When Other Books opened last spring, its doors remained locked. “If someone knocked, we let them in,” says Mark Tracten, an employee. “But we told them, ‘We don’t have any books yet.’ ” If that sounds like a metaphor for the relationship between therapists and patients, it’s appropriate – the Chelsea bookstore specializes, as a sign on the door explains, in psychoanalysis, psychology, psychotherapy, cultural studies, gender studies and related fields.
The books have now come in, but the customers have not, at least not in any great numbers. “We’re starting slow,” Tracten admits. And as August is the month when therapists traditionally go on vacation, business has been even slower. But Tracten is optimistic. “There has been no bookstore in New York for the mental-health professional for two years,” says Tracten. He owned the last one, Brunner/Mazel, which operated out of an office building and got most of its business from phone and mail orders.
The new shop offers the same materials, but since Other Books is a storefront open to anybody passing by on 20th Street, the owner, Michael Moskowitz, has stacked the shelves with psychology and self-help books meant to appeal to the general public. But if the general public hasn’t exactly broken down (or, more aptly, broken through) the door, there has been an unforeseen development: An unusually large number of customers seem to be police officers. The 10th Precinct, it turns out, is right next door, and one of the store’s best-selling books is I Love a Cop, by Ellen Kirschman, about living with a relative who is in law enforcement.
“The police come in and ask about marital problems, about problems with their kids, about problems on the job,” Tracten says. “You know, police morale is very low. These officers have nobody to talk to about their problems. They’re all macho and don’t want to go to therapy. I’m amazed how they open up to me. One guy held up Patterns of Infidelity and Their Treatment, by Emily Brown,” Tracten recalls. “He asked, ‘Is this a good book? Is it an easy read?’ I said yes. He finally said, ‘My wife is fooling around, and I don’t know what to do.’ We talked for twenty minutes. I said reading a book is not going to solve his problem, but it’s a start. I suggested therapy. He said, ‘I’ll think about it.’”