Did you know that for every $100 you spend at an independently owned business, $68 will stay in the community? And when you spend the same amount at a national chain, only $43 stays in the community. We learned this from Greenlight Bookstore, and have to agree ~ independent bookshops have roots in their communities and work hard to meet the needs of their neighbors. The Independent bookshops within the five boroughs of New York City are as individual as the people that make up our multicultural City. Here are more than forty independent bookshops that caught our eye. Some have been around since the 1920s and most are family owned and operated.
Opened in 1990, on a street that was once Book Row, Alabaster Bookshop is the only one left standing on the Avenue, and right around the corner with the giant, Strand Bookshop! The shop carries a wide range of new, used and rare books, novelties and memorabilia. It’s located in the Union Square area at 122 4th Avenue.
Albertine Bookstore is tucked inside the historic Payne Whitney mansion, and is the only bookshop in New York devoted solely to books in French and English, with more than 14,000 contemporary and classic titles from 30 French-speaking countries. It is part of the Cultural Services of the French Embassy, located at 972 Fifth Avenue at 79th Street, NYC.
Founded in 1925, Argosy Book Store is now in its third generation of family ownership, with a focus on antiquarian and out-of-print items, filling its six-floor building. Their collection includes Americana, modern first editions, autographs, art, photography, and antique maps & prints. Located at 116 East 59th Street between Park & Lexington Avenues in NYC.
Astoria Bookshop will say they have books of all kinds for readers of all ages with a plethora of book clubs with names like ‘Mindful Astoria Book Club’, ‘Young Adult Book Club’, ‘Feminist Reading Group’ ~ and even ‘Feminerdy Book Club’, Parenting for Social Justice Book Club’ & on & on. Events include Creative Writing Workshops, and book discussions. Located at 31-29 31st Street in Astoria, Queens.
Bank Street Bookstore opened in 1970 in a small space in the lobby of the Bank Street College. It has since grown into a resource for the neighborhood and for the community of parents and educators in the tai-state area and beyond. Located at 2780 Broadway at West 107th Street, NYC.
Berl’s Brooklyn Poetry Shop began life as a vendor at the Brooklyn Flea. Now in a beautiful DUMBO storefront at 141 Front Street housing an ever-growing selection of books and dedicated performance space and workshops.
Bluestockings Bookstore, Cafe & Activist Center is a volunteer-run bookshop with a focus on feminism and social activism. They carry over 6,000 titles in related subjects such as queer and gender studies, global capitalism, climate & environment, political theory to name just a few. Difficult times have forced their move from 172 Allen Street, but with some amazing fundraising, they have secured enough money to move into a shop just a few blocks away at 116 Suffolk Street, Lower East Side. They sure could use your help in making this move. Give your gift on GoFundMe here.
Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks first opened in 1997 in a basement office on Washington Place at Barrow Street. Now located at 28 East Second Avenue in the East Village, the Shop is chock-filled with cookbooks, dishery, crockery, pottery, glassery, tinnery + lots more.
Located at 266 Bleecker Street between 6th/7th Avenues in Greenwich Village, Bookbook is an all-service, neighborhood bookshop with a wide range of categories from children’s books, travel, history, drama, cookbooks, art, fashion + more.
Located at 197 East 3rd Street in the East Village, enjoy books, wine and coffee at Book Club. Opening in 2019, you will find more than books, with events like Drinking & Drawing, Drink N’ Draft – Creative Writing Workshop, Poetry, Arabic Poetry, Music and on & on. Open to midnight!
BookOff ~ Yes, it’s a chain store, but with only one in New York. Located at 49 West 45th Street, this cool little shop has a wide selection of used books, toys, video games, movies and more.
Books Are Magic in Cobble Hill carries a wide range of hard to find books + events, including readings by authors. Lots of children’s books, and “hider-holes” to read them in. Located at 225 Smith Street, Brooklyn.
Books of Wonder, with two locations: 18 West 18th Street and 217 West 84th Street, NYC ~ a go-to place for children’s books, including old and rare books.
Opening in 2010, Boulevard Books has a wide array of adult best-sellers and a monthly book club plus a wonderful kids section. The shop also has an open garden in the back, for reading and events. Located at 7518 13th Avenue in Brooklyn.
Tucked into The Players Theatre in Greenwich Village is Bravo’s Book Nook! This tiny new bookshop carries not just books related to theatre, but also children’s books, books on music, Greenwich Village and ‘Stuff Bravo Likes’. Located at 115 MacDougal Street, on the corner of Minetta Lane, NYC.
Codex Books located at 1 Bleecker Street near Bowery in the East Village. While they have an emphasis on literary fiction and art books, they have a great selection of used books ~ including outside carts with books for $1. Located next to Think Coffee.
The Corner Bookstore opened in the historic Carnegie Hill neighborhood in 1978 with a full array of books from history, biography, and travel to cook books, parenting, mysteries, art and poetry. Located at 1313 Madison Avenue at 93rd Street, NYC.
Dashwood Books is devoted exclusively to photography books, including rare and out-of-print titles, artist books and monographs. In addition, Dashwood has an extensive publishing program, collaborating with internationally recognized artists and graphic designers. Located at 33 Bond Street A, NYC
They are back! The Drama Book Shop will reopen in March 2020 at 266 West 39th Street between Seventh and Eighth Avenues, thanks to Lin-Manuel Miranda and friends. The interior of the new shop is overseen by creative director David Korins and will be inspired by the 20th century European cafes. Stay tuned.
Forbidden Planet NYC, opened in 1981, tout themselves as being one of the world’s largest and most acclaimed sellers of toys, comics, graphic novels, and other collectibles. Located at 832 Broadway at 13th Street, near Union Square, NYC.
Opened in 2004, Freebird Books is categorized as a general used bookstore, specializing in New York history and culture, sponsoring events, readings, and book clubs. Located at 123 Columbia Street in Brooklyn. One of their special events is an annual book fair at the Old Stone House in Park Slope. They also are the founders of Books Through Bars, an all volunteer collective helping prisoners nationwide get access to the written word ~ operating out of their basement.
The Goethe-Institut is the Federal Republic of Germany’s cultural institute, active worldwide. They promote the study of German abroad and encourage international cultural exchange. At their New York location, located at 30 Irving Place, near Union Square, they have a large library, open to the public and the in-house use of books and media. They also have an eLibrary, a number of film screenings, standard and intensive courses, and other events.
Greenlight Bookstore is located at 686 Fulton Street at South Portland in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. Unfortunately, the shop located at 632 Flatbush Avenue in Prospect Lefferts Garden, Brooklyn closed in March 2023. The shop is filled with everything from graphic novels and young adult lit to a plethora of children’s books.
Located at 1964 Coney Island Avenue in Brooklyn, Here’s A Book Store has a great collection of new and used books at excellent prices. We found an entire series from one of our favorite authors for just a few dollars each.
Housing Works Cafe & Bar has an all-volunteer staff with their entire stock of books donated, and 100% of their profits to to fund Housing Works’ lifesaving services. They have books, movies, music and free and low-cost events + a cafe’ and bar! Located at 126 Crosby Street, Soho.
Idewild Bookstore and language school specializes in travel books and language classes. They have two locations: 249 Warren Street in Cobble Hill where only language classes are held (no books at this location), and a Manhattan store in the West Village located at 170 Seventh Avenue South, corner of Perry Street, where both books are sold and language classes are given. Classes are held in French, Spanish, Italian and German.
Karma Bookstore is a gallery and publisher specializing in artists’ publications, representing over a dozen emerging, established, and under-recognized artists. They have three locations, beginning with the bookshop located at 136 East 3rd Street, 188 East 2nd Street and 172 East 2nd Street ~ all in the East Village. Stay informed on revolving art exhibitions on their website.
Books Kinokuniya is a Japanese bookstore chain, with a shop at 1073 Sixth Avenue across from Bryant Park, and a second U.S. shop located at 595 River Road in Mitsuwa Marketplace, New Jersey. They carry a wide range of books in English with a focus toward interest in Japanese culture.
Kitchen Arts & Letters is more than just a cookbook shop. With more than 12,000 titles from all over the world in many languages, the shop also carries out-of-print and scare books, technical manuals, and a wide array of great food writing. Opened in 1983, Julia Child, James Beard, and Laurie Colwin were among its early customers. Today their customers include Michelin three-star chefs from around the world, and all lovers of the art of cooking. Kitchen Arts & Letters is located at 1435 Lexington Avenue between 93rd/94th Streets, NYC
The Lit. Bar, located at 131 Alexander Avenue in the Bronx, has become a popular stop for a wide variety of books in sections that reflect the diversity of the neighborhood, like ‘This is where black women and feminism intersect’, and ‘hip hop is poetry too’. At the register, a mural of a young black girl with curls reaching skyward, and her nose in a book. The shop is also a place where community members can hold events or host meetings. The shop also hosts a book club, with the added perk of having a wine bar.
Opening in 2009, MAST Books specializes in used, rare and iconic new books one art, photography, design, fashion, and cinema. In addition, poetry and modern literature as well as related ephemera and artworks. They are located at 72 Avenue A in the East Village.
McNally Jackson Bookshops are filled with contemporary books and magazines. They now have three locations ~ 52 Prince Street in Nolita; 76 N. 4th Street in Williamsburg; and 4 Fulton Street at the Seaport + a new arts-focused shop located in the lobby of The Shed.
A Greenwich Village treasure, Mercer Street Books & Records opened more than twenty years ago. In addition to a large selections of new and used books (and records), we were fortunate to acquire the personal library of another Greenwich Village treasure, the late (artist) Jack Levine. Within the shop, they have a large number of his books in a special section. Located at 206 Mercer Street,
Molasses Books Publishing is a small imprint based in Brooklyn focused primarily on poetry, the publishing imprint highlights both contemporary writers as well as out of print or public domain works. Located at 770 Hart Street, Brooklyn.
The Mysterious Bookshop, opened in 1979, is the oldest mystery specialist book store in America where you will find mystery, crime and espionage ~ signed first editions, limited editions, and rare crime novels. Now in Tribeca, they are located at 58 Warren Street, NYC.
Opening in 2010, Namaste Bookshop has a large selection of Eastern & Western philosophy books, tarot cards, crystals, pendulums, calendars, wind chimes, incense, yoga accessories, meditations cushions…… Located at 2 West 14th Street between 5th and 6th Avenues in NYC.
Pillow-Cat Books, located at 328 East 9th Street, is New York’s first animal themed bookshop. This tiny space is filled with new, used, and vintage/antique books ~ all with the common denominator of an animal character.
The mission of Printed Matter, Inc. is the world’s leading non-profit organization dedicated to the dissemination, understanding and appreciation of artists’ books and related publications ~ located at 231 Eleventh Avenue in Chelsea.
Dedicated to revolutionary politics, Revolution Books is a cultural center for the movement since 1978. The store frequently hosts books clubs, lectures, poetry nights, film screenings and community events. Now located at 437 Lenox Avenue at 132nd Street in Harlem. The shop also carries gifts created by local artists including our Harlem Map and Harlem Map tote bags.
Now located in the Flatiron District, Rizzoli Bookstore continues its stellar reputation for specializing in illustrated books on architecture, interior design, fashion, photography, cookery and the fine and applied arts ~ as well as literature and foreign language books. in three separate rooms. Now located at 1133 Broadway at 26th Street in the historic St. James Building just a few blocks from Madison Square Park, NYC. Inspired by the historic building they now call home, Fornasetti Milano designed the wallpaper exclusively for this flagship shop, custom-made by Cole & Son. The wallpaper runs as a frieze above the bookcases to the ceiling in all three grand rooms of the store and feature surreal motifs of Italian cities floating in the clouds, hot air balloons, Zodiac figures and the classic Fornasetti collage of Newspaper fragments overlaid with colorful butterflies.
Founded in 1983, Shakespeare & Co. has two locations in Manhattan. 939 Lexington Avenue is adjacent to the Hunter College campus and has been at that location for over 20 years ~ recently renovated to include a cafe’, and its newest location on the Upper West Side, 3,000 square-feet located at 2020 Broadway between 69th and 70th Streets, including a cafe’ and a book machine, where customers can self-publish books.
Sister’s Uptown Bookstore, located at 1942 Amsterdam Avenue at 156th Street in Washington Heights, just announced a Virtual Book Club! It will be hosted by Janifer Wilson, Proprietress of Sister’s Uptown Bookstore and Cultural Center.
Spoonbill & Sugartown opened in Williamsburg in 1999. Here you will find second-hand, rare, as well as new books on Contemporary Art, Literature, Philosophy, and various Design fields + a wide variety of hand-picked books. Located at 218 Bedford Avenue, Brooklyn.
Known for being the home to 18 miles of books, The Strand Book Store is truly a treasure trove for booklovers. In addition to carrying more than 2.5 million used, new and rare books, browsers will find music & video’s and related gifts of all kinds. Located at 828 Broadway at 12th Street, NYC ~ with two Kiosks located at Central Park, 5th Avenue and 60th Street and Times Square, 43rd Street near Broadway and 7th Avenue.
And ~ check out the new Strand Bookshop located at 450 Columbus Avenue between 81st and 82nd Street on the Upper Westside, expected to sell used, new and rare books.
The Ripped Bodice is an independent brick-and-mortar bookstore devoted to the celebration of romance novels. The store is proudly Woman and Queer Owned. Originally opening in L.A. win 2016, sisters & owners Leah and Be a Koch opened at 218 Fifth Avenue in Brooklyn in August, 2023.
Located at 34 Carmine Street in the West Village, the Unoppressive Non-Imperialist Bargain Books was founded in 1992. The shop was chock-filled with books on film, art, travel, politics, poetry ~ Eastern & Western thought and more. Great prices. Follow on their Blog Spot or on Facebook.
Unfortunately due to a rent hike, the owner – Jim Drougas – was forced to close this Carmine Street location in June, 2022. However, reported by The Village Sun in December, 2022, things are looking up, with what sounds like a plethora of rental opportunities. Stay tuned for the beloved bookshop’s new location.
Westside Rare & Used Books is chock-filled with everything from books on architecture, antiques, art, and fiction to modern first editions and wonderful books on old New York. Located at 2246 Broadway between 80th and 81st Street, they have a second shop that specializes in LPs and CDs, located at 233 West 72nd Street. We spend a lot of time there.
WORD Brooklyn has packed a lot within its 1,000 square-foot shop. Classics, cookbooks, board books + note cards and stationery. They also hold author readings. In addition, they have partnered with Libro.fm to bring book lovers digital audiobooks for both adults and children where patrons can listen on any device (phone, tablet, PC). Located at 126 Franklin Street, Brooklyn.
Word Up is a multilingual, general-interest community bookshop and arts space in Washington Heights. It is run by volunteers from the uptown community and hosts readings, concerts, screenings, art exhibitions, talks, workshops, community meetings, and activities for kids. They are a program of the 501(c)3 nonprofit, Seven Stories Institute, beginning as a popup shop in June 2011. Now located at 2113 Amsterdam Avenue at 165th Street, NYC.
Yu and Me Books, located at 44 Mulberry Street, is a bookshop/cafe/bar focusing on the diverse voices in the Asian community. It is the first Asian-American-owned bookshop in New York.
- In July, 2023, Yu and Me Books closed due to fire. Please support their Go Fund Me page on their website.