Goodbye Heights Books, and thanks!

For nearly two decades, Heights Books was a fixture in Brooklyn Heights.

The used bookstore, which often displayed carts filled with bargain-priced books on the sidewalk, was the last remaining bookseller on busy Montague Street — the street that inspired Christopher Morley’s 1919 novel, The Haunted Bookshop, which begins, “If you are ever in Brooklyn, that borough of superb sunsets and magnificent vistas of husband-propelled baby-carriages, it is to be hoped you may chance upon a quiet by-street where there is a very remarkable bookshop.”

Recently, when the building in which it was located was sold, Heights Books’ owners decided to close up and move to another part of the borough. Rather than pack their entire stock, move and reshelve it all at the new location, they chose to sort out the books that had lingered far too long in the store’s inventory and throw them away.

Today, a crew of workman tossed thousands of volumes into a dumpster outside the shop. When passersby spotted cartons full of books being hurled into the trash, they scrambled to rescue as many as they could grab. They jumped atop the piles of books, their efforts intensifying as darkness and rain began to fall. One fellow remarked, “I’ve heard the expression dumpster diving, but this is the first time I’ve seen people literally diving into a dumpster!”

The dumpster on the street

Inside the store, the shelves are gone

Passersby grabbed books before they were tossed in the dumpster

Younger readers stood on boxes to better see into the dumpster

Older readers remained on the sidewalk

Some climbed atop the pile

Few could resist peeking into the dumpster

Some books were rescued

A last grab as the rain starts to fall

Books heading for the landfill

Page by Page Books: The Haunted Bookshop
Heights Books
New York Magazine: Heights Books
The Brooklyn Paper: Book ‘em! Heights Books to move to Cobble Hill
The Brooklyn Paper: Book ‘em! Heights store will not close, says owner

13 Responses to Goodbye Heights Books, and thanks!

  1. pat griffith says:

    what a sight- you got some good shots.


  2. Esther says:

    Wow, I wish I was there! Did you get any for yourseslf?


  3. maria v says:

    what a brilliant way to add to a home collection. for some reason, i am happy to read anything. what a memory-filled quote about the pram-pushing husbands…
    it’s a shame the books were thrown out – they could have been left on the sidewalk and people would have picked them up for sure.


  4. Echoes of Farenheit 451! What a post.


  5. Jenthe says:

    First blog I read after wakeup from sleep today!

    Search fast!


  6. Olivier says:

    c’est surprenant de la part d’une librairie, je trouve que c’est un manque de respect envers les livres et les écrivains ;o(( . Heureusement cela a fait des heureux.
    it is amazing on behalf of a bookshop, I find that it is a disrespect towards bookss and writers ;o((. Happily it made happy.


  7. R. B. Bernstein says:

    As one of the managers, I feel that this post deserves an answer. We tried to find homes for these books, but the problem with trying to make a donation is that those seeking donations don’t have the resources to come get the books, and we didn’t have the resources to bring the books to them. Also, some of these books were in unsale-able condition, though you can’t tell that from some of the photographs. We hope that all our old friends and as many new friends as we can get will come see us at our new location, 120 Smith Street, when we reopen in mid March 2009.


  8. photowannabe says:

    What a bonanza for some and what a waste to see the books going to a landfill. Surely there was someplace that could have used them….
    I just read the last comment from the manager so I guess that answers my question but it just makes me feel so sad to see them all gone that way.


  9. CJ says:

    How sad to have such a long term landmark/gathering place leave your neighborhood. I would think that people
    would have been there with wagons, one of their own
    personal shopping carts or wheeled suitcases to take home some free amazing books that they could share with
    old folks homes, doctors offices, schools, leave in coffee shops, or to leave on the street with a free sign.

    Sure miss your over at OLS, annula.


  10. floor jacks says:

    I have to say, I can not agree with you in 100%, but it’s just my IMHO, which could be very wrong.
    p.s. You have an awesome template for your blog. Where did you find it?


  11. I can’t understand why these books don’t get donated to countries that need to stock their libraries. Wasn’t there a story on Oprah a year or so ago where a former Intel or Microsoft executive quit his lucrative job to create a non-profit organization that brings books to kids in Mongolia?

    But then again, these books in the dumpster may not be appropriate for beginning readers. They are probably heavy of philosophy, etc.

    I used to go there a lot when I worked in downtown Brooklyn.


  12. Oh my goodness. I wish I had been there, but I’m sure I wouldn’t have any way carry more than a dozen in my short little arms.


  13. source says:

    Re: Whoever made the statement that this was a good website really needs to have their head examined.


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