"The library is an arena of possibility, opening both a window into the soul and a door onto the world." Rita Dove



The Center for Fiction’s library has its roots in possibility. Originally known as the Mercantile Library of New York and founded in 1821, its mission was to provide the workers of New York City a space for education and conversation. Our current library continues to foster this tradition through our award-winning fiction collection, where you can find the newest releases alongside classics and rare books. The library is an integral part of the Center for Fiction’s mission to promote and celebrate the art of fiction.




Become a member today for check out books form our stellar collection and start exploring the possibilities!

About Our Collection




Our fiction collection is particularly strong in the area of mystery. Honored with a Raven Award from the Mystery Writers of America in 2000, the Center’s library holds about 16,000 volumes of mystery and suspense titles. This is a circulating collection and contains some of the first mystery and detective novels published in Britain and in the United States, as well as all the newest mystery and detective fiction from around the world.


Literary Fiction


Our literary fiction collection includes a wide range of classic and contemporary fiction, from both independent presses as well as large publishers. Each year, the Library adds about 1,000 new fiction titles.




Our nonfiction collection contains a selection of nonfiction books related to the art of fiction, including titles in literary criticism, biography, and books on reading and writing.




19th Century Collection


The 19th Century collection is comprised of volumes from both the Mercantile Library’s own collection and volumes donated to the Center by the Philadelphia Athenaeum. Contained in this collection are works by well-known authors, hand-pressed books from the 18th and early 19th centuries, and books with especially attractive designs and bindings. Many books in this collection are considered rare. Currently, the collection is being cataloged, with much of the collection located offsite. There are approximately 3,000 books from this collection on display in our cafe area. Once cataloging of this collection has been completed, it will be made available for use as reference only.