Things to Do 28 independent bookstores that prove NYC loves to read By amNY.com staff Updated April 25, 2019 3:07 PM Print Share fbShare Tweet Email Bookstores have been a dying breed in NYC thanks to rising rents, e-readers and online retailers -- R.I.P. the beloved St. Mark's Bookshop and, soon, bookbook. Still, in recent years, local mom-and-pop shops have made a small comeback as New Yorkers seek out a local, literary experience that can't be found on Amazon.com. Check out some of NYC's bookstores, many of them successful because they've found their niche. Westsider Rare & Used Books Photo Credit: Linda Rosier This neighborhood staple for vinyl records and used and rare books almost met its fate in January, but a GoFundMe campaign raised more than enough to keep it around. The store has a wide variety of genres (and records) that are kept by a knowledgable staff. (2246 Broadway, Upper West Side, westsiderbooks.com) Kinokuniya Photo Credit: Marisol Diaz-Gordon The three-level flagship has since become a "destination store in Manhattan," says manager Kotaro Takano, thanks to its diverse offerings. In addition to carrying Japanese literature, animé and comics, the big space allows the bookstore to include a selection of English-language books. It also has a variety of goods falling within the wider category of Japanese culture, from stationery to magazines to toys. (1073 Sixth Ave., midtown, usa.kinokuniya.com) Bluestockings Bookstore, Café, & Activist Center Photo Credit: Todd Maisel Staffed entirely by volunteers, this collectively owned bookstore specializes in feminist, queer and activist materials, in fiction, poetry, academic texts and self-published zines. Bluestockings' cafe sells locally made organic, vegan and fair trade bagels, pastries and coffee and offers a seating area for quiet reading. The shop also has weekly events including book clubs, community-sourced lessons and a knitting circle. (172 Allen St., Lower East Side, bluestockings.com) Sisters Uptown Bookstore Photo Credit: Howard Simmons As a general interest shop with a focus on black and independent authors, Sisters Uptown Bookstore is "always adding and enhancing" its business, according to bookseller Janifer P. Wilson. She asks newcomers to the community what they want to see, and will put those titles in their hands within three or four days. She also stocks gently-used books for children (who often think the shop is a library, she said) to read in the store. When she notices a child repeatedly reading the same book, she'll gift it to them. (1942 Amsterdam Ave., Harlem, sistersuptownbookstore.com) The Center for Fiction Photo Credit: Shaye Weaver The new three-story center for readers and writers, which sits kitty-corner from the Brooklyn Academy of Music, has an impressive store. Books are stacked up to the high ceilings, and a cafe serves coffee, wine, beer, cocktails and small bites. The bookstore has "deep cuts" from the fiction world, including works by independent publishers, Brooklyn-based publishers and books that the staff can recommend to you that aren't necessarily new, like a collection of Mohsin Hamid works, for example, according to the store's manager Ben Rybeck. (15 Lafayette Ave., Boerum Hill, centerforfiction.org) McNally Jackson Photo Credit: Corey Sipkin This two-story bookstore is home to countless books, both popular fiction and nonfiction titles and more obscure literature. An attached cafe offers fresh salads, sandwiches, pastries and coffee in a literary, WiFi-free ambiance. McNally Jackson hosts events almost every night on the lower level, from book talks to author discussions and signings. The bookstore also prints indie books on its own printing press, with titles available for browsing or purchase. (52 Prince St., SoHo, and 76 N. 4th St., Unit G, Williamsburg, mcnallyjackson.com) Housing Works Bookstore Cafe Photo Credit: Charles Eckert Buyer's remorse is pretty much impossible at this SoHo bookstore: All books are donated to this volunteer-run venue and profits benefit the organization's efforts to provide lifesaving services to New Yorkers living with and affected by HIV/AIDS and homelessness. Funds help provide housing, healthcare, job training, counseling, advocacy and other crucial services to New Yorkers with HIV/AIDS, who are homeless or struggling to become stable in their health, a store spokesperson explained. Find a selection of mainstream books along with rare materials. In back, a cafe serves coffee, light fare as well as wine and beer and WiFi is free. Nightly events including readings, screenings, performances and more. (126 Crosby St., SoHo, housingworks.org) The Astoria Bookshop Photo Credit: Shaye Weaver One of Queens' only independent bookstores, The Astoria Bookshop sells mainstream titles and some quirkier books. A neighborhood staple to avoid buying new books from an online mega-seller, the 31st Street store also has an e-commerce website for special orders or shipping. Events including book clubs, writing workshops and author talks. (31-29 31st St., Astoria, astoriabookshop.com) Cafe Con Libros Photo Credit: Linda Rosier When owner Kalima DeSuze opened Cafe Con Libros in 2018, she envisioned the space as "explicitly feminist." Books by authors such as Lindy West, Kate Bornstein and Toni Morrison layer the shelves, and DeSuze stocks a wide range of titles not always prevalent at other bookstores, including books depicting life outside of America and children's stories that inform young people about politics. She has also hand-picked books for kids and adults that focus on female narratives. The cherry on top? Books are priced at less than the full retail value to ensure they're accessible (especially to women, who statistically earn less than men). (724 Prospect Pl., Crown Heights, cafeconlibrosbk.com) The Lit. Bar Photo Credit: Linda Rosier The Lit. Bar is the Bronx's first bookstore since the Baychester Barnes & Noble closed in 2016. Bronx native Noëlle Santos decided to open the shop to create a "safe space for people to actually connect." When it opens, there will be a floor-to-ceiling sliding ladder across the bookshelves, murals and graffiti by local artists, and, pending approval, the bar part of bookstore's name. The inventory is reflective of the community and sells books by authors of color and featuring protagonists of color, as well as people from an array of marginalized groups. (131 Alexander Ave., Mott Haven, thelitbar.com) BookMark Shoppe Photo Credit: Shaye Weaver BookMark Shoppe "is the only game in town, but it's a good game," according to Erin Evers, who works at the 16-year-old shop. The independent bookstore, which carries gifts, a healthy selection of children's books and all the newest titles, may be in a literary desert, but it's had many authors grace its wooden floors for book signings. Kids and adults both spend time there, whether searching for the right book or socializing. Events include a book club on the last Thursday of the month, and crochet and knitting classes. (8415 Third Ave., Bay Ridge, bookmarkshoppe.com) Topos Bookstore Cafe Photo Credit: Topos Bookstore New and used Topos Bookstore Cafe has a quaint feel, packed with used copies of popular novels, out-of-print editions and plenty of books in French, Spanish, German and more languages. The cash-only cafe is also without WiFi, to keep you reading and snacking on pastries or actually engaging in conversation. (788 Woodward Ave., Ridgewood, toposbookstore.com) Logos Book Store Photo Credit: Shaye Weaver Logos Bookstore on the Upper East Side is a purveyor of Christian and spiritual literature. The small shop, opened in 1975, offers a variety of titles, including many children's books, and a resident cat, Boo Boo. Its owner, Harris Healy, regularly hosts book discussions, readings and studies. (1575 York Ave., logosbookstorenyc.com) Community Bookstore Photo Credit: Shaye Weaver At Community Bookstore, a neighborhood staple since 1971, the shelves are full of fiction and nonfiction selections as well as a large children's section. It also has a back patio with a small pond and resident turtle named "John Turturtle" for those who want to read in the quiet outdoor nook. Tiny the cat, pictured, roams the store and tolerates a pet or two. The shop regularly hosts readings and book groups, too. (143 Seventh Ave., Park Slope, communitybookstore.net ) Archestratus Books & Foods Photo Credit: Jeff Bachner This store is dedicated to all things delicious and literary. Archestratus, named for the ancient Greek poet and food lover, carries cookbooks, food memoirs and vintage culinary collections. In addition to functioning as a new and used bookstore, Archestratus also has a cafe in the back and hosts events and pop-up dinners. (160 Huron St., Greenpoint, archestrat.us) Codex Photo Credit: Linda Rosier This new and used bookstore, which opened in January 2018, specializes in literary fiction and art books and is a good place to drop off books you no longer want. It also acts as a community space with live music and poetry readings and, from time to time, has discounted books on a rack outside. (1 Bleecker St., near the Bowery, codexbooks.info) Unnameable Books Photo Credit: Anthony Lanzilote A quiet staple in Prospect Heights, Unnameable Books has a slogan that can't be misinterpreted: "We buy and sell used and new books." Simple as that. Besides offering a plethora of both popular and off-the-beaten path books, Unnameable Books also hosts author readings, book launch parties, poetry readings and local performances. (600 Vanderbilt Ave., Prospect Heights, unnameablebooks.blogspot.com) Books Are Magic Photo Credit: Yeong-Ung Yang After the shutdown of Cobble Hill's BookCourt in 2016, bestselling novelist Emma Straub and her husband, Michael Fusco-Straub, wanted to make sure that this Brooklyn neighborhood wasn't missing out on an indie book shop for long. The store offers a variety of bestsellers, children's books and "weird books that no one's seen anywhere else," according to Fusco-Straub. The shop also has events daily (discussions, readings and presentations) and offers discounts like 10 percent off some bestsellers. (225 Smith St., Cobble Hill, booksaremagic.net) Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks Photo Credit: Jae-eun Chung After closing its original West Village location in late 2014 because of increasing rent, Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks relocated to the East Village, where the shop continues to display and sell an impressive variety of vintage, rare and international cookbooks. Even if you're not in the market for a new cookbook, you're pretty much destined to want to buy something here. Hours vary from week to week, but she also opens the store by appointment. (28 E. Second St., bonnieslotnickcookbooks.com) The Strand Photo Credit: Melissa Kravitz Often referred to as The Strand by local and visiting book lovers alike, this may be New York's most famous bookstore. The tri-level shop with 18 miles of books offers new, used and rare books, with many popular titles at a discount. The venue also hosts frequent author nights, children's events and even literary speed dating. (828 Broadway, East Village, strandbooks.com) Three Lives and Company Photo Credit: Linda Rosier This much-beloved West Village bookstore has been dubbed "one of the greatest bookstores on the face of the Earth," by Pulitzer Prize-winner Michael Cunningham. Countless New Yorkers would agree. This community reading room is much more than a bookshop, though you'll find everything from contemporary fiction to obscure artsy books in this iconic corner bookshop. (154 W. 10th St., West Village, threelives.com) Greenlight Bookstore Photo Credit: Diana Colapietro Get lost in literature at Greenlight Bookstore, an independent shop owned by booksellers Rebecca Fitting and Jessica Stockton Bagnulo, who opened the Fort Green shop in 2009 and a second in Prospect Lefferts Gardens in 2017. (686 Fulton St., Fort Greene, 632 Flatbush Ave., Prospect Lefferts Gardens, greenlightbookstore.com) Spoonbill & Sugartown Booksellers Photo Credit: Spoonbill & Sugartown Booksellers Once adjacent to the literary and writer-packed Verb cafe, this bookstore on Bedford Avenue in Williamsburg is a reminder of the neighborhood's history. Offering a wide selection of literary magazines, popular news novels and plenty of used books at good prices, Spoonbill is easy to navigate and a pretty sure spot to find your next good read. The shop also has plenty of independently published titles and rare editions that can be found at both of its locations. (218 Bedford Ave., Williamsburg, 99 Montrose Ave., Bushwick, spoonbillbooks.com) The POWERHOUSE Arena Photo Credit: Linda Rosier Looking to get your creativity flowing? The POWERHOUSE Arena is the spot. Launched in 2006 by publisher powerHouse Books, the airy space is a conglomeration of rotating exhibitions, installations, readings, performances and, of course, a bookshop. Step in and see what you might find. Local authors launch books there on almost a nightly basis. (28 Adams St., DUMBO, powerhousearena.com) The Corner Bookstore Photo Credit: The Corner Bookstore Open since 1978, this Carnegie Hill bookshop is a neighborhood staple. Children's and young adult books are prominent here, with children's "expense accounts" being a notable tenant of the store. Young readers can also sign up to read and review advance copies from publishers and contribute their literary criticism to the The Corner Bookstore's newsletter. Contemporary adult reads as well as classics are also available here, with readings and author events several nights a week. (131 Madison Ave., cornerbookstorenyc.com) Idlewild Bookshop Photo Credit: Charles Eckert Wanderlust can be fulfilled at this international bookshop focusing on world travel and languages. Find books for adults and children in a variety of different translations and languages as well as travel guides to help you find wherever you'd like to go. All of its guidebooks at 10 percent off, too. To prepare you for your upcoming trip, Idlewild also offers 8-week sessions of French, Spanish, German, Italian and Arabic classes for all levels. The shop is named after the original name for John F. Kennedy Airport. (170 Seventh Ave. South at Perry Street, West Village, and 249 Warren St., Cobble Hill, idlewildbooks.com) Book Culture Photo Credit: Cory Oldweiler For academic textbooks and plenty of leisurely reading materials, Book Culture is a book lover's ideal destination. Vendors (and buyers) of new and used books, gifts for the literary obsessed and plenty of ephemera evocative of the culture of books, spending hours in one of Book Culture's stores is not difficult . A $49 per year membership gets shoppers 10 percent off every purchase. There's also a slew of readings, discussions and events each week. (536 West 112th St., 2915 Broadway, 450 Columbus Ave., 26-09 Jackson Ave., Long Island City, bookculture.com) By amNY.com staff Share on Facebook Share on Twitter More on this topic Read up on NYC's indie bookstoresIt's time to brush up on your knowledge of the city's mom-and-pop book shops. Comments We're revamping our Comments section. Learn more and share your input.