New York’s one of the most literary cities in the world, and that’s never more evident than when wandering in its brilliant independent bookstores and specialty bookshops. And because Amazon’s recommendations have got nothing on a face-to-face chat with a professional bookseller, find the best bookstore NYC has to offer for browsing new fiction or picking up the year’s best books.
RECOMMENDED: Best places for shopping in NYC
Find the best bookstore in NYC
Albertine offers the largest selection of French-language literature in the United States, with more than 14,000 titles from 30 French-speaking countries. The two-floor space is truly an escapist's dream, with a designated reading room with lush sofas and armchairs, all housed in the French embassy.
Independent bookstores are sadly rare in Queens, but Astoria Bookshop, which opened in 2013, comes to the rescue to deliver a much-needed dose of lit to the neighborhood. Though on the small side, there’s a solid selection of fiction, non-fiction and children’s books, and staffers are happy to hunt down anything you can’t find. Events like readings, storytelling sessions and book clubs—many of which highlight local writers–prove that Queens is an artsy borough, too.
A welcome counterpoint to corporate, big-box bookstores (though those are quickly disappearing too), Bluestockings is volunteer-run and resolutely radical. The shop is a social justice clearinghouse, specializing in books exploring race, gender, globalization, climate change and other pertinent issues of the day. Its calendar features a wide range of events, with everything from a sewing circle to a discussion about working in adult entertainment, and there’s a café where you can fuel your visit—the goodies are vegan and organic, of course.
If you know your Fuchsia Dunlop from your Irma Rombauer, hoof it to Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks. The East Village store, founded in 1997, is the place for chefs, gourmands and amateur home cooks to find literary inspiration. Slotnick offers a well-curated selection of cookbooks in the surprisingly spacious shop, and you’ll find fascinating, out-of-print relics of New York food history. Oh, and there may be a tasting when you visit, if you’re lucky.
You’ll find a little bit of everything at this cozy West Village store, making it a browser’s paradise. The long, narrow shop, with French doors that open onto Bleecker Street, is a happy holdover from an earlier, more bohemian era, and bargain hunters flock there to peruse discounted used books. The deals aren’t just on obscure tomes—new hardcovers are 20 percent off, and you can even nab cheap copies of works by Michael Chabon and Donna Tartt.
Located just a few blocks from Atlantic Avenue, this family-run store carries all kinds of books (it's children's section is top-notch) and often spotlights new work by local authors. Best-selling writer Emma Straub was a longtime bookslinger here, and many other local notables frequent the store.
This used bookstore in Midtown is the NYC outlet of a Japanese chain, and the discounts are particularly deep—check out the selection of $1 books. The manga selection is extensive, and folks interested in learning Japanese can pick up a number of language books or simply immerse themselves in the culture via video games and movies from the island nation. Thrifty sorts can get an even bigger bargain by selling old books and obsolete CDs and DVDs.
What does Community have over most other New York bookstores? First, the shop's a great place to find literary journals. Second, in addition to its knowledgeable staff and well-stocked shelves, it's got a bookstore cat. Need we say more?
Opened in 2009, this Brooklyn indie has quickly become a favorite of Fort Greene locals—including neighborhood authors like Colson Whitehead. Keep an eye out for discounted staff picks, and don't miss the stellar graphic-novel and poetry shelves.
One of New York's most endearing spaces, this two-level shop stocks an ever-changing selection of donated books, records and collectibles, and is also a peaceful spot for reading or meeting friends over coffee or wine. And since all proceeds go to fighting the dual crises of homelessness and HIV/AIDS, every purchase is a good deed.