Relaxing bookstores

Bury yourself in a book-at an indie nook.

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  • Black Rabbit Bar

  • Housing Works Bookstore Cafe

  • Hudson Bar and Books

  • McNally Jackson Booksellers

  • The Strand



 

Black Rabbit
The 19th-century vibe of this old-timey bar provides the perfect backdrop for delving into a Jane Austen novel while sipping a cocktail like the tequila-fortified Rabbit Berry ($7). Come during the early afternoon so you can hog one of the very private booths all to yourself: Each has swinging saloon doors and a light-up push button to summon a server. 91 Greenpoint Ave between Franklin St and Manhattan Ave, Greenpoint, Brooklyn (718-349-1595, blackrabbitbar.com)

East West Books
Unwind your body and your mind here; by the shop's estimate, it holds about 30,000 books on spirituality, mental health, holistic medicine and more. There's a small caf (with free Wi-Fi) that hawks vegetarian and vegan items, and chairs in the aisles for sprawling on. 78 Fifth Ave between 13th and 14th Sts (212-243-5994, eastwestnyc.com)

Ford Foundation Atrium
It's counterintuitive, but one of the most peaceful spots to sit for a few hours is an East Side office building. The soothing lily pond and lush tropical plants inside this secluded, glass-enclosed public space make it feel like a little morsel of botanical garden right in midtown. Too bad it's open only during office hours, otherwise we'd set up camp. 320 E 43rd St at Second Ave (212-972-0897)

Housing Works Bookstore Cafe
Browse used reads while nibbling on a vegan knish ($4) from the fully stocked caf, which, like the rest of the place, is mostly staffed by volunteers. Take a book home and you'll be doing a good deed—proceeds from the all-donated items go to homeless people living with HIV/AIDS. 126 Crosby St at Houston St (212-334-3324, housingworksbookstore.org)

Hudson Bar and Books
Distinguished dark wood-paneled furnishings and an erudite air bring to mind the words of the great Ron Burgundy: "I have many leather-bound books and my apartment smells of rich mahogany." Head straight for the banquettes, sectioned off from the rest of the lounge by heavy drapery, and flip through one of the many foreign policy tomes on the shelves. 636 Hudson St at Horatio St (212-229-2642, barandbooks.net)

McNally Jackson Books
You'll find plenty of spots to curl up with a book here: Not only does the shop house a caf that seats up to 35 people (and offers vittles like yogurt with Balthazar granola, $4.75), but there are also chairs scattered throughout the two-story space. Lounging is encouraged, and affable staff members are on hand to help you pick out a new read. 52 Prince St between Lafayette and Mulberry Sts (212-274-1160, mcnallyjackson.com)

Panera Bread
Most New Yorkers would never think to go to a spot that screams middle-American suburbia—hence the lack of crowds at this nationwide soup-and-sandwich chain. Each location boasts free Wi-Fi and an electric fireplace, and the laid-back staff lets you sit around for hours even if you just buy a small snack (try the granola parfait, $3.59). Various locations throughout the city; visit panerabread.com for more info.

The Roosevelt Hotel
Step into the lobby of this historic hotel, whose classic style will transport you to the set of Masterpiece Theatre; even nonguests can enjoy the plushy armchairs. Just beware: The people-watching and lavish decor will distract you from your reading material. 45 E 45th St at Madison Ave (212-661-9600, theroosevelthotel.com)

Strand Bookstore
The advantage of the city's largest used book store is undoubtedly its size: It's so large, with so many different sections, that you can camp out in an aisle for hours and not be spotted. (We recommend the usually uncrowded women's studies section.) It's oddly soothing to comb through the racks of books and find something you didn't even know you wanted. 828 Broadway at E 12th St (212-473-1452, strandbooks.com)

 

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