Stepping into the Autumn Leaves Used Books is like being transported into a world of literary nostalgia. Thousands of books — new and old — are stacked on top of each other, comfortable couches invite customers to sit and read and literary works can be found for only a dollar.
Earlier this year, PM Press, an independent publishing house that aims to amplify radical artists, authors and activists according to its website’s “About” page, took over the store after the retirement of its original owner, Joseph Wetmore. According to founder and owner of PM Press Ramsey Kanaan, the company is passionately dedicated to preserving Autumn Leaves’ tradition of making a diverse range of books accessible to a broad audience while infusing their vision into the store.
“What we choose to publish is very different from what we put in the store. This is a very large bookstore full of all kinds of views,” Kanaan said. “In fact, I’m sure 98 percent of what’s in the store, we would reject for publishing.”
Autumn Leaves caters to a wide reader base, including children’s books, political treatises, fiction, non-fiction, scholarly texts, rare editions and a section where every book costs just one dollar.
“I think there’s a lot of good choices,” Gracelynn Osei-Bosompem ’25 said. “I can get books for classes here. I’m a sociology major, and there’s a lot of books that are relevant to my classes.”
According to Kanaan, the store primarily serves the local Ithaca community and is actively working to incorporate more scholarly works into their offerings to better serve the scholarly community at Cornell.
“We primarily want to serve the community that we’re with and want to interact with that community,” Kanaan said. “But [the student and faculty population] enhances what we’re doing [and] encourages it. One of the things that we wanted to do when we took over the store is to do more scholarly works, which I think the bookstore has been weak on historically.”
In addition to their role curating the collection at Autumn Leaves Used Books, PM Press is renowned for publishing political and literary works.
“We only want to [produce] really good stuff. We have three criteria: political merit, whether we think we can sell it and how much work it would take to produce it,” Kanaan said.
Autumn Leaves also offers rare editions of books and signed copies. The store continually refreshes its collection of limited edition books as customers purchase the previous ones.
“A signed Allen Ginsberg book, or a signed Ursula Le Guin first edition is gone once it’s gone. And we may never see it again,” Kanaan said. “We stock a large variety of such things, but it’s constantly turning. One of the joys of being a good bookstore is that you’re only as good as your next acquisition.”