Things to Do Independent bookstores still thrive in NYC: A guide By amNY.com staff Updated July 8, 2018 4:33 PM Print Share fbShare Tweet gShare 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. But 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 thriving independent bookstores for reading recommendations, literary events and inspiring community spaces. McNally Jackson Photo Credit: Corey Sipkin The bookstore is home to countless books, both popular fiction and nonfiction titles and more obscure literature. 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., housingworks.org) Cafe Con Libros Photo Credit: Linda Rosier When owner Kalima DeSuze opened Cafe Con Libros in December, 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., cafeconlibrosbk.com) The Lit. Bar Photo Credit: Linda Rosier When The Lit. Bar opens in the Bronx this summer, it will be the borough'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 will be reflective of the community The Lit. Bar intends to serve, says Santos, who aims to sell books by authors of color and featuring protagonists of color, as well as people from an array of marginalized groups. (thelitbar.com) BookMark Shoppe Photo Credit: Shaye Weaver BookMark Shoppe in Bay Ridge "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., bookmarkshoppe.com) Topos Bookstore Cafe Photo Credit: Topos Bookstore New and used Topos Bookstore Cafe in Ridgewood 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., 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 Park Slope 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., communitybookstore.net ) The Wing Library Photo Credit: Tory Williams The women's-only co-working space -- which has locations in Flatiron, SoHo and DUMBO -- offers its members such amenities as Wi-Fi, conference rooms and showers. A key component of the design is a lending library, with thousands of titles by or about women. Check out titles by heralded novelists Jane Austen and Charlotte Brontë, memoirs by modern authors Missy Copeland, nonfiction like "Silent Spring" by Rachel Carson, and works by the surrealist novelist Leonora Carrington. (45 E. 20th St. in Flatiron; 52 Mercer St. in SoHo; 1 Main St. in DUMBO) Archestratus Books & Foods Photo Credit: Jeff Bachner This Greenpoint 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., archestrat.us) Codex Photo Credit: Linda Rosier This new and used bookstore, which opened near the Bowery 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., 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., 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, which opened on May 1, 2017, 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., booksaremagic.net) BookBook Photo Credit: Charles Eckert This small West Village bookstore lures in pedestrians off Bleecker Street with its outside table of discount books, often including former bestsellers, cookbooks and children's books. Inside, sales have included 20 percent off hardcovers and Moleskine notebooks, which is a Greenwich Village anomaly. The shop's small size makes finding a book manageable and knowledgeable staff can certainly help with recommendations. (266 Bleecker St., bookbooknyc.com) Take a visit to 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) WORD Photo Credit: WORD Brooklyn via Facebook This small Greenpoint bookstore becomes a destination almost every night of the week, when it hosts author readings, book clubs (including a Gilmore Girls Book Club), writing workshops, comedy events and more. You'll find mostly contemporary fiction, nonfiction and cookbooks here, along with a nice selection of handmade cards and NYC gifts. WORD launched a second location in Jersey City in 2014. (126 Franklin St., wordbookstores.com) Bluestockings Bookstore, Café, & Activist Center Photo Credit: Charles Eckert Staffed entirely by volunteers, this Lower East Side collectively owned and run 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 while offering 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., bluestockings.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, 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., 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. In business since 2009, Greenlight has since expanded from one store on 686 Fulton St. in Fort Greene to another location at 632 Flatbush Ave. in Prospect Lefferts Gardens that opened last fall. "For every $100 you spend at an independently owned business, $68 will stay in the community," its website states. If you feel so inclined, join the First Editions Club to receive an autographed first edition of a new, hardcover fiction book each month. It costs a penny to subscribe and each month your card will be charged for the list price of the book, plus shipping costs. (686 Fulton St., 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. (218 Bedford Ave., 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 -- the ground floor sports 24-foot ceilings -- 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., href="http://www.powerhousearena.com/">powerhousearena.com) The Astoria Bookshop Photo Credit: The Astoria Bookshop 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., astoriabookshop.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. in Queens, bookculture.com) By amNY.com staff Share on Facebook Share on Twitter More on this topic The Bronx is getting its own bookstore again soonThe indie shop is slated to open this summer in Mott Haven. Bookstore-cafe serves feminist fare in Crown Heights Cafe Con Libros' books are priced less so they're more accessible. Comments We're revamping our Comments section. Learn more and share your input.