One of my favorite things about living in the city is the plethora of charming and independent bookstores in New York City to choose from.
As an avid bookworm, I spend most of my free time perusing the various NYC bookstores in search of gems, and believe me when I tell you there’s no shortage of great shops to choose from.
As you can imagine, this hobby takes up a large portion of my time! I don’t want the knowledge to go to waste, so allow me to share my personal list of the best independent bookstores in New York City.
I’m not one for small talk, so without further ado, let’s get to it!
Best Book Stores in New York City
Greenlight Bookstore (Fort Greene, Brooklyn)
A gem of an independent NYC bookstore, Greenlight Bookstore was founded in 2009 in a neighborhood itching for a quality bookstore.
The founders wanted the bookstore to become a community-hub for the neighborhood and no one could have anticipated how well received this space would eventually become.
Turns out a sunny and well-lit bookstore was just what the neighborhood needed.
The strong sense of community is where this unique NYC bookstore truly shines. There’s so shortage of interesting events or and opportunity to learn something new (check out upcoming events here).
Today, Greenlight is the first place that comes to mind whenever I feel the need to attend an author discussion, book signing or simply hear an interesting topic analyzed via panel.
As for the selection, the store is well curated and the knowledgeable staff are happy to point you in the right direction or offer a personalized recommendation.
And let’s get real, isn’t this the very reason most of us prefer shopping at a friendly neighborhood bookstore as opposed to buying online?
This independent bookstore in New York City is a true reflection of the beautiful partnership between a welcoming community and a small business.
Address (two locations):
- 686 Fulton St, Brooklyn, NY 11217 (Flagship)
- 632 Flatbush Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11225
The Corner Bookstore (Upper East Side)
Founded in 1978, The Corner Bookstore has been satisfying the literary needs of New Yorkers for three generations and doesn’t show signs of slowing down anytime soon.
This independent NYC bookstore is as charming as can be. It isn’t a large by any stretch of the imagination, but the small size only adds to the coziness.
Don’t make the mistake of assuming the size is any indication of a limited or lack-luster selection. The selection is well-curated and it’s surprisingly easy to find a quality read.
It’s evident that the staff take great pride in their thoughtful recommendations of new fiction and non-fiction titles to share with customers.
I also feel compelled to mention the impressive children’s section. You’re bound to find both classics and creative new children’s books that touch on current goings-on.
But in the grand scheme of things, the wide-ranging children’s section makes sense when considering the high concentration of private schools in this upscale neighborhood.
Feel free to roam the store or ask one of the friendly staff members for a recommendation, I doubt you’ll be disappointed.
Address: 1313 Madison Ave, New York, NY 10128
Albertine Books (Upper East Side)
Arguably one of the best-hidden bookstores in New York City, Albertine Bookstore is located within the French Embassy and is easily missed if you don’t know to look for it.
This gem of a NYC bookstore is devoted specifically to French literature but carries some English titles as well.
The bookstore is on small the smaller side, which makes their vast selection of 14,000 books, which span two floors, all the more impressive.
It won’t take too long to peruse, but goodness, you simply can’t miss it. The remarkable hand-painted celestial ceiling on the second floor is worth a visit alone!
Albertine Books is a must-see for anyone with the faintest interest in beautiful bookstores in New York City, the discomfort of a language barrier be damned!
Tip to my fellow Francophiles — brace yourself, this bookstore is so cool. You’ll be tempted to book a flight to France the second you walk in the door.
Fun Fact: Albertine Bookstore is located within the Payne Whitney Mansion (within the French Embassy), which was designed by the same architect responsible for the Washington Square Arch — Stanford White.
Address: 972 5th Ave, New York, NY 10075
Rizzoli Books (Flatiron)
Rizzoli Books is an independent NYC bookstore boasting handsome mahogany bookshelves filled to the brim with an extensive selection of books spanning a wide-range of topics.
But where this bookstore truly shines is the vast selection of illustrated coffee table books. The reason? Rizzoli is a world renowned publisher of coffee table books.
Originally from Italy, Rizzoli chose New York City for their sole US outpost and as you can imagine — they aim to please.
I’ve lost count of the number of interesting photo books I’ve found here. Fascinating books I’ve never even heard of, let alone seen elsewhere!
All this to say, if you’re looking for a unique gift for someone, why not swing by Rizzoli for a coffee table book on a topic that interests said person?
You’re practically guaranteed to find something interesting.
Address: 1133 Broadway, New York, NY 10010
Housing Works Bookstore
Housing Works Bookstore is a unique New York City bookstore because its noble cause makes it so much more than a standard bookstore.
This bookstore is managed by a determined non-profit (by the same name) that ambitiously aims to fight HIV/AIDS and homelessness — and the stigmas associated with both.
As such, 100% of profits from this NYC bookstore are donated to fights HIV/AIDS and homelessness.
Everything on the shelves (books, DVDs, housing items, etc.) is donated and the store is run by volunteers.
Since these items are donated, there’s no guarantee that you will find a specific book. However, if you’re feeling adventurous, peruse the shelves and pick something up that you normally wouldn’t.
There’s a vast selection to choose from. The store is lined with dark floor-to-ceiling bookshelves that are well organized. Head upstairs to the balcony for the in-house cafe and spend an hour lingering for a good cause.
Address: 126 Crosby St, New York, NY 10012
McNally Jackson (Multiple Locations)
When looking for charming New York City bookshops, run, don’t walk, to McNally Jackson.
This beloved bookstore was originally founded in 2004 by Sarah McNally — whose parents own Canada’s largest independent bookstore chain.
The flagship store is the heart of SoHo and to nobody’s surprise, spread like wildfire over the course of 15 years to three new locations in Williamsburg, South Street Seaport and Downtown Brooklyn.
Regardless of the location you visit, expect to find a great selection of books. You easily spend an hour scanning the well-organized bookshelves for gems.
Word to the wise — the South Street Seaport location is especially charming and the big leather couch is dangerously cozy.
There’s also a great in-house cafe dishing out coffee and pastries from local bakeries like Sarabeths and Balthazar, highly recommend!
Argosy Book Store (Midtown)
It probably wouldn’t surprise you to learn that the oldest bookstore in New York City is also one of the most interesting to explore.
This old-school family-owned New York City bookstore was founded in 1925, which means its been serving New Yorkers for 96 years!
But fair warning, stepping into Argosy Book Store seems to mess with the space-time continuum because the hours start to fly.
Argosy Book Store specializes in rare first-edition and out-of-print books and antique maps. What’s more, it definitely embraces the old-world charm its best known for.
Spanning 6 floors, the interior is filled with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves, sturdy wood ladders, green lamps and the heavenly smell of old books. Some things never change, and frankly shouldn’t.
Address: 116 E 59th St, New York, NY 10022
Three Lives & Company (West Village)
Three Lives & Co. is quite possibly the most beloved bookstore in New York City.
Opened in 1978, this gem sits on the cutest corner in the West Village and serves as a reminder of an older New York.
New Yorkers have been relying on this welcoming bookstore and the well-read staff for more than 43 years.
Creaky floors, warm-toned wooden bookshelves and colorful books — when it comes to quaint NYC bookstores, this one takes the cake.
Of all the great bookstores New York City has to offer, you’ll be hard pressed to find kinder staff.
Note: Three Lives & Company has temporarily relocated to 238 West 10th Street while the building undergoes renovation. I took photos at the temporary location to reduce confusion.
The Strand (East Village)
Beloved by locals and visitors alike, the Strand Bookstore is one of the most iconic bookstores in New York City.
Founded in 1927, the Strand is the only remaining bookstore from “Book Row” which was a coalition of 48 bookstores that lined Fourth Avenue. Every single bookstore, with the exception of the Strand, closed during the Great Depression.
Today this large NYC bookstore is home to 2.5 million books and serves as a safe-haven for insatiable bookworms far and wide.
Visitors are welcome to donate books and peruse the bookstore in search of something new. Definitely spend time exploring the deals outside the store as well, you might score a deal!
The Strand has several locations but I suggest visiting the flagship store in the East Village (828 Broadway, New York, NY 10003).
Books Are Magic (Cobble Hill, Brooklyn)
The name alone is worth a visit to this interesting New York City bookstore, no?
Book Are Magic is a Brooklyn-based independent bookstore founded by a well known (and local) author, Emma Straub.
The impetus of the bookstore is just as important as the service it provides to the community.
Books Are Magic was opened in 2017 shortly after the closure of the neighborhood’s sole independent bookstore, BookCourt.
Inviting and vibrant, the interior is best described as “industrial Scandinavian” and feels like the only place you want to be on a rainy autumn day.
Also, can we talk about that awesome bright pink neon sign?! So cool. And the mural out front? Chef’s kiss.
Check out their unique subscription services as well and don’t miss the plethora of book signing events and panels that will hopefully resume post-COVID.
Best Bookstores in New York City (Post Summary)
In sum, these are the best bookstores in New York City:
- Books Are Magic
- The Strand
- Three Lives & Company
- Argosy Book Store
- McNally Jackson
- Housing Works Bookstore
- Rizzoli Books
- Albertine Books
- The Corner Bookstore
- Greenlight Bookstore
Best New York City Bookstores
And there you have it my friends – a quick roundup of the best independent bookstores in New York City.
I love living in a city that has so many charming little book stores to choose from and hope you enjoyed this post!
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