonhouseofyuen said 5 years ago

    how absolutely fantastic! loved the intro to this by Andrew and I love what he says about Michael - how rewarding it is to live your life by your own terms. thank you for reminding me that I am allowed to be myself and different! if ever i find myself in NYC i shall ask to visit :) wishing Michael and Andrew the very best!! thanks :)

  • CrownWillow

    CrownWillow said 5 years ago

    As an avid reader this post just kept me smiling the whole time. What a true gem Michael is. I find myself watching this video over and over, I just loved everything about it. Comforting and calming, I just wished I lived a little closer. Beautiful story Andrew, well done.

  • mayhamdan

    mayhamdan said 5 years ago

    material for a movie for sure.. enchanting and magical..

  • sceneontv

    sceneontv said 5 years ago

    Wow, what a great video. I hope Michael and his store can stay 'underground' even after more exposure...he's really keeping the right spirit towards his work and it's quite refreshing. All those books and shelves tell so many stories just by looking at the graceful aging they have gone through Also, what a great choice using The Album Leaf for the music...it's so cinematic, and really adds to the mood. Great job guys.

  • UpscaleDownhome

    UpscaleDownhome said 5 years ago

    Such an interesting story and shop and person...I really enjoyed learning about this. Just the idea of a secret book shop is enticing!

  • JoviesJewels

    JoviesJewels said 5 years ago

    That was a great story, would love to visit that shop, home! The pictures are the best. Thanks for sharing.

  • LavenderField

    LavenderField said 5 years ago

    Nice and crowded :0)

  • Powerofflower

    Powerofflower said 5 years ago

    Wonderful post!

  • blainedesign

    blainedesign said 5 years ago

    This is so beautiful. I'm so moved that someone chooses to live in this way and give us so much of himself. It's one of those efforts that sort of restores your faith in people. Lovely.

  • bayanmary

    bayanmary said 5 years ago

    Amazing! Thank you for sharing!

  • faefactory

    faefactory said 5 years ago

    Oh, how I love the magic of good old story... I think that all great art tells a story; and for every great story told, there is a presence of art. Before I create my art, I have a story in my head, in my spirit. Then I let it come out through my hands and my heart. That is my art.

  • frommyvintageheArt

    frommyvintageheArt said 5 years ago

    Wow I would love my own secret shop. My etsy shop just doesn't compare. His passion for books is beautiful.

  • goldbee

    goldbee said 5 years ago

    old europe atmosphere..thanks for this post.

  • BozenaWojtaszek

    BozenaWojtaszek said 5 years ago

    Wonderful place!

  • Leocardia

    Leocardia said 5 years ago

    Unfortunately even in "old europe" the tiny bookshops tend to disappear, as it happened to my favourite one. The rent went up, the sweet lady who "owned" the bookshop could not afford it any more and now it´s a boring shop offering sports fashion. I still miss the old bookshop, where I bought almost every book, I gave to my daughter, when she was a little girl.

  • yimmekedesign

    yimmekedesign said 5 years ago

    What a great statement : "If it's all about money, there's better things to sell'. This sentence only, shows Michael's love for what he does and has been doing. His familiarity with failure in life as he says it so humbly, turns out to become not such a failure at all, since there are still enough people in this wild and fast world, who adore and admire honest and faithful passion.

  • lovelygifts

    lovelygifts said 5 years ago

    Great article! I love books and its so nice to know there are people out there like him. Congrats!

  • kathyjohnson3

    kathyjohnson3 said 5 years ago

    What a unique and fascinating person Michael is! Thank-you for sharing that awesome video and story, I would love to visit sometime.

  • SimpleJoysPaperie

    SimpleJoysPaperie said 5 years ago

    I have favorite used book stores in several towns and cities around me. Nothing beats browsing for hours (yes, hours) in a dimly lit shop that smells of old books!

  • RubyJaneandme

    RubyJaneandme said 5 years ago

    Ah..Old Books...Old smells...browsing and browsing..Bravo, Michael for doing what you love, no matter the financial gain. Long live your shop and you.

  • StrongylosPhoto

    StrongylosPhoto said 5 years ago

    Thank you for the post...I felt like I was somewhere magical while watching your video, Andrew. What a charming shop, a wealth of adventures, treasures and inspriation simply waiting their turn for their pages to be gently opened and read. Fascinating owner!

  • lizardlady

    lizardlady said 5 years ago

    What a beautiful, evocative film. I love old books and the people who love them! I can imagine the feel of the place, the smell of the books and his pipe, tiny motes of dust in sunbeams, quiet lazy afternoons of browsing and reading snippets before making a selection and rushing home to dive into a new (old) treasure! Fortunately there is still such a place in Columbus - The Book Loft in German Village. I'm going back SOON.

  • Drawula

    Drawula said 5 years ago

    Excellent. Give me a good book and a good glass of wine and give it to me, now.

  • AlpineGypsy

    AlpineGypsy said 5 years ago

    I'm with Drawula. You had me at old books! Another of my passions....wow, an article on wild foraging, and now secret used book shops! You guys rock.... Heidi

  • sofias1cobwebmuseum

    sofias1cobwebmuseum said 5 years ago

    Love the new gadgets but Praise God somebody still is making the old time Book Shoppe available with all the wonderful old books. Hope this never goes out of fashion! Your location was meant to be!

  • ShuuShuubyLulu

    ShuuShuubyLulu said 5 years ago

    I love books and if I ever get a chance to get to New York City again, I will definitely be checking out this Oasis. And in this digital and electronic age these types of places need lots of exposure. Thanks for the low-down !!!!!

  • Piggy

    Piggy said 5 years ago

    Great video and article. I think with the modern and affluent society and one with mass consumption, there are less and less of such places around. I know of such shops that wouldn't survive in my country bcos of the expensive real estate prices. I admire his passion and principles. Totally inspired.

  • 2TrickPony

    2TrickPony said 5 years ago

    there's a magic to old books and secret places...and people just going ahead and doing what they love, though it sounds cliche.

  • TinfenaStudio

    TinfenaStudio said 5 years ago

    It almost feel like Farenheit 451where people have to memorize entire books, in Brazenhead, Michael preserve them and readers come to worship... something Kindle will never understand. Great interview !

  • tokenandpine

    tokenandpine said 5 years ago

    This is awesome! Go Michael! I love the sense of subversive right action, and the good work he is doing.

  • hybridhandmade

    hybridhandmade said 5 years ago

    This is a beautiful film. I watched it a fair few times during the course of today and even ended up today's blog post around it. Great work, great editing, a fascinating snapshot of a unsung hero. http://hybridhandmade.blogspot.com/2011/07/hidden-things.html

  • BanglewoodSupplies

    BanglewoodSupplies said 5 years ago

    I miss New York. This post made me the city even more. There are so many wonderful resources there. Nice story, Thanks.

  • EETabbSandifer

    EETabbSandifer said 5 years ago

    I am in love! Thank you so much for sharing. if I ever am in New York I will have to find this wonderful shop.

  • thevintageattic10

    thevintageattic10 said 5 years ago

    Great Interview ! Books and literacey mean so much ! Great photo's as well enjoyed it very much and my fab finds sceamingkettle books on etsy doing a great service to all

  • aqneru

    aqneru said 5 years ago

    fantastic story, thanks. So good to know about it…next time in ny:)

  • redemptionart

    redemptionart said 5 years ago

    funny, i have been craving a few hours hidden among dusty, interesting books, in fact just stared at a local used book store sign as i rushed by (yuk, i hate rush) today....this has motivated me, I am doing it this weekend, thank you Michael, good luck to you!

  • LaCasaGialla

    LaCasaGialla said 5 years ago

    Seriously cool

  • CactusCreek

    CactusCreek said 5 years ago

    I am new to the internet market place and to blogging, so bear with me! I unfortunately didn't discover the luxury of books and reading until I was an adult. Brazenhead book store is the kind of place I luv to hangout. I have many vintage and antique books in my shop as well. Check us out! Thank you, book store is very cool!

  • BellaandTino

    BellaandTino said 5 years ago

    Wow love the film, and the secret bookshop is my idea of heaven fantastic and if I'm ever there I would love to visit x

  • Faeriegael

    Faeriegael said 5 years ago

    For those of you looking for his shop, please rewatch the video. He mentions his full name near the begining and then at the end explains that the way to find him is the phonebook.

  • Kate81650

    Kate81650 said 5 years ago

    This makes me want to cry ~ for the loss of intimacy found in a small neighborhood book store. The very best to you, Michael. Thank you.

  • BeautyInfusion

    Mary Ryder from BeautyInfusion said 4 years ago

    PLEASE!!! SOMEONE TELL ME THE ADDRESS!!!!!!!!!!

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