Braces Your Shelves

A few of the shelves at Grey Matter Books, a two-month-old shop on York Street near Elm, are still empty, but that’s because owner Sam Burton is still looking for just the right books to fill his cases—and because books are always heading back out the door. When shoppers come in to browse, he hopes they’ll find that “almost every book has something going for it, and you’re not going to see it in every bookstore.”

Behind the counter are first editions, hard-to-find scholarly books, books on books and art books that are beautiful objects in their own right. A walk through the shop, with its parquet and plank wood floors and rich, studious ambience (most recently a Jack Wills clothing store), reveals categories both familiar—drama and film, social science, literature, mystery—and surprising—for example, an abundance of books on ancient Egypt, bought from the collection of a retired staff Egyptologist from the Brooklyn Museum. “I have another, like, 500 books on Egyptology and archaeology and ancient civilizations,” Burton says. On the other hand, you won’t find too much popular fiction of the moment. “I’m looking for the [books] that are, as objects, appealing and then, as content, kind of timeless,” Burton says, before adding with a grin, “—or at least trendy now.”

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