Novelist Emma Straub Visits Her Own Cobble Hill Bookstore on Her Day Off

Emma Straub is basically the mayor of Cobble Hill.

By Esther Zuckerman and Emma Straub

Published on 6/02/2022 at 12:00 PM

Novelist Emma Straub at Brooklyn Bridge Park | Photo by Cole Saladino for Thrillist

Emma Straub's new novel This Time Tomorrow is a time travel story inspired by her adolescence on the Upper West Side. In the book, her protagonist drunkenly climbs into her childhood bedroom and wakes up on her 16th birthday. These days, however, Straub's life is rooted in Brooklyn where she not only writes, but runs her very own bookstore, the beloved Books Are Magic. For her day off, she stays local.

What I really love about Cobble Hill—and I'll include Brooklyn Heights and Carroll Gardens and Boerum Hill—is that it's all really person-sized. All the buildings are very much on a human scale.

The whole reason that we opened the bookstore, Books Are Magic, was because Book Court was closing and I was like, but where am I going to bring my children at nine o'clock in the morning on a Saturday? I was like, we have to do something about this. Now, of course, when I go in there, we're not just customers. But I will say the weekends are when I am likely to go in there with my children, and I love that. My older son is eight and is just like a championship reader. And so, he'll pretty much pick out a stack of books and go sit in a corner and read, which is amazing. My younger son is a little bit more of a wild card. He is more likely to go up to our office and root around for any hidden candy, which is always there. Over the years, my kids have had some really amazing friendships with our booksellers. That is really entertaining for me to see my kids interact with and love these people who we employ and adore.

What's good about Poppy's is that you can go in the morning with everyone or you can go in the afternoon by yourself if you escape and eat a brownie and not share it. I got to know the owner quite well and she and I often just talk about what it's like to run a business and managing the staff and managing a space and growing and doing that and having a family and that's really the common denominator with all of these places is that they're all really run by humans. I'm not really interested in any large corporations.

Emma Straub with Jamie Erickson, owner of Poppy's in Cobble Hill | Photos by Cole Saladino for Thrillist

"The common denominator with all of these places is that they're all really run by humans. I'm not really interested in any large corporations."

Sahadi's is my favorite place in the neighborhood. Full stop. There's something about giant bins of things that I find very satisfying. I think it's probably also why people like places like Costco, because we're like, I could have so much toilet paper, but at Sahadi's you're like, I could have so much dried papaya or I could have so many peanuts or I could have so many chocolate covered raisins, which is really my drug of choice. I love the people who work there, I love the food, I love the ambiance, I love being in family owned-businesses that have weathered decades of life in Brooklyn. It makes me really happy.

The Cobble Hill Cinemas is a perfect movie theater. It is one tiny little building. Its advertisement for itself before the previews begin mentions cell phones, but let's say it's at least 20 years old and it makes me really happy. It's been so nice now that it's open again to take my kids to the movies. Going to the movies has always been one of my very favorite things to do. When I did not have two children and two jobs, I would often take myself to the movies in the middle of the day alone, which is the very greatest, but it is also fun to go with my kids. I like how small it is. I like that you don't have to go up 16 escalators. I like that it's right in the middle of my life. It's in between my house and the bookstore. It's next to the toy store that is the center of my children's lives, Pizzazzz. Pizzazzz is amazing because it's a tiny space, and yet they have absolutely everything. It is stacked up to the ceiling and the aisles are so narrow, but whatever you need they have. It feels magical. And I think especially for small children to go into a space like that is just intoxicating.

I feel very spoiled by growing up next to Central Park, which has these ancient trees and so much shade and so many hidden little places. Brooklyn Bridge Park is still quite new, and so the trees are still growing and it's a different sort of park, but I love it, I just love it. And now we go for bike rides with the kids and it's nice to have access to a green space, and especially a green space that has pizza and ice cream. I believe that helps.

"And now we go for bike rides with the kids and it's really nice to have access to just a green space, and especially a green space that has pizza and ice cream. I believe that helps."

Popina, that's dinner for sure. I love the people who run it so much. They are so kind and generous and they are friendly to my children. When they were closed at the start of the pandemic, they shifted into a general store, wine store, cocktails to go kind of thing. I don't know how this makes me sound, but that meant that I saw them a lot because I would go and buy wine and little takeout containers of negronis. My kids loved going in there because at the time they had a giant box of curly straws. So we would sit in there and my kids would drink lemonade and I would just talk to them. We commiserated and talked about how hard it was to run a small business in a pandemic. Now that they're fully open again, I have my birthday dinner there, my mom had her birthday, my parents' anniversary. It's my go to place because their food is the most delicious. Their pastas are sublime. The menu changes often, so whatever it is, I'm eating it.

As told to Esther Zuckerman.

Places to Eat & Drink

Things to See & Do


187 Atlantic Avenue


281 Court Street

Books Are Magic

243 Degraw Street

Cobble Hill Cinemas

265 Court Street

Brooklyn Bridge Park

334 Furman Street