Not to be slighted by the more visible literary centerpieces of Manhattan and Brooklyn
, Queens boasts its share of literary and historical shrines. After all, it has one of the most diverse populations in the world, is home to an increasing number of writers, and is the setting of numerous novels. Queens may not have quite as many independent bookstores as Brooklyn, but it does
have the Langston Hughes Literary Arts Festival and Calvary Cemetery, and the final resting place of Harlem Renaissance
author Claude McKay. Here are a few literary landmarks not be missed on your trip to Queens.
Any discussion of literary Queens must begin with the wondrous Topos Booksore in Ridgewood, one of the top bookstores in the city, period. Besides used books galore and excellent coffee and tea, there’s a laid back atmosphere and cozy, plant-strewn interior that hearkens back to the days before Barnes & Noble, when the pulse of a neighborhood was determined by its bookstores.
788 Woodward Ave, Ridgewood, NY 11385, +1 (347) 927-5680
The sprawling Calvary Cemetery (actually four distinct cemeteries extending from Maspeth to Woodside) is an exceedingly lovely churchyard, and one where you can visit Claude McKay, novelist Mary Letitia Martin, and quite a few famous mobsters.
4902 Laurel Hill Blvd, Woodside, NY 11377, +1 (718) 786-8000
One of the largest library systems in the world, the Queens Library has been devoted to its community since it was founded in 1858. It operates the Black Heritage Reference Center, and provides services to new immigrants and job seekers. It is also the center of the Queens Memory Project, which works to preserve the cultural memory of this rapidly changing borough.
43-06 Greenpoint Ave, Long Island City, NY 11104, +1 (718) 784-3033
Museum of the Moving Image
Anyone with literary tastes should visit the Museum of the Moving Image, which is much more than a mere movie theater, but a fully realized dream landscape reminiscent of a short story by Steven Millhauser. Artifacts in its permanent collection include Orson Welles prosthetic noses and several of the original Muppets.
36-01 35th Ave, Queens, NY 11106, +1 (718) 777-6800
Langston Hughes Community Library
Located in Corona and made possible through a partnership with the Queens Library, the Langston Hughes Community Library is one of the premiere Queens-based hubs of literary culture. It has a huge collection of materials relating to black life in America, from Caribbean and West African resources to a huge archive of work by and relating to Langston Hughes himself.
100-01 Northern Blvd, Corona, NY 11368, +1 (718) 651-1100
The Astoria Bookshop on 31st Street is Queens’ answer to the indie bookstore, as this quaint and pet-friendly bookstore helped put Astoria on the map as a literary destination. The Astoria Bookshop challenges readers with a monthly competition to read books featuring an LGBTQ protagonist, a book about mental illness, or a biography of a historical figure they’ve never heard of before (for example).
Silver Age Comics is just a few blocks away, for those whose literary tastes extend to the Marvel Universe.
31-29 31st St, Queens, NY 11106, +1 (718) 278-2665
One of the most peaceful and reflective spaces in the city, writers flock by day to MoMA’s Queens-based satellite, PS1. It’s housed in a former public school building, and its private collection includes the one-of-a-kind James Turrell piece “Meeting.” PS1 is also noted for its colorful exhibitions of rising stars of the art world, making it easily one of the most consistently entertaining galleries in the city, as well as its summer concert series, Warm Up.
22-25 Jackson Ave, Long Island City, NY 11101, +1 (718) 784-2084