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The Top 16 Independent Bookstores in NYC Worth Checking Out

the top independent bookstores in nyc

Joan Didion. Jeniffer Egan. Mia Alvar. Eula Biss. Ada Limon are some of the names that come to mind when I think of New York. These writers have written about and from New York. New York City has long been a hub for literary creativity and inspiration, and its independent bookstores are a testament to this legacy. These hidden gems provide a unique and intimate experience for book lovers to explore and discover new reads. Whether you’re searching for rare finds or simply want to immerse yourself in the city’s rich literary culture, these independent bookstores offer something for everyone. From cozy corners to spacious shops, each bookstore has its own distinct charm and selection. With knowledgeable staff and an abundance of character, these independent bookstores in NYC are truly the heart and soul of the big apple’s literary scene.

Community Bookstore – Local, charming, literary

Operating Hours: Mon-Sun 10 am–6 pm
Address: 143 7th Ave, Brooklyn, NY
Instagram: @communitybookstore/

community bookstore is one of the best independent bookstores in nyc

With the many bookstores in NYC, Community Bookstore is a charming, independent bookstore located in the heart of Park Slope, Brooklyn that should be in the top of your list. The store has been a neighborhood fixture for over 30 years and is known for its cozy atmosphere and knowledgeable staff.

This bookshop is a cozy and inviting place with a warm atmosphere that makes you feel right at home. 🏠 The walls are painted in warm colors and there are wood accents that add to the cozy feeling. At the back of the shop, you’ll find a charming children’s corner with a window that looks out onto the street outside.

The staff is friendly, helpful, and always ready to offer recommendations or answer any questions you might have. 👥 They create a welcoming environment that will make you want to stay awhile.

And if that wasn’t enough to charm you, there’s also a resident cat who can be found either sleeping by the front window or wandering through the store. 🐱 This feline friend adds to the already lovely atmosphere and makes the bookstore feel even more like a home away from home.

Books Are Magic – Whimsical, literary, charming

books are magic is one of the best independent bookstores in nyc

Operating Hours: Mon-Sun, 10 am–6 pm
Address: 225 Smith St, Brooklyn, NY
Instagram: @booksaremagicbk

Books Are Magic is a whimsical and charming independent bookstore located in the heart of Brooklyn’s Cobble Hill neighborhood. The employees are clearly serious about reading and books, as evidenced by their personal recommendations found throughout the store.

The store itself is beautifully designed, with a well-stocked and organized collection of books that will have you browsing for hours. But what really sets this store apart is the branded merchandise section featuring mugs, shirts, stickers, pins, and even custom Tattly! 🤩 These unique offerings are not often seen in independent bookstores, so it’s a real treat to find them here.

In addition to their impressive selection, this bookstore also hosts author events that are not to be missed. 📖 And the staff is always friendly and helpful, ensuring that you have a delightful shopping experience.

Before you leave, be sure to take a moment to snap a photo, TikTok, or gif in front of their magical mural. It’s the perfect way to share with the world just how truly magical books can be. ✨

Shakespeare and Co – Nostalgic, literary, and jazzy

Inspired from Shakespeare and Company in Paris, Shakespeare and Co brand of bookstore is always whimsical, creative, nostalgic, and has this ambient and playful vibe. If you’re looking for an interesting store to visit, you should check out this one! The selection of work is really impressive and it’s great to see local writers getting recognition.

You can even use their bind and print service, which allows you to choose from a catalog and have your selection printed on the spot – pretty exciting, right? Plus, the coffee is pretty good too. When I visited on the weekend, I was surprised by how quiet it was – I expected it to be packed!

I highly recommend you stop by this store. They have a great collection of books and gifts, including some unique and hard-to-find graphic novels that you’ll enjoy perusing. The staff is friendly and the ambient music, smooth jazz, adds to the pleasant atmosphere. Don’t miss out on checking out the downstairs textbook section during your visit – I know I’m looking forward to exploring it next time. So, if you find yourself in the area, make sure you don’t miss out on this store. It’s definitely worth a visit!

McNally Jackson Books – Curated, charming, literary

Operating Hours: Mon-Fri 9am-10pm; Sat-Sun 10am-8pm
Address: 536 W 112th St, New York

macnally is one of the best bookstores in nyc to check out

With locations in Manhattan and Brooklyn, McNally Jackson Books is a charming and welcoming independent bookstore that specializes in literary fiction, poetry, and non-fiction. The staff are passionate about books and offer personalized recommendations to customers. The store also features a well-curated selection of international literature, art books, and children’s books, as well as a café where customers can relax with a coffee or tea.

This bookshop is beautifully laid out, and the staff is incredibly friendly. There’s a fantastic selection of books to choose from, spread out over two levels, along with various other items for sale. Don’t forget to look up and admire the hanging books while you’re there! If you’re in the Soho area, this is definitely a spot you don’t want to miss. They have some of the most unique books and zines/local publications. The staff is always ready with helpful recommendations and friendly faces to help you find the perfect book.

Book Culture – Cozy, community-oriented, intellectual

book culture is a small independent bookstore in nyc

Operating Hours: Mon-Fri 9am-10pm; Sat-Sun 10am-8pm
Address: 536 W 112th St, New York
Instagram: @bookculture

Book Culture is a neighborhood bookstore with three locations on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. The store is known for its cozy atmosphere and friendly staff, who are always eager to help customers find the perfect book. Book Culture also hosts frequent author events and readings, as well as a popular book club that welcomes new members.

You don’t want to miss this cute, quaint, and quirky bookstore! It has everything you need in a bookstore, plus some delightful trinkets. One of the highlights is the “blind date with a book” section, where different book selections are wrapped up and labeled with hints like “mystery novel meets struggling millennial.” It’s so fun to pick one out and see what’s inside! I picked one up myself and can’t wait to discover the book I got.

Three Lives & Co – Quaint, intimate, well-curated

Operating Hours: Mon-Sat 10am-7pm, Sun 12-7pm
Address: 154 W 10th St, New York

three lives company is one of the best independent bookstores in nyc

Located in Greenwich Village, Three Lives & Co is a small but well-curated bookstore that has been a neighborhood staple since 1978. The store specializes in literary fiction, poetry, and non-fiction, and its staff are known for their excellent recommendations. Three Lives & Company also hosts intimate author events and readings.

An enchanting bookstore! You swung by with the intention of snagging a book, but were immediately inundated with countless captivating options. The cozy interior exuded a pleasant warmth and the tranquil music added to the serene ambiance. Frankly, you almost wished there were some chairs available to relish the atmosphere while perusing through the pages!

Greenlight Bookstore – Vibrant, welcoming, diverse

greenlight book is one of the best independent bookstores in new york that you should check out

Operating Hours: Mon-Sun 10am-9pm
Address: 686 Fulton St, Brooklyn
Instagram: @greenlightbklyn/

This independent bookstore in Brooklyn’s Fort Greene neighborhood is a vibrant and welcoming community hub. It offers a diverse selection of books, including fiction, non-fiction, children’s books, and graphic novels. Greenlight Bookstore also hosts a variety of events, from author readings to book clubs to trivia nights.

This gem of a bookstore offers a diverse selection of modern and classic books, with a special emphasis on small publishers and local voices. It’s refreshing to see a bookstore that champions independent voices in such a meaningful way. Whether you’re on the hunt for your next favorite book or just browsing, Greenlight is a must-stop destination.

Bluestockings Cooperative Bookstore – Feminist, radical, thought-provoking

Operating Hours: Tue-Sun 11 am–7 pm; Mon 1pm-7pm
Address: 116 Suffolk St, New York
Instagram: @bluestockingsnyc/

Bluestockings Cooperative Bookstore is one of the best bookstores in new york

Bluestockings is a radical, feminist bookstore on the Lower East Side that specializes in books on social and political issues. The store is run collectively by a group of volunteers and features a well-curated selection of books on topics like feminism, anti-racism, LGBTQ+ rights, and more. Bluestockings also hosts regular workshops, lectures, and events that challenge and inspire.

While there are other independent bookstores in the East Village, it’s difficult to find another space that compares in terms of their unwavering commitment to accessibility and inclusivity for all. You always make sure to order your books here and have had nothing but positive experiences during all of your visits.

Housing Works Bookstore Cafe – Socially conscious, cozy, eclectic

housing works bookstore is one of the best independent bookstores in nyc

Operating Hours: closing time varies. Opens 12pm
Address: 126 Crosby St, New York

Housing Works Bookstore Cafe is a non-profit bookstore and café in SoHo that raises funds for Housing Works, an organization that helps people living with HIV/AIDS. The store features a cozy atmosphere, with shelves of donated books and comfortable seating. Housing Works also hosts frequent events, including author readings, open mics, intimate weddings and prenuptial photoshoots, and trivia nights.

Housing Works Bookstore boasts an extensive collection of 📖 books spread across two spacious floors, making it a joy to browse through the shelves. 📘 And as if that wasn’t enough, this place also has a cozy coffee ☕ shop nestled inside! The overall atmosphere 🎶 is simply wonderful, and the staff is incredibly friendly and hospitable.

Mercer Street Books – Unpretentious, quirky, hidden gem

Operating Hours: Mon-Sun 12pm-8pm
Address: 206 Mercer St, New York

mercer bookstores and records is one of the best used bookstore in nyc

Mercer Street Books is a charming, unpretentious bookstore in the heart of SoHo. The store specializes in used and rare books, with a focus on art, photography, and architecture. Its quirky, eclectic selection and cozy atmosphere make it a hidden gem for book lovers.

It’s like stepping back in time to an old New York institution, or the kind of bookstore you might have imagined as a kid. Not only is it filled with little art book gems, but it also boasts a much better selection than other vintage bookstores.

This place is truly a hidden gem, and during my school days, it was one of my favorite hideaways where I could happily get lost for hours. 🕰️ What’s more, it also has a fantastic selection of LPs from just about every genre imaginable. From the obscure to the popular, spoken word to international records, and more, you’re sure to find something that suits your taste. And best of all, the records are always in excellent condition, so you won’t have to worry about skipping or bad quality ruining your listening experience.

In addition to its great selection, the staff at this bookstore are also incredibly friendly and helpful. They are always happy to promote fun local events and help you find what you’re looking for. All in all, I couldn’t recommend this place highly enough. So if you’re in the area, be sure to stop by and experience it for yourself!

Spoonbill & Sugartown – Hip, avant-garde, unique

spoonbill sugartown

Operating Hours: Mon-Sun 11am-9pm
Address: 218 Bedford Ave, Brooklyn
Instagram: @spoonbillbooks/

If you’re a book lover visiting or residing in Williamsburg, this hip and avant-garde independent bookstore is a must-see! 📚 It’s a staple in the area, with a fantastic selection of classics and new releases showcased in the front, along with discounted books on display.

Despite its small size, this store is truly impressive with the sheer magnitude of its collection. 🤩 From floor to ceiling, you’ll find books on a wide array of topics stacked and waiting for you to explore. And if you’re a fan of stationary and pens, you won’t want to miss checking out their collection as well.

In addition to books and stationary, they also offer gift cards, making it a perfect place to find a thoughtful gift for the bookworm in your life. Overall, this store has something for everyone and is a testament to the charm and appeal of independent bookstores. So be sure to stop by and see it for yourself!

The Strand Bookstore – Iconic, massive, eclectic

strand bookstore in nyc

Operating Hours: Mon-Sun 10am-8pm
Address: 828 Broadway, New York
Instagram: @strandbookstore/

Located in the East Village, The Strand Bookstore is a New York City institution that boasts 18 miles of books. It’s a book lover’s paradise, with new and used books spanning every genre and subject imaginable. The store is known for its iconic red awning and the stacks of books that line the sidewalks outside. Inside, customers can get lost for hours browsing through the shelves or attending one of the store’s many author events.

If you’re a book lover, you simply have to get to The Strand as soon as possible! With 4 floors of books and awesome merchandise, there’s something for everyone here. My girlfriend and I recently attended a book signing, and it was very well organized with masks and proof of vax required. The only downside was that the store closed at 8pm, and the book signing ended just after 8, so we didn’t get a chance to browse all the aisles of books. But that just means we’ll have to go back again!

I’ve been to The Strand before, and it’s truly heaven on earth for book lovers. You can easily spend hours and hours here. It’s a NYC institution and a must-visit. You’ll walk in empty-handed, and I guarantee you’ll leave with more than you can carry. The staff is friendly and knowledgeable, so they’ll help you find whatever you’re looking for. Don’t forget to check out the third-floor rare book room – it’s a gem!

Word Bookstore – Cozy, inviting, well-stocked

Operating Hours: Mon-Sun, 11 am–6 pm
Address: 126 Franklin St, Brooklyn, NY
Instagram: @wordbookstores/

word bookstore nyc

Word Bookstore is an inviting and cozy independent bookstore with locations in Brooklyn and Jersey City. The book collection is expertly curated and features a great selection of books from New York specific publishers. It’s a must-visit spot when you’re in Greenpoint.

Inside, you’ll find a cozy local bookstore with plenty of great book recommendations displayed throughout the shelves. 📖 The staff is incredibly friendly and helpful, making it a pleasure to shop here.

In addition to the amazing book selection, this store also offers a variety of cute non-book items such as stationery, cards, socks, and other gifts. 🎁 It’s a great place to find unique and thoughtful gifts for your book-loving friends and family.

The Mysterious Bookshop – Enigmatic, suspenseful, thrilling

mysterious bookstore in new york

Operating Hours: Mon-Sat, 11 am–7 pm
Address: 58 Warren St, New York
Instagram: @hemysteriousbookshop/

The Mysterious Bookshop is a specialty bookstore in Manhattan that specializes in mystery, crime, and suspense fiction. It’s a must-visit stop on any NYC trip. The store is filled to the brim with mystery books, all in excellent condition. You’ll find some new releases, signed copies, and even first editions! There’s an entire wall dedicated to Sherlock Holmes and a stunning collection of Agatha Christie books (I wish I could afford them all! 💕).

The staff is incredibly friendly and clearly passionate about what they do. They even write and publish their own mini books! Plus, who doesn’t love a bookstore with rolling ladders?! 😄

When my cousin asked if she could climb one, we expected a list of rules, but instead, the staff member kindly ensured it was properly secured. It’s little things like this that make this store so special. Don’t take my word for it, go see for yourself! I highly recommend this place.

Albertine Books – Chic, sophisticated, European

Operating Hours: Mon-Sun, 10 am–6 pm
Address: 972 5th Ave, New York
Instagram: @albertinebooks

albertine is a beautiful secret bookstore in nyc

Albertine Books is a chic and sophisticated bookstore located inside the French Embassy in Manhattan. The store specializes in French and Francophone literature, with a selection of books in English and French. The space is beautifully designed, with a mezzanine level that offers stunning views of Central Park. Albertine Books also hosts a variety of events, including author readings, film screenings, and panel discussions.

Beautiful may be an understatement for Albertine’s bookstore. Not only is it on a highly sought-after beautiful location 📍 the store/building itself is incredibly well maintained and kept up as one would expect for being on 5th/Central Park 🏙️. The staff is extremely kind and welcoming 👋 all around. You are guaranteed to find something unique for yourself or a gift to a friend, partner, family, etc… 🎁 that they will absolutely treasure 💎.

The Drama Book Shop – Nostalgic, theatrical, comprehensive

drama bookstore new york

Operating Hours: Mon-Sat, 10 am–7 pm; Sun, 12–7 pm
Address: 266 W 39th St, New York
Instagram: @dramabookshop/

The Drama Book Shop is a comprehensive bookstore for theater lovers, located in Manhattan’s Theater District. The store features a wide selection of plays, scripts, monologues, and theater history books, as well as books on acting, directing, and playwriting. The Drama Book Shop also hosts regular workshops and events for aspiring playwrights and theater professionals. The store’s history dates back to 1917 and it has been a beloved destination for theater lovers for over a century.

Jona of Backpacking with a Book

Hi there, I’m Jona, originally from Cebu, Philippines, had live in Hanoi, Vietnam, and now currently based in Munich, Germany. This blog used to house thoughts on life and books, but eventually it morphed into a travel blog. For collaborations, projects, and other things, please email me at For essays, creative nonfiction, and others, find me elsewhere.

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