a city in book(stores)

indie bookstores galore

Even in today’s digital age, there’s no shortage of quality bookstores in New York City. Perhaps the lack of service down in the subways encourages analogue ways to pass time. Even as the big bookstores fall to the all powerful Amazon, the little guys survive, beloved communities in neighborhoods around the city. And independent bookstores do have an undeniable charm. Handwritten recommendations. Stacks of books organized in a curated way by the staff. Signed copies, and regular events from authors many local to the city. And then theres the bookstores that specialize in a specific kind of book. Cookbooks, rare books, art books. And of course, the wonders of perusing a used bookstore.

So put on some comfy shoes, grab a little bev, go on a little bookstore crawl. Or even better, grab a book from one of the shops and then sit down for coffee and romanticize city life for a little bit. Here are a few of favorites, with some recommendations on how to make it into a wonderful afternoon. 

the city classic: STRAND BOOKS

Strand Book Store is an iconic literary landmark that has been serving the city since 1927. With a vast collection of new, used, and rare books, it has pretty much everything you’d want in a bookstore. Sure, it’s a bit of a tourist destination. They lean into it, with their own line of merch as well. But it’s still a good bookstore in its own right. The original Union Square location occupies a decent amount of space spanning three floors, but it crowds easily with the labyrinth of towering bookshelves. The newer Upper West Side location has more of a clean contemporary ambiance. Whether you’re searching for a bestseller, a vintage gem, grabbing a city souvenir, or perusing the book sales on the sidewalks, Strand has it all. 


Website: strandbooks.com

Hours: 10am – 8pm daily

Instagram: @strandbookstore

Pair with: Breads Bakery or Daily Provisions, or a little walk through Union Square Greenmarket

the local favorite: MCNALLY JACKSON

McNally Jackson is a beloved independent bookstore with multiple locations throughout the city, all with serene minimalist aesthetics, but each with a bit of a different vibe. I’m partial to the Williamsburg location, with two floors and plenty of natural light. The book selection is well-curated, and spans a variety of genres from fiction and nonfiction to art books, cookbooks, indie magazines and more. They host regular author events and literary discussions, making it a vibrant hub for book enthusiasts. They also have a separate stationery shop in the West Village. 


Website: http://www.mcnallyjackson.com/

Hours: 10am – 8pm daily

Instagram: @mcnallyjackson

Pair with: Devocion in Williamsburg, Matchaful in Soho

the village gem: three lives & company

Tucked away in the picturesque West Village, Three Lives & Company is a charming neighborhood bookstore that has been around since the sixties and contributes to the nearly European ambience of the Village streets. The shop is small, but well curated, specializing in literary fuction, poetry and non-fiction, and up to date with the latest publications. It’s a little literary oasis that is always worth popping into whenever you’re in the neighborhood.

Address: 154 W 10th St, New York

Website: threelives.com

Hours: Monday-Saturday: 10am-7pm, Sunday: 12pm-7pm

Pair with: Te Company

the culture lover’s paradise: RIZZOLI

Rizzoli is a renowned bookstore in the heart of the Flatiron District that specializes in books on art, architecture, design and photography. The stunning townhouse architecture is filled with elegant embellishments and high ceilings makes for a wonderful home for the sophisticated shop that has become institution for lovers of the visual arts. It’s the kind of place that will get you to buy an aspirational coffee table book, even if you barely have room for a coffee table in your tiny apartment. But you know, one day your place will feel a bit more like this space and that coffee table book will be right at home. 

Address: 1133 Broadway, New York

Website: rizzolibookstore.com

Hours: Monday-Saturday: 11am-8pm, Sunday: 11am-7pm

Instagram: @rizzolibookstore

Pair with: Eataly, Milu, or grab to go and sit in Madison Square Park

the thrifty one: housing works bookstore

Housing Works runs several thrift stores around the city, but they only have one bookstore, and it’s in Soho. The bookstore contributes to the social enterprise that helps fund essential services for people living with HIV/AIDS. All the inventory is donated, and all the staff volunteers. The books span all sorts of genres over two levels, and are generally well-organized. The cozy atmosphere is made even better by the little cafe in the back, with some tables and seats for you to sit down with a book, and be a part of the community.  

Address: 126 Crosby St, New York

Website: housingworks.org/bookstore

Hours: 11am – 8pm everyday

Instagram: @housingworksbks

Pair with: Cafe Lyria, Cafe Belle

the neighborhood choice: books are magic

Books are Magic is a beloved independent bookstore in Brooklyn that is a neighborhood favorite. On any given weekend, the small but well-stocked shop will be filled with people of all ages, buzzing with activity. With its charming facade and handwritten recommendation cards and a back section for kids, this bookstore feels like a brick and mortar bookclub and is basically made for the Brooklyn demographic. From bestsellers to hidden gems, Books are Magic offers a diverse range of titles and hosts regular author events that draw a community of book lovers from well beyond their own neighborhood. They now have two locations, the original in Cobble Hill and a second in Brooklyn Heights.


Website: booksaremagic.net

Hours: 10am – 6pm every day

Instagram: @booksaremagicbk

Pair with: L’Appartement 4f in Brooklyn Heights, Breakfast by Salt’s Cure in Cobble Hill

the european import: shakespeare & co

This Parisian import now has two locations in New York, one on the Upper East and the other on the Upper West. Is it quite the same as the picturesque Left Bank original? With the contemporary branding, not quite. But it still brings some French charm and literary romance to the city. And with a built in cafe, it makes for a nice place to sit and read and try to tune out the background noise of the city. 


Website: http://www.shakeandco.com/

Hours: 8am – 8pm weekdays, 9am – 8pm Saturday, 10am – 7pm Sunday

Instagram: @shakeandco_usa

the one for food lovers: Archestratus Books + Foods

Archestratus is a delightful bookstore-cafe-superette in the heart of Greenpoint. It is everything you love about Greenpoint and more. The shop focuses on food-related books, from cookbooks to culinary literature to reference books and more, alongside houseware in an intimate kitchen set up. At the front, they also operate a small cafe, and have a fridge stocked with local produce, gourmet products and grab and go drinks. They often host pop ups and demos, and have become a hub for the food and book enthusiast community.

Address: 160 Huron St, Brooklyn

Website: archestrat.us

Hours: 11am – 7pm every day

Instagram: @archestrat.us

Pair with: Radio Bakery or Bakeri or just grab a coffee and a table outside and hang for a bit

the weird one: sweet pickle books

I think we can safely say that Sweet Pickle Books is a one of a kind establishment. How many bookstores have you seen that specialize in used books and pickles? This charming and cozy shop is that alt kid amid the many cool kid fashion boutiques and galleries on Orchard Street. It could easily be written off as kitschy but it’s actually kind of nice. There’s tons of used books across a range of genres for picking up something random, and if none of the books speak to you, you can at least leave with a jar of pickles!

Address: 47 Orchard St, New York

Website: sweetpicklebooks.com

Hours: 11am – 7pm every day

Instagram: @sweetpicklebooks

Pair With: Reception Bar for a lil drink, or Orchard Grocer for a bite

the alternative choice: CODEX

Codex is a tiny hidden gem nestled right at the corner of Bowery and Bleeker. This intimate bookstore focuses on independent publishers and small press titles, offering a curated selection of thought-provoking and unique reads, with new and used books. The small space is filled to the brim with books, you kind of feel like you’re deep in the stacks of a library, but in a good way. 

Address: 1 Bleecker St, New York

Website: codexbooks.nyc

Hours: 12pm – 7pm every day

Instagram: @codexbooks

Pair with: Cafe Lyria, Librae

the coffee table’s best friend: MAST BOOKS

When it comes to bookstores, you often want quantity for the best experience of finding what you need. But sometimes you want to come in just for inspiration and quality, selective curation becomes your best friend. MAST Books definitely falls into the latter category. The small but airy shop is filled with art and design books, including many rare and hard to find prints. Their tables are filled with books that would upgrade any coffee table, while the shelves along the walls hold a plethora of other gems. Whether you’re looking to buy a book or just seeking inspiration, you are guaranteed to discover something new every time. If you’re looking for something specific, you can place an order online for pick up. Shopping in store make for the best browing experience. 

Address: 72 Avenue A, New York

Website: mastbooks.com

Hours: 12 – 8pm every day

Instagram: @mastbooks

Pair with: Tokuyamatcha, Abraço

the quaint one: the corner bookstore

As noted in the name, Corner Bookstore sits at a corner of a block, and a very picturesque Upper East Side block at that. The charming storefront has become a beloved neighborhood fixture over the decades, occupying the ground level of a classic brownstone. The interior is just as charming, with original architectural details, tin ceilings, wood accents, and even an old school cash register. It’s not big, but it still boasts a generous inventory of fiction, nonfiction and children’s books, making it a popular space for the local community to pop into and convene for book signings.

Address: 1313 Madison Ave, New York

Website: cornerbookstorenyc.com

Hours: Monday-Saturday: 10am-6pm, Sunday: 11am-5pm

Pair with: grab a bite from Butterfield Market and sit in the park

the one who studies critical race theory: Bluestockings Cooperative Bookstore

Bluestockings is a collectively owned and operated shop located in the vibrant Lower East Side. You’ll know you’re there when you spot the large Pride flag out front. More than just a bookstore, it is a community space that fosters social justice, feminism, and radical literature. Inside, you’ll find shelves labeled by different ethnic studies, feminist studies, LGBTQ studies, lined up along walls with painted portraits and quotes of activists. In addition to a diverse selection of fiction and nonfiction books, you’ll find zines, political and social activism resources, and a vibrant events calendar featuring author readings, workshops, and discussions. There’s also a well curated children’s book section.

Address: 116 Suffolk St, New York

Website: bluestockings.com

Hours: 11am-7pm Tuesday – Sunday, closed Mondays

Instagram: @bluestockingsnyc

Pair with: Davelle

the all-in-one: P&T Knitwear Bookstore, Coffee, & Podcast Studio

P&T Knitwear is a unique concept that combines a bookstore, coffee shop, and podcast studio. Which is to say, it pretty much fits right into the LES scene. From the street, it almost looks like it could be a large retail store, especially with “knitwear” in the name. Indeed, it did once used to be a place selling sweaters. Today, it is run by the grandson of one of the original founders, who kept the name to honor its history. Inside, the space is large, with high ceilings, bright white lights and a no frills post-modern industrial vibe. The signs are loud, bold fonts, bright colors, and the books are well organized, into well-labeled sections. The shop is very connected with the publishing industry and has a well-programmed events calendar, making it a great space for community gatherings.

Address: 180 Orchard St, New York

Website: ptknitwear.com

Hours: 12 – 8pm every day

Instagram: @ptknitwear

Pair with: Sami & Susu, Caffe Vita

the old school fave: Alabaster Bookshop

Right around the corner from the landmark Strand is Alabaster Bookshop, an old school secondhand bookstore, the last one standing from what used to be a string of them in the neighborhood. The shop is very cozy, it looks (and smells) like what I’d imagine the attic of a well-read octogenarian. The shelves are crammed full with books, and more books are stacked in piles on the ground, an eclectic collection of literature, old prints and some rare books as well. It’s the perfect amount of chaos that feels intimate, personal. Plus, they always have carts of discount books out front.

Address: 122 4th Ave, New York

Hours: 10am – 10pm Monday – Saturday, 11am – 10pm Sunday

Instagram: @alabasterbooks

Pair with: Patisserie Fouet

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