The best independent book stores in NYC

Three Lives & Company

Three Lives & Company

It’s quickly apparent at this small Greenpoint bookstore that great care has gone into its curating. You won’t find too much in the way of big-market best-sellers—it’s more about the mid- and small-press stuff, la George Saunders or Haruki Murakami. Word makes optimal use of limited space, usually hosts good readings, and is a short jaunt to the bar nexus at the corner of Franklin Street and Greenpoint Avenue. You’ll pay cover price for the titles here—which is more than you would fork over on Amazon—but the result is less abusive to the publishing industry than buying on the Interweb. 126 Franklin St at Milton St, Greenpoint, Brooklyn (718-383-0096,

McNally Jackson
TONY Discount! This spacious taste of Winnipeg, Canada (where the brand’s progenitor was founded as McNally Robinson in 1981), is a cultural gem of Nolita and stands as an example of everything an indie bookstore can be: There’s space to spread out and read on the floor, a good selection (we recently discovered an elusive Max Frisch there) and awesome readings most nights. Both book nerds and casual literates should find what they’re searching for here, whether it’s The Summer of Naked Swim Parties, A Nation on Fire or something in between. Present this TONY issue for 20 percent off all full-priced items until the end of the month. 52 Prince St between Lafayette and Mulberry Sts (212-274-1160,

Housing Works Bookstore and Cafe
TONY Discount! This spot has two floors of random finds and good deals. Go without a book-buying agenda: You’re not likely to find specific titles but will probably come upon five awesome ones you weren’t looking for. Present this TONY issue for 10 percent off all full-priced items until the end of the month. 126 Crosby St between E Houston and Prince Sts (212-334-3324,

Three Lives & Company
Pound for pound, this West Village corner store is the Floyd Mayweather of New York indie venues. That is to say, it might not have the range of a McNally Jackson or the stopping power of a Strand, but a number of factors—like the knowledgeable staff (who recommend authors like John Williams), all the latest lit journals (The Paris Review, n+1) and the new-release shelf with the crap already weeded out—make this cozy joint a necessary stop. 154 W 10th St at Waverly Pl (212-741-2069,

The Strand Book Store
Okay, so it’s obvious, but you have to give credit where it’s due. Yes, it has all those miles of books, but this venerable octogenarian is a winner because of the convenient location, reasonable prices (look for great deals on hardcover titles at the table near the sci-fi/mystery section) and suitably crotchety staff. Avoid it on weekends, unless you’re into Shelleyesque flash mobs. 828 Broadway at 12th St (212-473-1452,

Partners & Crime
Catering mostly to the noir and detective set, this West Village shop’s survival tactic may be the future of independent bookstores: It’s a niche destination that the almighty Internet can’t exactly replicate. The subterranean boutique offers old, out-of-print suspense paperbacks, thrilling modern best-sellers from dudes like George Pelecanos, and titles from writers who have mainstream crossover appeal (like Strangers in the House author Georges Simenon). 44 Greenwich Ave at Charles St (212-243-0440,

St. Mark’s Bookshop
Good lighting and a sweet location make this East Village staple a must-visit. You can find a lot of the same stuff here as at the Strand (including an ample sci-fi selection) while avoiding the Union Square crush. 31 Third Ave at Stuyvesant St (212-260-7853,

Spoonbill & Sugartown
This is where the Bedford Avenue preeners go to populate their bookshelves with ostentatious copies of Journey to the End of the Night and all the Bukowski they can eat. Telling moment: A guy next to me points at a copy of Catch-22, telling the girl he’s with that he “got through about five pages of that.” Then says that he couldn’t see spending time with it when he “could be reading Salinger.” Perfect. Despite that, it’s the place to grab a book for killing time between kickball games at McCarren Park. 218 Bedford Ave at North 5th St (718-387-7322,

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Shopping guide '09
Best independent shops Forget chain stores. It's the little guys we're loving right now.