The 17 Best Bookstores in New York City

  • The 17 Best Bookstores in New York City

    From historic bookshops to literary enclaves that would impress Van Gogh, here’s where to hobnob with fellow bookworms in NYC.

    There are book towns in charming villages from western Norway to South Korea, but when it comes to a veritable city of books, the Big Apple is, was, and always will be a best seller. There is no shortage of remarkable, charming, diverse, and legendary bookstores in New York City, meaning that a bibliophile could plan an entire vacation just to see and shop in them all. Before you drive through one of the tunnels or cross one of the bridges, make sure you read these 10 books ahead of arriving in NYC!

    Courtesy of Strand Books

  • The Strand

    No bookstore in New York City is more recognizable than The Strand in the East Village. There’s that red wraparound awning, carts upon carts of $2 to $7 used books lined up outside on 12th Street, the miles upon miles (18 to be exact) of stacks inside the three-storied store, and those famous canvas bags everyone in the city seems to be carrying. No book lover’s trip to New York could ever be complete without time spent in its most iconic bookstore, dating back to 1927.

    The Strand

  • Barnes & Noble Union Square

    A post shared by Barnes & Noble Joliet (@bnjoliet)

    Big box stores are not famous for being visually appealing, but on a gorgeous sunny day, with the bustling Union Square Greenmarket in the foreground, the big and beautiful brick B&N on 17th Street can make any book lover go weak in the knees. If it looks like something out of the 19th century, that’s because it is! Built in 1881, this city landmark is a time capsule filled to the brim with books, of course, but also Paper Source goodies, vinyl records, a rare-in-NYC free-to-use bathroom, and of course, a busy café serving Starbucks favorites.

  • Mast Books

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    Niche bookstores might have trouble staying afloat elsewhere, but thanks to the sheer volume of people in this city, what would be a small minority almost anywhere else is a viable market in Manhattan. Mast Books is an East Village bookstore dedicated to art, photography, and design. The titles in the tastefully minimalist space on Avenue A in Alphabet City are mostly resting flat on light wood tables, leaving the stark white walls not for stacks per se but for framed art and books displayed as art, faced out on thin shelves. The result is a gallery-like space with clean lines that cater to a specific audience who will find an immaculately curated selection of rare and out-of-print titles alongside an array of contemporary art books from small presses.

  • Mysterious Book Shop

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    Another niche shop, but this one probably would have legs most anywhere in the country since the true crime genre is having quite the elongated moment in America. The Mysterious Book Shop is not a fly-by-night operation that has opened to scoop up dollars thanks to an infatuation with serial killers, Sherlock Holmes, paranormal activity, and crimes of all kinds. No, the oldest specialist mystery book store in America, which is now located on Warren Street in Tribeca, first opened its doors in midtown Manhattan in 1979, on Friday the 13th…naturally.

  • The Strand Sidewalk Carts

    Is it fair that one single bookstore takes up two spots on this ultimate NYC bookstore tour? Well, no, but there’s no selection of used books more historically important or culturally relevant than the famous Strand carts. But the used books at The Strand don’t end with the sidewalk carts. Inside, you will find used book deals too. There will be gently used Mary Oliver poetry books alongside their brand-new counterparts, but at a fraction of the cost, along with countless other secondhand titles lurking, waiting to be found, scooped up, and taken home. The Strand used books are just one of the ways you can experience NYC without spending a fortune.

    Chie Inoue/Shutterstock

  • Housing Works

    A post shared by Housing Works (@housingworks)

    Cast your preconceived notions of thrift stores aside because this charitable bookstore is not only a tourist destination but also a beauty, complete with a spiral staircase, dark wood features, gorgeous green light fixtures, and thousands of secondhand books. It’s no wonder many New Yorkers choose to rent Housing Works for their weddings—a stunning space filled with donated books and wholly staffed by volunteers. If you like a side order of altruism with your books, buy a tote bag knowing that 100% of the proceeds go to charity. Housing Works is part of the largest community-based AIDS-service organization in the country and is dedicated to eradicating AIDS and homelessness.

  • Three Lives & Company

    There’ll be plenty of opportunities for and reasons to take selfies while on a bookstore tour of NYC, but none will be more picturesque than the photo you snap out front of Three Lives & Company. It’s the dark, merlot-stained bricks of the building itself, the jet-black frame of the storefront, and the dramatically spaced-out gold lettering, but most of all, it’s the location. Flanked by rows of leafy green trees, on the idyllic corner of 10th Street and Waverly Place in the West Village. Michael Cunningham, the winner of the 1999 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for The Hours , said of Three Lives that it’s “One of the greatest bookstores on the face of the Earth.” So take the photo and then head inside to be in the most fantastic neighborhood bookshop in this or any city.

    Christopher L. Smith

  • Sister's Uptown

    A post shared by Marialuisa Monda (@iamthelibrarybookdragon)

    Long before middle America knew anything about being “In the Heights,” Janifer P. Wilson opened a bookstore and, later, a cultural center in the Washington Heights neighborhood. Today, Sister’s Uptown is far more than just a place to peruse and purchase literature. With books from the African Diaspora, including Revolutionary Mothering by Alexis Pauline Gumbs, Tarana Burke’s Unbound, and Blackout, a poetry book by renowned and local independent poets, this shop is also a meeting place to gain knowledge, meet authors, and actively participate in the growth of this vibrant community.

  • Kinokuniya

    A post shared by Kinokuniya USA (@kinokuniyausa)

    The flagship outpost of Kinokuniya Bookstores of America sits directly across from another NYC book institution, the famed Main Branch or the New York Public Library, just behind Bryant Park. Kinokuniya has called the Avenue of the Americas home since 2007, but the bookstore has been a staple of the Asian-American community in NYC since opening at Rockefeller Center back in 1981. With a huge selection of books in English, anime, graphic novels, textbooks, manga (in both English and the original Japanese), toys, stationery, gifts, and the new BANDAI hobby fair, as well as authentic Japanese products, this is a thriving hub for all to experience Japanese culture in the city through literature and media.

  • McNally Jackson

    A post shared by McNally Jackson (@mcnallyjackson)

    This beloved independent book retailer made it through the pandemic and has returned in earnest to have a bevy of live-and-in-person book launches, author signings, and lively literary discussions. If you’re visiting NYC, bookmarking the McNally Jackson events page and refreshing it often will undoubtedly yield the opportunity to partake in a fun, free events and get a signed book from an author you love.

     

  • Cafe con Libros

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    The sign above the entrance to Cafe con Libros reads, “Black, Feminist & Bookish,” but as big and bold as that is, it still doesn’t do justice to this gem of a Brooklyn community asset. This intersectional feminist community bookstore and coffee shop is committed to creating a safe, inclusive space where every single reader, book lover, and latte devotee is welcome. Much like the neighborhood that Cafe con Libros is an integral part of, this impressive bookstore is on a mission to promote the human rights of womxn and girls.

  • Books of Wonder

    A post shared by Children's Books Old & New (@booksofwonder)

    Sure, you’ll find the newest Mo Willems and Rick Riodan titles here, but what’s also waiting for you and your kids is nothing short of a wonder. Inside this beloved store is a diverse selection of children’s books—from hardback picture books to middle-grade readers, graphic novels, and classic tomes. There are also rare, out-of-print, first edition, vintage lithographs, and other gems from the storied world of kid-lit. Even better is the vast array of signed books on the shelves and available at no additional cost by authors like John Green, Raina Telgemeier, R.J. Palacio, Roshani Chokshi, and more.

  • Bauman Rare Books

    A post shared by Bauman Rare Books (@baumanrarebooks)

    Sure, you’ll find the newest Mo Willems and Rick Riodan titles here, but what’s also waiting for you and your kids is nothing short of a wonder. Inside this beloved store is a diverse selection of children’s books—from hardback picture books to middle-grade readers, graphic novels, and classic tomes. There are also rare, out-of-print, first edition, vintage lithographs, and other gems from the storied world of kid-lit. Even better is the vast array of signed books on the shelves and available at no additional cost by authors like John Green, Raina Telgemeier, R.J. Palacio, Roshani Chokshi, and more.

    You will find secondhand books at Bauman’s, but you won’t find any for $2. This Manhattan purveyor of rare books deals in the ultra-rare first editions of inscribed and hand-signed books and manuscripts. If you have deep pockets and the hankering for, say, the first edition of Alice s Adventures in Wonderland , the original His Dark Materials trilogy hand-signed by Philip Pullman, or a 1996 first edition of Fight Club— Bauman Rare Books and Gallery is where you’ll find them. Whether you fancy collecting hand-signed volumes by Alexis de Tocqueville for $62,000 or a Dr. Seuss for $4,000, a copy of War and Peace beautifully bound and in Russian for $48,500, or an inscribed Langston Hughes book of poetry for $2,800—any book lover will be in awe inside this most stately of city bookstores.

  • Quimby's Bookstore

    James Patterson, Danielle Steel, and Stephen King may drive sales on Amazon, but small presses and zines are, for many voracious readers, the true lifeblood of the literary world. The same goes for the love, passion, and human touch found in this quirky book shop with globes and other curiosities hanging from the ceiling. Quimby’s in Brooklyn is the premier NYC destination for independent books and zines (including the latest issue of my own literary and photography zine, Need another reason to visit? The most precious bookstore cat, Gracie, is waiting to greet you.

     

    Steven Svymbersky

  • Book Club

    Book Club is a wine bar, acoustic music club, a book store, and a secret hideaway from this hectic city. Found in the East Village, this warm, evocative room opened in 2019 and is still going strong post-pandemic. There are weekly Monday night drink and draw events in which a tattoo artist provides prompts and leads guests through a series of sketches. There’s live music on the calendar and literary magazine readings, and—unlike almost other bookstores—you can enjoy a glass of rosé, Prosecco, or a pint of regional brews alongside your preferred prose. Of course, there are books for sale too, but depending on when and why you visit, those might actually be an afterthought.

    Elle Kenwood Photography

  • Yu and Me Books

    As New York’s first woman-owned, AAPI-owned bookstore, Yu and Me has created a place where immigrant stories are fully integrated into the literary community with love and acceptance. This bookstore is where you can find signed copies of a K-pop rom-com and an autographed debut novel about a Taiwanese American woman’s coming of consciousness—all front and center where they belong. No matter who you are, where you come from, or who you love, you’re welcome at Yu and Me to sip, read, eat, and meet like-minded peers in a safe space. In a real way, Yu and Me is the idyllic future so many are dreaming of, but it’s a full-fledged and cozy reality here on Mulberry Street in NYC’s thriving Chinatown.

    Mel Hong

  • Albertine Books

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    Many of NYC’s best bookstores are charming spaces in stunning pre-war buildings, but only one is located inside an actual Embassy. Albertine Books is smack dab in the middle of and is actually a project of the French Embassy on 5th Ave. They offer up a vast array of books in French and English to residents of the Upper East Side and beyond. There are book club meetings and live author events, a fabulous children’s section, and one drop-dead gorgeous, hand-painted starry night sky on the 2nd-floor ceiling that Van Gogh himself would appreciate. 

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