Text and the city: Holiday book fair to showcase volumes of urban interest

peter miller of Freebird Books
Peter Miller of the Freebird Books will host the Brooklyn Holiday Book Fair in Park Slope.
Photo by Caroline Ourso

A Brooklyn bookstore that specializes in tomes about New York City will bring highlights of its used treasures to the Brooklyn Holiday Book Fair in Park Slope on Dec. 7. The event will let holiday shoppers browse through a unique selection of titles focused on the boroughs and neighborhoods that make up the Big Apple, said the store’s owner.

“It’s a city of small towns, and every one of these small towns has its own story and its own personality and character,” said Peter Miller, who runs Freebird Books in the Columbia Street Waterfront District. “There’s not another bookstore that does the same thing.”

Miller’s love for New York City-centric books dates back to the 1980s, when he moved here from his home in Missouri, and became curious about the Big Apple’s inner workings.  

“I walked around the city and I just wanted to learn more, and to learn more, you have to read all these books,” he said. “It reached a point where I ended up collecting tons and tons of books … anything that was  touching on the city.”

Miller took over Freebird Books in 2007, and modeled it after the now-closed New York Bound Bookshop, which sold works solely about the Big Apple. Now he and his wife — previously a Freebird customer — run the business together. 

Freebird sells used books from across all genres, but Miller specifically seeks out volumes that focus on the city’s politics, history, transportation, architecture, and crime. When the bookseller is assessing a collection, he said that a wide range of books is more important than its rarity or monetary value. 

“At the end of the day I’d rather just have a wide variety of things, and some of them might just be beat up paperbacks with coffee stains on them,” he noted. “We try to be broad in what we have.” 

Miller will bring a selection of his all-time favorites to the Book Fair at the Old Stone House, where seven other Brooklyn booksellers with different specialties will also showcase their wares. Other vendors include Marine Park’s Enchanted Books, which specializes in vintage children’s books, Honey & Wax from Gowanus, which sells antique first editions and other rarities, and a bookstore on wheels whose proceeds go to local educational programs.

The event will also feature Dutch spiced cookies, colonial-era candies, and a fun community atmosphere, said Miller, who has taken part in the fair since it started eight years ago.

“It’s just such a positive vibe,” he said. “People genuinely love talking to book sellers and getting recommendations. And even if you don’t make a book sale, you’re meeting a lot of interesting people.” 

Brooklyn Holiday Book Fair at the Old Stone House [336 3rd St. between Fourth and Fifth avenues in Park Slope, (718) 768-3195, www.theoldstonehouse.org]. Dec. 7, 11 am–5 pm. Free.