written by
Alex Velazquez

The 12 Best Bookstores NYC Locals Hang Out at for a Good Read

nyc travel travel tips 10 min read

12 Best Bookstores NYC Locals Hang Out at for a Good Read

Books are a way to escape your world and visit one you might never have imagined otherwise. Plus, doesn’t it sound good to sit at a dessert place in NYC and read a book in the corner with a cup of coffee or tea? Or, grab some of NYC’s best ice cream while you dive deep into a story of your choosing. Afterward, pop into an NYC bookstore and peruse the shelves for some classic literature, exciting fantasy fiction or read up about historical places and figures. NYC is home to a big creative community of artists, performers and writers, it’s no wonder it’s also home to some great bookstores you can’t miss.

Used Book Stores in NYC

Below is our top selection of the best bookstores in NYC. Why not make a day out of exploring each one and getting a literary-inspired journey around the city? Grab a coffee and leave plenty of room in your bags for all the souvenir books you’re bound to pick up on your journey.

1 | Greenlight Bookstore | The perfect excuse to go to Brooklyn, Greenlight Bookstore is located on the historic Fulton Street and immediately welcomes visitors with its charming, green-framed windows and enticing displays. There’s also a secondary location in Flatbush for those who want to venture even deeper into one of Brooklyn’s most beloved neighborhoods.

Inside, a warm interior with wood floors and open, airy shelves beckon you to pass an hour or two perusing the aisles and letting your eyes guide you.

Greenlight Bookstore is a woman-owned, independent shop that honors the incredible diversity of the neighborhood and greater New York City community. They carry a wide range of titles in every genre, and the passionate, friendly staff are always eager to help you expand your collection or dive into unchartered literary territory.

2 | Argosy Bookstore | With six floors of books to browse, you’ll want to visit Argosy on the Upper East Side of Manhattan when you’re free. The family-owned store has been selling books since 1925 and is now approaching nearly 100 years of business across three generations.

One of the most fascinating features of Argosy is its wide selection of antique and out-of-print books. In fact, the store specializes solely in selling rare volumes that you may not find anywhere else.

So, if you have an esoteric taste or want to find something completely original in the heart of the Big Apple, this is the perfect destination.

Argosy’s enormous selection can take quite a while to comb through, so take your time and enjoy the journey.

The charming vintage exterior and dimly lit, the historical atmosphere inside will make you feel like you’ve stepped into another world. You’ll feel right at home among the crowd of Manhattanites who make voyages to the bookstore part of their weekly routine.

3 | Three Lives & Company | If you’ve ever looked up bookstores in NYC, you’re bound to have come across the exterior of Three Lives & Company. Located in Manhattan’s artsy Greenwich Village, the shop has been catering to locals and visitors alike since 1968.

You’ll find the Three Lives bookshop tucked neatly on the corner of Waverly Place and 10th Street. It’s long stood as a reprieve for writers and literary aficionados for centuries, thanks to its simple, unimposing exterior and the cozy, well-trodden wood floors that contain rows of both old and new titles.

Many customers have been visiting the shop for decades, and their stories are as fascinating as the ones that line the shelves. You may strike up a conversation with a local who’s as well-read as the staff; many of the regulars and workers are on a first-name basis.

Take time to meander the narrow aisles and soak in everything; pick up a few random books with covers that speak to you, and don’t be afraid to ask one of the staff what their most recent favorites are. At this store, you’re likely to find good conversation scattered among even better books.

4 | The Strand | The Strand is one of the most famous bookstores in NYC, notable for not only its expansive layout but diverse collection as well. Everything from bestsellers to second-hand comics and limited-edition prints line the floor to ceiling shelves, and there’s a wide range of book-inspired gifts for you to take home or treat yourself.

Take in history as you experience one of the most famous New York City facts come to life. For over 100 years, The Strand has stood as a hallmark on Broadway. Named after a famous London street that once drew the likes of Charles Dickens, the store now stands as the last remaining survivor of New York City’s once-acclaimed Book Row.

Visiting the city with someone special? Venturing to The Strand and picking a book out for each other is one of the most romantic things to do in NYC.

In an age where e-readers and digital books are the norm, there’s something therapeutic about letting yourself get lost for a few hours among the towering shelves of The Strand. It’s a must-see for anyone looking to soak in the NYC atmosphere and experience the city from the eyes of a local.

5 | Books Are Magic | Take a trip down to Cobble Hill in Brooklyn to soak in the wonder at Books Are Magic. This small, independent bookstore caters to readers that seek hard-to-find prints and a unique blend of interesting, uncommon books.

Catch a regular reading by a local author and submerge yourself in the atmosphere of an authentic New York bookstore.

Be sure to venture around the side of the shop and snap a pic of its black-and-pink, full-size wall mural. Inside, you’ll also find plenty of merch that screams, “Take me home!”

6 | Shakespeare & Co. | When you think of famous authors, is any name more iconic than Shakespeare? This store, a staple on the Upper East Side, first opened its doors in 1983. Since then, it’s gone on to open another location on Broadway, as well as a branch in Philadelphia, PA.

The original Lexington Ave. This store boasts a newly renovated cafe, as well as the Espresso Book Machine that prints books on-site from a catalog of more than 7 million titles in mere minutes.

If you decide to visit the original location, expect a delightful array of books ranging from philosophy to children’s books You’ll often find yourself mingling among staff and students from the adjacent Hunter College. Be sure to grab yourself a coffee and snack from the small in-house cafe that locals adore!

7 | Book Culture | Book Culture has two locations in the city, both in the East 100s streets. Originally founded in 1997, the store has undergone a wide array of changes over the years, but one thing has remained the same: its dedication to sharing good stories and powerful voices with New Yorkers.

At both locations, Book Culture prides itself on being a staple of the community, open to readers of all ages. Bring the whole family to browse the lovingly arranged displays of everything from best-selling novels to children’s literature.

8 | The Corner Bookstore | Located in the Carnegie Hill section of Manhattan, this cozy bookstore has been a staple of the neighborhood since opening its doors in 1978. While small in stature, this charming little bookstore takes pride in stocking only the best in fiction and non-fiction to satisfy your literary needs. With the number of families Carnegie Hill attracts, it would be a disservice to not mention the impressive children’s section of both classic tales we’ve grown up with, as well as the creative coming-of-age stories geared towards the younger readers.

While you’re here, don’t forget to check their calendar for scheduled readings and book signings by the author, usually featuring local and first-time authors. If you’re visiting during the holidays, be sure to stop by on Christmas Eve for champagne, cookies, and a visit from Santa Claus.

9 | Albertine Books | Boasting an incredible selection of over 14,000 books, this NYC hidden gem is located in the French Embassy and specializes in French Literature; although some English titles are available as well. Even if French is a foreign language to you, don’t let that stop you from perusing this cozy little bookstore as the vibe captures the beautiful essence of France. If art and architecture is your forte, be sure to visit the second floor of the bookstore where you can marvel at the remarkable hand-painted celestial ceiling. When checking out NYC bookstores, be sure to add this to your list whether you’re in the mood to brush up on your French literature or just looking to be wowed by the impressive French vibe.

10 | Rizzoli Books | Looking for a new literature piece to adorn your coffee table? Then look no further than Rizzoli Books in the Flatiron community of New York City. For the uninitiated, Rizzoli is a world-renowned publisher of coffee table books and at the New York location, you can find a wide selection of illustrated coffee table books from the Italian publisher. Rizzoli is truly the best place to find the perfect gift for someone interested in fascinating books you can find nowhere else.

While Rizzoli Books is best known for its illustrated coffee table books, you can also find an extensive selection of books on the beautiful mahogany bookshelves. When you visit Rizzoli Books, they almost guarantee you will find something interesting.

11 | Housing Works Bookstore | More than just a bookstore, Housing Works Bookstore is a non-profit entity managed by a group aimed at fighting HIV/AIDS and homelessness, as well as the stigmas often associated with them. 100% of the profits are donated to fighting for the cause while the store itself is manned by volunteers. This may not be the place to go if you’re looking for something specific as all the inventory on the shelves is donated, but if you’re feeling adventurous, take a look around and enjoy the mystique of not knowing what you may find. The shelves are filled to the gills with a large array of well-organized books, DVD’s, household items, and more. It’s a great way to escape the norm and possibly find your next treasure. So add Housing Works Bookstore to your list and shop while supporting a good cause. You never know what you may find.

12 | McNally Jackson | If the name McNally rings a bell it’s because the owner, Sarah McNally is the daughter of Canada’s largest independent bookstore chain owners. With the pedigree of independent bookstores, it’s no surprise McNally Jackson has become a staple in the New York bookstore community since its formation in 2014. The small, yet charming allure of McNally Jackson in the SoHo district definitely adds something distinct and welcoming for bookworms.

Final Tips on Finding the Best Bookstores in NYC

With so many things to do in NYC, it’s not always easy deciding what to see and what to skip. When you’re choosing bookstores, do some research beforehand and check out their interiors on Google Images and Instagram. Be sure to visit their websites as well and take a look at their inventory.

Pick stores that speak to you, and only visit the shops that make you excited to hunker down, grab a cup of classic New York coffee and read all afternoon. With this list as your guide, there’s no wrong choice when it comes to settling on your itinerary.

Looking for other fun things to do, vacation tips, tricks and amazing destinations? Check out our Travel Blog for all you need to know.

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