Why we love P&T Knitwear, the bookstore that keeps New York's Lower East Side well read (2024)

Novel Neighbor - Special to USA TODAYUSA TODAY

Local, independent bookstores have never been more important. With fair access to literature under political attack, bookstores are a bulwark against censorship and an asset to the communities they serve.

Of course, they do so much more than sell books. Independent bookstores are a community connector, hosting events, clubs and social events that keep citizens engaged and informed. A local bookstore is a great place to make friends.

Each week we'll be profiling an independent bookstore, discovering what makes each one special and getting expert book recommendations from booksellers plugged into the pulse of their local readership. Up this week is P&T Knitwear in New York City.

What makes your independent bookstore unique?

P&T Knitwear is an independent bookstore, podcast studio, event space and cafe on New York City’s Lower East Side. We only just celebrated our first anniversary, but the shop has deep roots in the neighborhood. Our name comes from the original P&T Knitwear (which was in fact a knitwear shop) opened in 1952 by Holocaust survivors and business partners Mike Pudlo and Hymie Tusk (our founder Bradley Tusk's grandfather). A community-oriented space that hosts free book events most weeknights and is home to the only free podcast studio in New York City, today's P&T Knitwear honors our namesake by giving back to the same neighborhood that made Tusk and Pudlo's story, and so many others' like them, possible.

Our store has beautiful, built-in, amphitheater-style seating where folks can read, work and hang out during the day, and where we host our events in the evenings. There’s also bar seating by our cafe, where our baristas are brewing Brooklyn’s East One Coffee Roasters and several other specialty beverages, like our house-made chai latte and matcha lemonade.

P&T Knitwear is also home to the Gotham Book Prize, which was created by Howard Wolfson and our founder Bradley Tusk to recognize the culture that has made New York City special for generations and to uplift the creative community during the challenges of the pandemic. Awarded annually to the best book published that calendar year — either fiction or nonfiction — that either is about New York City or takes place in New York City, 2023’s winners were John Wood Sweet’s “The Sewing Girl’s Tale: A Story of Crime and Consequences in Revolutionary America” and Sidik Fofana’s “Stories from the Tenants Downstairs.”

Above all, we’re proud to welcome locals and visitors alike to celebrate New York and to engage with the culture of books, storytelling and big ideas!

Purchases you make through our links may earn us and our publishing partners a commission.

What are some books you can't keep on the shelves?

"Happy Hour," by Marlowe Granados. The narrator, Isa, who has recently moved to Brooklyn and spends her summer days selling vintage clothes at an outdoor market and nights drinking her way through New York with intentions of someone else getting the tab, divulges to us: “My mother always told me that to be a girl one must be especially clever.” The rest is, as you would expect, clever — and disarmingly so. Isa’s aphoristic wit brings to mind the best of Oscar Wilde and Audrey Hepburn, if they were one incandescent person in 2013 living only for pleasure and doing what they must to make rent. It was easily one of the best books of 2021, and will probably continue to be better than a great deal of what’s out there. We’ve sold nearly 100 copies of “Happy Hour,” and whatever Marlowe Granados does next, we’ll be ready to sell 100 more.

"Happy Hour" at Bookshop.org for $18

All About Love,” by bell hooks. Since her death in late 2021, there has been a resurgence of millennial and zoomer interest in her work. “All About Love” is probably the best known, and the easiest entry point into the gnosis of hooks' catalog. Feminist scholar and cultural critic icon hooks examines "what love is and what it ain't" in the context of different relationships in this book published nearly 25 years ago. In a pandemic-weary world, it's crucial to revisit our own notions of what constitutes care and regard, as well as means of relationality not centered in romantic love.

"All About Love" at Bookshop.org for $16

What books do you think deserve more hype?

"A Touch of Jen," by Beth Morgan. One moment you’re cringing in embarrassment, the next in horror as couple Remy and Alicia desperately try to insert themselves in Jen’s life. Morgan masterfully unfurls twist after twist, spinning from sly satire to otherworldly horror without missing a beat and keeping you hanging on. You'll devour it in a day, laughing out loud or texting the friend who recommended it every few pages. Dark humor and desires drive this debut absolutely worth obsessing over.

"A Touch of Jen" at Bookshop.org for $16

"Mount Chicago," by Adam Levin. Levin’s third and slimmest novel (he’s best known for "The Instructions," a 1,000-plus-page book about a young Jewish boy who may or may not be the messiah) concerns writer and comedian Solomon Gladman, who's seriously depressed after his wife and family (likely some friends, too) die in a natural disaster. Of equal importance: Gladman’s bird, Gogol, who’s trying to understand what’s going on with Gladman, which makes for a fantastic exploration of animal consciousness and theory of mind. There’s also Apter Schutz, who’s a big fan of Gladman and good at pretty much everything he does; this tends to deflate a sense of meaning in life for him, especially after the disaster. Despite its wild plot and intricate perspectives, "Mount Chicago" is ultimately a very simple and beautiful story, sad yet not without levity, about loss and how we struggle to move forward from it.

"Mount Chicago" at Bookshop.org for $28

What books are you most excited about coming out in the next few months?

"The Fraud," by Zadie Smith (out Sept. 5). Zadie Smith pens a pitch-perfect historical novel set in the 19th century, sharp and insightful and utterly delightful, about a woman entwined with a declining novelist, and a real-life trial that centers the timely question of whose story makes it into the history books as fact.

"The Fraud" at Bookshop.org for $27

"Rouge," by Mona Awad (out Sept. 12). Awad’s new novel does not disappoint. Weaving in allusions to famous fairy tales, Awad takes us on a journey through the darkest parts of the beauty industry and the standards that are set, especially for women. If you like social commentary packaged as a deep dive into a creepy cult, complete with a questionable treatment plan, a fraught mother and daughter relationship, and a demon in the mirror wearing Tom Cruise’s face, this book is for you.

"Rogue" at Bookshop.org for $26

"Family Meal," by Bryan Washington (out Oct. 10). This is a tender, contemplative novel about food, family and friendship of all kinds, set in neighborhoods of unraveling gentrification in Houston, Texas. With a cast of characters each moving through their own personal tectonic shifts, readers dip in and out of relationships from different perspectives, gaining nuanced perceptions of a hunger for connection that touches them all. This novel is full of lush descriptions of intimacy, from shared meals to shared beds.

"Family Meal" at Bookshop.org for $26

Why do you think customers should shop local in your area?

There are so many historic businesses just around the corner from our store — Katz's Delicatessen, Russ & Daughters, Economy Candy — and so many fellow bookstores dedicated to serving the Lower East Side community, like Bluestockings Cooperative and Yu & Me Books (which is unfortunately currently closed due to a recent fire; if you’re able to support them through their GoFundMe or Bookshop.org page, please do). There’s no shop quite like any other in this neighborhood or in this city. When you shop independent, you’re supporting the unique history and character of the Lower East Side and of New York City.

Why we love P&T Knitwear, the bookstore that keeps New York's Lower East Side well read (2024)
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