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Independent bookstores still thrive in NYC: A guide

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.

The Wing Library

The women's-only co-working space -- which has locations
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

This store is dedicated to all things delicious
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, vintage culinary collections and more. 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

This new and used bookstore, which opened near
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)

Book Thug Nation

Identified as a bookstore and community space, this
Photo Credit: Debbs. via Flickr

Identified as a bookstore and community space, this Williamsburg shop is packed with used books. Here you'll find plenty of classic and contemporary novels (including "solid collections" of sci-fi, mystery/noir, poetry, drama, history, erotica, foreign language, graphic novels and more) to enjoy and perhaps even sell back. Reading, screenings and more take place in the literature-focused space.

(100 N. 3rd St., bookthugnation.com)

Unnameable Books

A quiet staple in Prospect Heights, 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

After the shutdown of Cobble Hill's BookCourt in
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

This small West Village bookstore lures in pedestrians
Photo Credit: Bookbook via Facebook

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)

McNally Jackson

This two-story SoHo bookstore is home to countless
Photo Credit: Melissa Kravitz

This two-story SoHo 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. The company opened another location in Williamsburg in January 2018 at 76 N. 4th St.

(52 Prince St., mcnallyjackson.com)

Topos Bookstore Cafe

New and used Topos Bookstore Cafe in Ridgewood
Photo Credit: Topos Bookstore Cafe via Facebook

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)

Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks

After closing its original West Village location in
Photo Credit: Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks

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

This small Greenpoint bookstore becomes a destination almost
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

Staffed entirely by volunteers, this Lower East Side
Photo Credit: Bluestockings Bookstore, Café, & Activist Center via Facebook

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)

Strand Bookstore

Often referred to as The Strand by local
Photo Credit: Strand Books

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

This much-beloved West Village bookstore has been dubbed
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)

Housing Works Bookstore Cafe

Buyer's remorse is pretty much impossible at this
Photo Credit: Housing Works Bookstore Cafe via Facebook

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)

Greenlight Bookstore

Open since October 2009, Greenlight was the product
Photo Credit: Greenlight Bookstore via Facebook

Open since October 2009, Greenlight was the product of Brooklyn book lovers who wanted to bring a great literary business to Fort Greene and, most recently, Prospect Lefferts Gardens. In addition to carrying a wide variety of books, Greenlight has a first editions club for subscribers to enjoy new books, produces a twice monthly podcast, hosts daily events and organizes book fairs in the neighborhood.

(686 Fulton St., greenlightbookstore.com)

Powerhouse Arena

Part bookstore, part publishing house, part event space,
Photo Credit: Instagram

Part bookstore, part publishing house, part event space, part art gallery and more, the massive Powerhouse Arena in DUMBO has something for pretty much everyone. Local authors launch books there on almost a nightly basis.

(28 Adams St., powerhousearena.com)

The Astoria Bookshop

One of Queens' only independent bookstores, The Astoria
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)

Spoonbill & Sugartown Booksellers

Once adjacent to the literary and writer-packed Verb
Photo Credit: Spoonbill & Sugartown Booksellers via Facebook

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 Corner Bookstore

Open since 1978, this Carnegie Hill bookshop is
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

Wanderlust can be fulfilled at this international bookshop
Photo Credit: Idlewild Bookshop via Facebook

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

For academic textbooks and plenty of leisurely reading
Photo Credit: Read Russia

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)

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