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12 of The Best Independent Bookstores in NYC

If you're looking for the best bookstores in NYC look no further. Jaylynn Korrell rounds up some amazing bookstores in the city.

“12 of The Best Independent Bookstores in NYC”

by Jaylynn Korrell

It’s time to check out some of the best bookstores in NYC.

New York City is one of the most literary cities in the world. Some of the greatest writers of all time have spent some, if not all, of their lives living in this buzzing metropolis. And that’s not to mention all of the publishers who make their home here.

If you haven’t visited for the literary wonder yet, I think it’s time you go see what all the fuss is about.

As you’ll see, the best bookstores in NYC might also be some of the best bookstores in the country. They’re on neighborhood corners and on the busiest city streets. They’re diverse in both book offerings and in ownership. And some have been claiming their block since before you were born.

If you’re a book lover roaming the streets of the Big Apple, we’re here to give you some direction. These 15 bookstores in NYC will easily fill your day and probably have you emptying your pockets. I warned you!

Here are some of the best bookstores in NYC.

1. Books Are Magic 

225 Smith St, Brooklyn, NY 11231

What’s better than a bookstore owned by an author? If anybody understands the amazing things a bookstore can offer a community, it’s someone who is writing the books. I quickly fell in love with this amazing space, and I’m sure you will too.

The wonderful bookstore known as Books are Magic is owned by Emma Straub, the author of great fiction like Modern Lovers and The Vacationers. She and her husband, who also live in the area, created a literary slice of heaven with Books are Magic. Aside from being chock-full of awesome reads, the store is also spacious, has a ton of cool author events, and also has a really awesome mural outside for all you #bookstagrammers out there.

And if you have kids, you’re in for a treat. They also have an amazing children’s book section, making it the perfect spot to visit with the whole family. I thought the space was amazing before I had a baby, but now that I do I’m even more excited to get back there.

*Bonus! On your way to the bottom floor there is a poetry gum-ball machine, where you put in a quarter and get a cute little poem. How sweet!

2. Strand Book Store

828 Broadway, New York, NY 10003

Strand is one of the most popular bookstores in NYC. It was started in 1927 in an area that used to be called “Book Row” and was one of the forty-eight bookstores on the six city block row.

This impressive bookstore is family-owned and has been since its inception. The Bass family runs this shop in its current space, just a few blocks from the original location, and carries over 2.5 million used, new, and rare books. 

3. Argosy Book Store 

116 E 59th St, New York, NY 10022

Another longstanding bookstore in NYC is Argosy Book Store. Founded in 1925 this family owned bookshop features out-of-print items as well as an enormous stock of antiquarian books to look through. Walking into this shop feels like walking into the most interesting section of an old library, with each book holding a unique history that’s just waiting to be uncovered. If you’re a lover of old books, you can’t go to NYC without stopping here. 

Some of the best bookstores in NYC are found in Brooklyn. Check out our list of Brooklyn bookstores if you’re planning on staying in the area.

4. Albertine Books

972 5th Ave, New York, NY 10075

 Albertine Books is the kind of bookstore that really makes an impression. Maybe its due to their drop-dead gorgeous ceiling mural of constellations, stars, and planets. Or maybe its because they’re the only bookstore in New York City devoted solely to books in French and English. With over 14,000 contemporary and classic titles from 30 French-speaking countries, those who understand the language will be in literary heaven. 

Fun Fact: The French books at Albertine comply with a French law that states that book prices cannot be reduced more than 5%. The law was created to protect publishers and booksellers in France and nourish its “biblio-diversity.” Pretty cool if you ask me.

5. Mcnally Jackson Books

76 N 4th St Unit G, Brooklyn, NY 11249

Mcnally Jackson one of the best bookstores nyc

This bookstore features a great selection of used books and new titles available. Their selection varies because so many books are bought from the community, so it could make for a really fun bookstore discovery day. I loved standing up on the second floor and looking over the big bookish space, and I think you would too.

When browsing the shelves, we found tons of cool titles, old and new. There were also plenty of books by indie presses and even some that were signed by local authors, which I really enjoyed browsing.

6. Astoria Bookshop

 31-29 31st St, Astoria, NY 11106

If you’re in the Astoria area, you’ll have to make a pit stop at the Astoria Bookshop. This queer woman-owned bookstore is filled with all of the general interest books you’ve been dreaming of.

To even further add to their likability, this shop holds a variety of literary events that are sure to bring a crowd. They do events like “The Storytelling Show” where people can put their name in a hat and have the chance to be chosen to tell a five minute, no-theme story to room full of total strangers.

7. Greenlight Bookstore

686 Fulton St, Brooklyn, NY 11217 / 632 Flatbush Ave, Brooklyn, NY 

Greenlight Bookstore is a shop that will grab your attention from the street and beckon you to open their doors. Inside, all of your literary dreams may come true. Co-founded by two women with a history in the publishing world, Greenlight combines their expertise to create the ultimate indie bookstore experience.

Their window display truly will inspire you to not just read but to explore outside of your genre as they make each book look so inviting. We rightfully stan the indie bookstores that put this type of work into their curation, as will you when you stop by either of the Greenlight Bookstore in Brooklyn. When we went, there was even a table dedicated specifically to indie presses!

8. The Corner Bookstore

1313 Madison Ave, New York, NY 10128

One of Carnegie Hill’s most beloved bookstores is the Corner Bookstore. This spot has been impacting local readers since 1978. They carefully select the best of the best current titles to display and sell, and they feature an impressive kids section that satisfies the family friendly area and their residents.

9. Rizzoli Bookstore

1133 Broadway, New York, NY 10010 

Don’t be surprised if your jaw drops as you enter Rizzoli Bookstore. It’s a beaut to say the least. For over 50 years they’ve been considered one of the foremost independent booksellers in America, featuring illustrated books on architecture, interior design, fashion, photography, cookery, literature, and more.

10. Spoonbill and Sugartown

218 Bedford Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11211

Best bookstores in nyc

218 Bedford Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11211

Walking into this bookstore felt like taking a step back in time. This is probably lame to say, but this seems like the kind of store you’d find Ginsburg and Kerouac in. Though it wasn’t around during their time, Spoonbill and Sugartown just gives off a beatnik hipster vibe, but in the best way. With a collection of poetry, literary criticism, and classics prominently displayed, we felt that it offered a really well-defined mood that we could get behind.

Spoonbill & Sugartown features a mix of used, rare, and brand new books. They handpick their selection with care, as they know their audience well. I have a feeling you’ll be drawn to pick up something that you may not have expected.

11. Housing Works

126 Crosby St, New York, NY

Housing Works is more than just a bookstore. It’s a non-profit that was established to fight both AIDS and homelessness in NYC. Their bookstore is just a branch of their business and helps to fund the cause through selling books.

For over 10 years, Housing Works has been a popular bookstore in NYC with every book in their stock coming from donation. With a staff made up almost entirely of volunteers, this shop is able to put 100% of their proceeds back into Housing Works and the lifesaving services they offer to the public.

12. Three Lives & Co

154 W 10th St, New York, NY 10014

Few bookstores look as homey on the outside as they feel on the inside, but Three Lives & Co manages to do just that. Sitting snugly on a corner in Greenwhich village, this bookstore has a little bit of everything: fiction, nonfiction, paperbacks, hardcovers, you name it. It’s also conveniently located a few blocks from Carrie Bradshaw’s fictional apartment, so you can stop by on the way if you’re into that kind of thing.

Well, there you have it! Those are some of the best bookstores in NYC. Are there others? Of course there are! Let me know which ones I missed in the comments.

About the Author

Jaylynn Korrell writes here and for GoodGiftLists.com.

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