This week New York City gets a new bookshop: Idlewild Books, a 1,000-sq.-ft. travel bookstore will open on W. 19th Street near Fifth Avenue. The name echoes the original name of JFK Airport and, said proprietor David Del Vecchio, “idle and wild are nicely associated with travel.”
Del Vecchio spent the last six years as a press officer with the United Nations—a job that frequently sent him to destinations like Angola and the Sudan. He was inspired to open a new store while hunting for books for his own travels.
“I was in a chain bookstore and realized I would have to go to five different sections to get what I needed—a travel guide, a map, a language book, a novel,” he noted. “At Idlewild, everything will be shelved by country, and in the case of the United States, by state—that way people will be able to browse according to the place of their interest.”
Del Vecchio emphasized that he believes literature about a country—be it a novel or a political biography—can be just as useful as a guidebook. His product mix will be at least 40% armchair travel titles: “Guidebooks you really can buy almost anywhere,” he explained, “but books on politics and culture are often much harder to find. Our section on Turkey might have guides, maps, a history of the Blue Mosque, a biography of Ataturk, and novels by Pamuk and others.” Graham Greene’s novels won’t be shelved in the U.K. section, said Del Vecchio, but in Cuba and Mexico, where the books are set. Sidelines will include the requisite travel bags and eye masks, as well as “curated” items from international artisans.
In preparation for opening the store, Del Vecchio took Donna Paz’s bookselling class and interned at Get Lost bookstore in San Francisco and at New York City’s Three Lives. He quit his job at the U.N. and will run the store himself, along with an assistant manager.
While many travel bookstores have closed in the post-9/11 era, Del Vecchio is confident he can make his concept work—even with sky-high gas prices and the crashing dollar curtailing many travel plans.
“New York is very diverse, and there are people here from all over the world who are interested in other places,” he said. “Travel and reading have been a big part of my life, and I know there are others out there like me. Of course, running a bookstore means you won’t have time to travel or read—that is the irony, but it’s one I’m happy to live with.”