Best bookstores in NYC from independent to specialty bookstores (2024)

Best bookstores in NYC from independent to specialty bookstores (1)

Find the best bookstore NYC has to offer from our favorite picks including specialty and used bookstores

Photograph: Shutterstock

Written by Tiffany Gibert & Rossilynne Skena Culgan

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New York’s one of the most literary cities in the world, and that’s never more evident than when wandering in its brilliant independent bookstores and specialty bookshops. And because Amazon’s recommendations have got nothing on a face-to-face chat with a professional bookseller, find the best bookstore NYC has to offer for browsingnew fiction or picking up the year’s best books.

Here's a list of our favorites—listed alphabetically, of course.

RECOMMENDED: The Best Bookstore Cafés in NYC

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Find the best bookstore in NYC

1.Albertine
  • Shopping
  • Upper East Side
Photo: Jess Nash

Albertine offers the largest selection of French-language literature in the United States, with more than 14,000 titles from 30 French-speaking countries. The two-floor space is truly an escapist's dream, with a designated reading room with lush sofas and armchairs, all housed in the French embassy on the Upper East Side.

2.Astoria Bookshop
  • Shopping
  • Bookstores
  • Astoria
Photograph: Shutterstock

Independent bookstores are sadly rare in Queens, but Astoria Bookshop delivers a much-needed dose of lit to the neighborhood. Though on the small side, there’s a solid selection of fiction, non-fiction, and children’s books, and staffers are happy to hunt down anything you can’t find.

Events like readings, storytelling sessions and book clubs—many of which highlight local writers–prove that Queens is an artsy borough, too.

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3.Bluestockings Cooperative Bookstore
  • Shopping
  • Bookstores
  • Lower East Side
Photo: Courtesy of Bluestockings Cooperative Bookstore

A welcome counterpoint to corporate, big-box bookstores (though those are quickly disappearing too), Bluestockings is volunteer-run and resolutely radical. The Lower East Side shop is a social justice clearinghouse, specializing in books exploring race, gender, globalization, climate change and other pertinent issues of the day.

Its calendar features a wide range of events, with everything from a sewing circle to a discussion about working in adult entertainment, and there’s a café where you can fuel your visit—the goodies are vegan and organic, of course.

4.Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks
  • Shopping
  • Bookstores
  • East Village
  • price 2 of 4

Photograph: Courtesy Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks

If you know your Fuchsia Dunlop from your Irma Rombauer, hoof it to Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks. The East Village store, founded in 1997, is the place for chefs, gourmands and amateur home cooks to find literary inspiration. Slotnick offers a well-curated selection of cookbooks in the surprisingly spacious shop, and you’ll find fascinating, out-of-print relics of New York food history.

Oh, and there may be a tasting when you visit, if you’re lucky.

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5.Books Are Magic
  • Shopping
  • Shopping & Style

This beloved Brooklyn bookstore operates two shops in Brooklyn, one in Carroll Gardens and another in Brooklyn Heights. No matter which you choose,expect a cozy, well-stocked shop with great staff picks.

6.Book-Off
  • Shopping
  • Bookstores
  • Midtown West
Photograph: Shutterstock

This used bookstore in Midtown is the NYC outlet of a Japanese chain, and the discounts are particularly deep—check out the selection of $1 books. The manga selection is extensive, and folks interested in learning Japanese can pick up a number of language books or simply immerse themselves in the culture via video games and movies from the island nation. Thrifty sorts can get an even bigger bargain by selling old books and obsolete CDs and DVDs.

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7.Community Bookstore
  • Shopping
  • Bookstores
  • Park Slope
  • price 1 of 4

Photograph: Alex Strada

What does Park Slope's Community Bookstore have over most other New York bookstores? First, the shop's a great place to find literary journals. Second, in addition to its knowledgeablestaff and well-stocked shelves, it's gota bookstore turtle. Need we say more?

8.Dear Friend Books

AtDear Friendin Bed-Stuy, a bar runs through the space selling hot, iced, and fermented teas, and ownerAnna Sergeeva hopes to sell natural wine, beer and sake soon. In addition to the cafe, Dear Friendhas hosted open mic nights, poetry readings and meditation in thebuilding's large backyard sincethe shop opened this summer at 343A Tompkins Ave.

Those who take the time to browse the shelves at Dear Friend will be rewarded with a curated collection of vintage books ranging from $5 to several thousand dollars. They're organized thoughtfully in categories based on the seven chakras. The crown section contains poetry books, for example, while the throat section features books about language and communication.

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10.Housing Works Bookstore Cafe
  • Shopping
  • Toys and games
  • Soho
  • price 1 of 4

One of New York's most endearing spaces, this two-level Soho shop stocks an ever-changing selection of donated books, records and collectibles, and is also a peaceful spot for reading or meeting friends over coffee or wine. And since all proceeds go to fighting the dual crises of homelessness and HIV/AIDS, every purchase is a good deed.

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11.McNally Jackson Books
  • Shopping
  • Bookstores
  • Nolita
  • price 1 of 4

Photograph: Courtesy of McNally Jackson Books

McNally Jackson features one of the city's most thoughtfully curated selections of nonfiction, novels, hard-to-find magazines, children's books and, most notably, poetry. Their staff picks are always impeccable, as are the tasty pastries offered in the in-store café.

Gliding through the stacks in the multi-story Seaport location offers serious main character energy.

12.The powerHouse Arena
  • Shopping
  • Toys and games
  • DUMBO
  • price 1 of 4

Photograph: Courtesy The powerHouse Arena

Dumbo darling powerHouse publishes its own coveted photo books, but the company's loftlike space and gallery sells everything from cheeky birthday cards to the hottest memoirs. Its built-in stadium seating also provides the perfect venue for readings from authors likeGary Shteyngart and Tavi Gevinson.

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13.The Ripped Bodice
  • Shopping
  • Shopping & Style
Photograph: By Megan Kantor

A romance-only bookstore aptly called The Ripped Bodice is now open in Brooklyn, and it's stocked with scores of books you’ll want to add to your bookshelf. Expect a diverse and inclusive section of romance books, including historical romance novels and LGBTQ+ stories. The Ripped Bodice is also planning a robust calendar of eventswith author signings, book clubs and writing workshops.Find it in Park Slope.

14.Strand Book Store
  • Shopping
  • Bookstores
  • East Village
  • price 1 of 4

Strand Bookstore

As the Strand's tagline boasts, this store's got 18 miles of books, almost all at discounted prices. If you spend enough time here, you can find just about anything, from that out-of-print Victorian book on manners to the kitschiest of sci-fi pulp.

The original location is near Union Square, but there's now a smaller satellite location in the Upper West Side, too.

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Best bookstores in NYC from independent to specialty bookstores (25)
Best bookstores in NYC from independent to specialty bookstores (26)

Troubled Sleep in Park Slope grew from a collective of street-side book sellers. Troubled Sleep focuses on art and leftist books, along with history and philosophy where "we try to keep it radical," owner Alex Brooks said. It sells both new and used books with a mix of popular titles along with more obscure authors.

16.Unnameable Books
  • Shopping
  • Bookstores
  • Prospect Heights
  • price 1 of 4

Photograph: Jonathan Aprea

This haven carries a wide variety of genres—though owner Adam Tobin namechecks its poetry and philosophy sections as being particularly good—and can satisfy any lit craving. If you’re on the hunt for bargain tomes, hit up theshop'sselection of used books, many of which can be found on carts outside the Prospect Heights store for as little as $1.

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17.WORD
  • Shopping
  • Bookstores
  • Greenpoint
  • price 1 of 4

Photograph: Courtesy of Word Bookstore

You won't mind braving the G train to make it to Greenpoint's friendly literary outpost. With another store recently opened in Jersey City, WORD is living proof that a genuine devotion to good books can defy economical odds.

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19.192 Books
  • Shopping
  • Bookstores
  • Chelsea
  • price 1 of 4

Owned by art dealer Paula Cooper and her husband, editor Jack Macrae, the bright and airy 192 is one of the best places to pick up beautiful books, from art tomes to style encyclopedias and gardening picture books to film studies. Find it in Chelsea.

Been there, done that? Think again, my friend.

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