Best specialty bookstores in New York City

TONY picks the best spots for mystery, design, art books and more.

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New York City might have it all, but it's so big that it can be tough to find the specific thing you're looking for. Here's a handy list for everyone from literary fetishists in search of the latest in design and travel books to casual readers looking for a great play or the latest crime novel.

Idlewild Books

A visit to this second-floor travel bookstore—which carries JFK Airport’s pre-1963 moniker and even some of its old stained glass—is a reminder that vacations used to be fun before inflated fuel prices and security lines. Guidebooks, travel-related fiction and photo books line wooden bookshelves, while stools and glowing lights invite readers with a wanderlust to take off a load and stay awhile.

  1. 12 W 19th St, (between Fifth and Sixth Aves)
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Mysterious Bookshop

  • Price band: 1/4

Devotees of mystery, crime and spy genres will know owner Otto Penzler, both as an editor and from his book recommendations on Amazon.com. His shop holds a wealth of paperbacks, hardbacks and autographed first editions.

  1. 58 Warren St, (between Church St and West Broadway)
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Phaidon Store

  • Free

This retail location for one of the world's most prestigious art publishing houses is spacious and colorful, a good place to spend an hour or two browsing.

  1. 83 Wooster St, (between Broome and Spring Sts)
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The Drama Book Shop

Sparsely furnished with vintage furniture (including a row of old theater seats), this pleasant shop covers both stage and screen. So, not only will you find plays, libretti, thespian biographies and tomes on acting technique, but also guides to writing screenplays, and scripts of current films (Nick Hornby’s An Education, for example).

  1. 250 W 40th St, (between Seventh and Eighth Aves)
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Bluestockings

This self-proclaimed “radical” bookstore and café hosts readings and discussions on health, race, class and sexuality, featuring stellar writers such as graphic novelist Alison Bechdel and Christian-right watchdog Michelle Goldberg.

  1. 172 Allen St, (at Stanton St)
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Revolution Books

Where else but Revolution Books can you find multiple biographies on Joe Strummer, Spanish editions of Noam Chomsky and an entire section on occupied Palestine? In their own words, this fiercely independent business is “a crucible where a reenvisioned revolutionary communism interacts and mixes it up with all the streams of progressive, radical and revolutionary intellectual life.” You can buy books or speak your own mind: Stop by on Tuesday evenings for lively conversations with Marxists.

  1. 146 W 26th St, (between Sixth and Seventh Aves)
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Midtown Comics

  • Price band: 1/4

Wild about Wolverine or mad for obscure Manga? Billing itself as the largest retailer of comic books, graphic novels, Manga and related collectibles in the U.S., Midtown also stocks magazines, books, DVDs, action figures and assorted swag. If you’re over 18, penetrate the gated area reserved for “adult comics.”

  1. 200 West 40th St, (at Seventh Ave)
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