Q&A With David Del Vecchio: A Travel Bookstore First for Manhattan

Travel Blog  •  Kelly Amabile  •  07.24.08 | 10:53 AM ET

Photo of Idlewild Books by Frank Murray.

In the first half of this year, World Hum lamented the closing of several independent bookstores, including D.C.‘s travel-themed Candida’s. For a change, we note a new store opening: travel-themed Idlewild Books in New York City.

It’s a first of its kind for the city—a bookstore where titles are organized geographically by country. The store was opened by David Del Vecchio, an avid traveler and former United Nations employee. I caught up with him recently at his storefront near Union Square to find out a bit more about him and the space.

What kind of work did you do for the U.N. and where did you travel for your job?

I spent the last six years there as a U.N. press officer for a humanitarian agency, specifically focused on issues related to refugee health. I found the issues fascinating, loved the travel (roughly 20 percent of my job) and doing the reporting from the field. I liked the challenge of illuminating issues that are not very well understood and enjoyed working with colleagues from every part of the world.

My division dealt exclusively with crisis situations, so except for occasional meetings in Brussels and Geneva, travel for my job was all to places affected by war, famine or disaster. Most of the countries I visited were in Africa—Angola, Liberia, Sudan, Zimbabwe—but I also went to places like Colombia and Nepal.

So how did you end up opening the bookstore? Was it a dream of yours?

It was not a lifelong dream. But I started thinking about this specific idea a couple of years ago as a way to combine my interests in literature, travel and international affairs. And I wanted to create a space for events that would bring these areas and interested people together. I wanted a setting that could serve as a nexus of all these things—that approaches the world through travel, including international literature, books in translation and stories set in distinct places.

The idea of arranging a bookstore geographically also really appealed to me because it was always what I was looking for when preparing for a trip myself. I tend to seek out titles that will give me a feel of the place.

Do you think a bookstore like yours can survive in a travel publishing environment where portions of guidebooks are available for free online, and many people use the internet as a primary source for travel research and trip planning?

I do, because more than half of what we sell is literature, not just guidebooks. Our inventory is only about one-third travel books. We carry a wide variety of political and cultural titles and fiction, too. And Idlewild is more than just simply a bookstore. The store is a gathering place where different communities can come together around an issue or topic of common interest. We’ve already partnered with organizations like the Mexican Cultural Institute and the German Book Office for author events.


Kelly Amabile

2 Comments for Q&A With David Del Vecchio: A Travel Bookstore First for Manhattan

Scribetrotter 07.26.08 | 2:44 AM ET

I’d heard about this bookshop in its planning stages - I’m so glad it’s actually happened! I live in Europe but next time I go to NY I will definitely come by. I’m a traditionalist - I like to browse my books on shelves, and I like the staff to actually know something about the books they’re selling rather than pointing vaguely… “Uh, travel, I think that’s in Aisle 10.”

Marilyn Terrell 07.27.08 | 5:53 AM ET

What a beautiful bookstore, and a great idea, to organize the shelves geographically.
National Geographic Traveler also organizes travel fiction geographically in our online Ultimate Travel Library:

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