The 19 Best Independent Bookstores in NYC
If you’re a book lover, is there anything better than stepping into a place that leads to a treasure trove of fabulous books waiting to be discovered? You take a deep inhale to smell the gloriousness of old, new, and lovingly used books.
in NYC you will have a smorgasbord of options of all the best independent bookstores in NYC to explore.
My favorite part of exploring independent bookstores in NYC or any bookstore is searching through all the titles, stacks, and tables of books that are all displayed perfectly.
Each bookstore has its own unique style. Perfect rows, perfect displays, adorable decorations, and fantastic knick-knacks.
At one NYC bookstore, I found mini booklets with celebrities’ most famous quotes. At another bookstore, you can buy pickles, yes pickles!
Independent bookstores in NYC are filled with the utmost character and charm.
You get bookstore cats, disco balls, tarot card readers, and sometimes even a turtle.
One thing independent bookstores in NYC are especially known for is great owners and employees who give you awesome, personalized recommendations. And usually, when you buy a book, you get their store’s adorable bookmark sweetly placed in your new book.
Come with me as we explore 19 of the best independent bookstores in NYC…
1. Books Are Magic (Brooklyn Heights)
This bookstore on Montague Street in Brooklyn Heights truly is magical. It has a vast selection, which includes great staff picks, an adorable kids section, and signed books.
In terms of cool independent bookstores in NYC, this one tops the list.
One of the coolest things about the bookstore is that it is co-owned by author, Emma Straub, and her husband Michael Fusco-Straub.
Don’t forget the other Books Are Magic location in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn.
What makes these Brooklyn bookstores great is the community they build. Both stores have author events, reading programs, curated book lists, and children’s programs. And they have a Monthly Magic Book Subscriptions box.
The Cobble Hill location also has a great Books Are Magic mural, which is perfect for bookish photo ops.
You know what else makes this one of the best independent bookstores in NYC?
Location location location!
Walk down Montague Street towards the water and you will find the Brooklyn Promenade. You’ll get the best views of the city or your money back!
I also lived in Cobble Hill and would walk to the Brooklyn Heights Promenade from there too. It’s a bit of a hike but if you’re okay with walking and are blister-free, it’s very doable.
And for good eats, please go enjoy a Vietnamese sandwich at Hanco’s when at the Montague location. Tell them Lauren sent you and they will stare at you blankly.
2. Greenlight Bookstore
Staying with the Brooklyn bookstores theme, let’s head to Fort Greene now to check out Greenlight Bookstore. This is one of the best independent bookstores in NYC, in my opinion.
It has a HUGE selection of GREAT books. They have lots of in-store events and storytime for kids. You can also request personalized autograph copies from certain participating authors.
One fun event they organized over the summer was a Find Waldo Local Fort Green event. Greenlight Bookstore teamed up with other local businesses where participants find Waldo at each site, and collect stamps to win prizes.
It culminated with a fun party at Greenlight Bookstore.
There are some good eats in the area like Slutty Vegan, Deniz Mediterranean Cuisine, and Black Forest Brooklyn. Greenlight is also close to Barclay’s and Brooklyn Academy of Music.
3. The Ripped Bodice
As a lover of romance books, having a whole store dedicated to them is my version of heaven. The pink storefront, the romantic lighting, books decorating the walls and ceiling, and get this…tampons and pads in the bathroom!
Yes, ladies, this is our place. Come in, buy some fabulous books, and maybe some bookish chocolate or candles too?
This is definitely one of my favorite independent bookstores in NYC.
It’s to die for!
The back of the store is cozy with these fabulous velvet chairs with The Ripped Bodice logo adorning the background. Definitely a setup for some great events.
This is one of the newest bookstores to hit the city, just opening this past August. There is also a location in LA. Both are owned by two sisters, the About section on their site says, “The store is proudly Woman and Queer Owned.”
We are so lucky to have this bookstore in Brooklyn located in trendy Park Slope. Also a few blocks away is another awesome bookstore in Park Slope, Community Bookstore.
Say hello to the turtle there!
For good eats, can’t go wrong with Union Hall nearby.
4. Book Club Bar
How about an independent bookstore in the East Village and a wine bar? Literary cocktails too? Yes, please!
I’ll have a Grapefruits of Wrath.
I met up with a good friend here and we perused the fabulous selection of books and then chatted over our literary cocktails about life, NYC, and books.
They have seating at the bar with tables beside it, couches by the books for a nice cozy vibe, and a few nooks and crannies to lounge on.
I think Book Club Bar would be a fun spot to meet up for a date, a few good, bookish friends, or on your own to enjoy a drink or coffee while reading.
Be totz cool & visit one of the trendiest independent bookstores in NYC!
5. Quimby’s Bookstore
I walked into Quimby’s Bookstore in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and immediately fell in love. How could I not when upon entering I spied an adorably sleeping cat named Gracie lying in a box at the cash register?
Besides cats, they also have lots of popular books and a ton of fun bookish swag. In addition to a book, I also purchased a mini booklet of famous Dolly Parton quotes.
Get this…in the back of the store, they also do tarot card readings.
The disco balls hanging from the ceiling, the Williamsburg location, Gracie the cat, and the great selection of books, should put this on the top of every “cool bookstores in NYC” buzzworthy list.
Lots of great restaurants nearby but some of the ones closest are La Mancha Tapas Bar, Montesacro Pinseria, and Bagelsmith.
6. Shakespeare & Company
Shakespeare & Co. is a fabulous bookstore, definitely one of the best independent bookstores in NYC.
With great books and swag, I wanted to buy out the store!
I bought Fiona Davis’ The Spectacular and they had an awesome NYC book on display I’ve read called Stories from Tenants Downstairs by Sidik Fofana. I have seen him at the Brooklyn Book Festival where he was part of a panel of debut authors.
Nice to see this bookstore supporting new authors.
And as a HUGE Jane Austen fan, I was in love with the pretty copies of Persuasion and Northanger Abbey that I got for only $10 each.
Shakespeare & Co. has two locations and the location on Broadway also has cool events like a monthly book club and Open Mic Nights where it’s a night of singing, comedy, poetry, and art.
If you want French language books and books translated from French to English, then you need to head to Albertine. Albertine is also the most beautiful bookstore in NYC that I’ve ever seen.
Albertine is located within the historic Payne Whitney mansion and it’s right across from the Met Museum.
The ceiling on the upper level is glorious. It is a hand-painted mural of constellations, stars, and planets. It’s a great escape from the frenetic energy of NYC.
I also loved the variety of children’s books they had in French. This is a must-visit when you are exploring independent bookstores in NYC.
8. Cafe con Libros
Cafe con Libros is one of the coolest independent bookstores in NYC! Crown Heights, Brooklyn to be exact. It is an intersectional Black, Latinx-owned feminist bookstore and cafe.
Owner, Kalima DeSuze chose the name as a play on cafe con leche, she says, “an ode to my culture.”
This may be one of the smallest independent bookstores in NYC but the selection is awesome.
The intimate size made for some great connections with other customers. As others enthusiastically spoke about a book, it made me immediately connect with them. I picked a book specifically because someone there raved about it.
The nice employee there also helped me choose With The Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo.
If you’re into vegan food, try out Screamer’s Pizzeria, which is very close by. For some good Indian food, try Diwan Grill.
9. The Mysterious Bookshop
Located in Tribeca, The Mysterious Bookshop is without a doubt, one of the coolest independent bookstores in NYC.
If you love mystery, suspense & thrillers, and crime fiction books then this is definitely the NYC bookstore for you.
They sell used and new books, signed books, and rare & collectible books. The Mysterious Bookshop also has a whole wall dedicated to Sherlock Holmes.
They are very helpful too. I enjoy books in the vein of Agatha Christie and also like books set in NYC. With this info, I was guided to pick up The Guest List by Lisa Foley and The Lost Night by Andrea Bartz. So far I’ve read The Guest List and loved it.
This New York bookshop also has some fantastic puzzles in case that’s your jam.
10. Taylor & Co.
This cozy NYC bookstore is one of the newest editions to Brooklyn and we Brooklynites couldn’t be happier about it. This Brooklyn bookstore is in Ditmas Park, a beautifully diverse area, with quiet, tree-lined streets.
I read in Bklyner that the owner, Andrew Colarusso wants to reflect the diversity of the neighborhood with his selection of books. When I’ve been, Andrew was very helpful in helping me find an excellent suspenseful book to read Minor Prophets.
Taylor & Co. is small but mighty in its selection of books. There’s plenty to choose from and it’s such a warm and comforting vibe in this store.
They also host author events, poetry readings, and Sunday Storytime for kids…they even had an event to celebrate Prince’s birthday.
What also makes this a cool bookstore in NYC is that the neighborhood is incredible.
Go walk those tree-lined streets with Victorian mansions, birds chirping, and cats scampering around.
If you come around Halloween, you have to see Halloween House, which is Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright David Lindsay-Abaire’s house. He goes ALL out with his fabulously creepy decorations with animatronics, projections, holograms, and so much more!
Eat at Lea, Mimi’s Hummus, or Jalsa. Yum! Or breakfast at Cafe Madeline down the block.
Rizzoli Bookstore is absolutely one of the most beautiful independent bookstores in NYC. I definitely felt like I should have worn an outfit fit for Princess Kate while strolling around these tall, gorgeous bookshelves with smooth jazz music playing in the background.
With slanted black and white tiled floors, lined with black pillars, and museum-quality murals along the walls, in Rizzoli, you are walking in an elegant architectural dream of a bookstore.
Rizzoli Bookstore has been around for over fifty years and it’s no surprise their specialty is illustrated books on architecture, interior design, fashion, cookery, and fine arts.
Definitely visit to bask in the elegance, discover great books, and/or attend one of their many special events. They have musicians and singers who come to perform. Definitely would have to dress up like Princess Kate to attend one of those events.
Pass the wine!
You’ll have many great eateries in the area to choose from like OM NYC Vegan, Black Barn, or Sol Mexican. Or for a sweet treat, Anita Gelato. If you’re me, you’d go to Shake Shack at Madison Square Park.
12. Sweet Pickle Books
Books and Pickles!? Who knew this was the combo we needed? Sweet Pickle Books in the Lower East Side knew this was what NYC needed.
Selling used books, this is seriously one of the coolest independent bookstores in NYC.
Picture this scene: you walk into a long, narrow stretch of books, Road to Nowhere by Talking Heads is playing, and you pass pickles galore, an old desk, and even a stuffed sheep.
I also think the stacks of grocery baskets filled with books are a nice touch and why not have a typewriter next to your assortment of pickles and a shelf of DVDs?
You can also exchange your books on Tuesdays and Wednesdays in exchange for pickles!
13. You & Me Books
I went a while back and absolutely loved visiting Yu & Me Books in Chinatown. Lucy, the owner was so welcoming and helped me pick out a few great books.
I could sense the great community in this bookstore by how everyone interacted with Lucy and others.
Unfortunately, you can’t visit this spot now because it is temporarily closed due to a recent fire. I really hope it comes back soon! You can visit the website for You and Me Books to learn more about how you can help and to shop the online store.
This bookstore is a great addition to Chinatown so hopefully, it will be back soon!
14. Book Culture
I think Book Culture is one of the biggest independent bookstores in NYC without seeming too overwhelming. It’s multi-level and has rows and rows of books. I felt like I was in a candy store for book lovers.
With its location near Columbia University, it has been a great meeting spot for the community and the basement has an awesome children’s section.
My father went with me and found a good read in their discount section right outside the store on the street.
My favorite section is their “Blind Date with a Book” display. They have a bunch of wrapped books and each book has written clues on it.
I like a surprise so that was my purchase of the day at this very cool bookstore in NYC. Check out their website because they also have a great blog where they write up a list of their most anticipated books for each month.
15. Argosy Book Store
What is the oldest bookstore in NYC? Founded in 1925, Argosy Bookstore is the oldest bookstore in NYC.
This bookstore is filled with old, rare, and out-of-print books. Maps galore too!
As I explored the main floor, I found the staircase in the back that led to the basement. The basement is the quietest place in Manhattan. Some might say it gives murdery vibes, but I think you can meditate there as you explore the massive amount of books.
Also, make sure you don’t miss the higher floors!
You need a keen eye to notice the vintage elevator that’s right next to the entrance of the store.
You don’t want to miss that elevator, it’s like time traveling back in time complete with someone nice who works the elevator asking you, “What floor do you want to go to?”
If you are visiting independent bookstores in NYC, this one is a must-visit.
16. Strand Book Store
Everyone knows about the 18 miles of books at the Strand, right? My image is from the Columbus Ave. location but I’m going to write about both the Upper West Side spot and the original on Broadway and 12th St.
You have to go to the original since it is iconic and a booklover’s paradise, but it is a tad overwhelming.
This is where the Columbus Ave. location comes into play- it’s got plenty of books and it’s dare I say…peaceful? The cute displays of merch are also irresistible.
I might have accidentally bought an orange tabby cat decorative dish and a tote bag.
Although the original is one of the top independent bookstores in NYC to see, in my humble opinion, both stores are must-visits.
Fun facts, they also have a kiosk in Central Park and a spot at LaGuardia airport.
In the pics below, the first two are from the OG and the 3rd pic is a merch display at Columbus Ave.
17. Dear Friend Books
This artsy spot in BedStuy, Brooklyn is a peaceful haven. I instantly felt relaxed walking in dear friend books and taking the vibe in.
The staff was welcoming, I liked walking into a bar right at the entrance with a carefully curated selection of art and literature books beside it.
It’s the perfect spot to peruse and dive into a good book. I sat outside on their lovely patio with my book and yummy iced tea in hand. No iced coffee here just fyi. Turkish coffee can’t be iced, I learned.
The music playing outside greatly enhanced the aesthetic and helped me relax to enjoy my book. At the bar, there were a few customers chatting away engrossed in their own conversations.
This is a great spot to meet up with a good friend, have a date, or be on your own with a good book.
There’s also another bookstore close by that you could check out, The Word Is Change.
Honorable Mentions: 2 More Independent Bookstores in NYC Not to Miss
As a former actor, I am a huge fan of 18. The Drama Bookshop. Even when I lived in Atlanta way back in the day, when I needed a play, The Drama Bookshop was where I ordered from. They have every play! It’s the perfect spot for an actor to search for their next great monologue or scene.
19. McNally Jackson Books also has several locations in Manhattan and Brooklyn. I’ve been to the Seaport location and the Williamsburg one. They are well-known as great independent bookstores in NYC.
I plan to visit more independent bookstores in NYC so if I’ve missed a great one, please let me know in the comments. I would love to visit independent bookstores in all NYC boroughs.
Happy Reading to you!
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