12 Unmissable Bookstores in NYC (See #2)

Updated October 22, 2023
About the Author: Denise Cruz has lived in 4 countries and visited 35+ others. After her second sabbatical, she began sharing travel advice at Wander Her Way.

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The Best Bookstores in NYC

This post is all about the best independent bookstores in NYC.

I have always loved reading and visiting bookstores. I could spend hours in bookstores when I was younger! During quarantine, I started reading a lot more since I couldn’t travel or go anywhere.

My reading hobby grew and grew and I couldn’t wait to be able to visit bookstores again. Once things started to reopen again, I decided to check out all the best bookstores around New York.

Below are 12 of the best bookstores in NYC every book lover should visit — and you’re not going to find these on just any travel guide about New York

1. Shakespeare & Co.

Although it shares a name with the iconic Shakespeare & Company bookstore in Paris, this New York bookseller has no connection with the Parisian literary landmark.

Shakespeare & Co. is located on the Upper East Side just across the street from Hunter College. (It actually serves as the university’s official bookstore.)

One of the most unique things about this bookstore is that if they don’t have the book you want in stock, they can print it and bind it on demand for you! It hardly takes any time at all, and you can grab a cup of coffee from their coffee shop while you wait.

Website: Shakespeare & Co.

2. Albertine

Probably my favorite bookstore in all of New York is Albertine!

Also located on the Upper East Side, Albertine sits right across the street from Central Park and just a couple blocks from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in a stunning building. This Francophone bookstore shares the building with the Cultural Services offices of the French Embassy.

With one of the most beautiful bookstore interiors in the world (also one of the most Instagram-worthy spots in New York), Albertine is a must-visit.

Website: Albertine

Best Bookstores in New York City

3. The Strand

If you’re looking for an iconic literary landmark in New York, the Strand is it.

The Strand has been in operation for more than 90 years and is the last surviving bookstore of New York’s “Book Row” which once housed nearly 50 bookstores on Fourth Avenue.

Now, this massive bookstore near Union Square is all that’s left of the historic bookstores. The Strand boasts more than “eighteen miles of books” if you laid them all side by side.

While the Union Square location is the original, there is a smaller, newer location that has opened on the Upper West Side, which is also worth checking out.

Website: The Strand

Best Bookstores in NYC
Best Bookstores in NYC

4. McNally Jackson Books

McNally Jackson is an independent bookstore founded by Sarah McNally, a former book editor. The first location opened in the downtown neighborhood of Nolita in 2004.

Since then, three more locations have opened: South Street Seaport, Williamsburg, and Downtown Brooklyn. McNally Jackson is known for its unique book organization system, with literature from around the world organized on shelves by country.

Website: McNally Jackson

Best Bookstores in New York City

5. Corner Bookstore

Heading back to the Upper East Side, you’ll find Corner Bookstore on the corner of Madison Avenue and 93rd Street. This petite bookstore has occupied the same corner since 1978.

Although it’s small, this beautiful bookstore has a wide variety of titles and a nice neighborhood feel.

Website: Corner Bookstore

6. Three Lives & Company

Three Lives & Company has been a staple in Greenwich Village since 1968. Tucked away on Waverly Place, this small bookstore is a must-visit if you’re in the neighborhood.

The interior is small and cozy, with creaky wooden floors and little nooks filled with books. Though it’s a small space, the shelves are packed with wall-to-wall books.

Website: Three Lives & Company

Best Bookstores in NYC
Best Bookstores in NYC

7. Rizzoli Bookstore

If you’re looking for stunning coffee table books, look no further than Rizzoli.

This Italian-owned bookstore is located on Broadway close to the Flatiron Building. When you walk inside, the black-and-white tiled floors, painted walls, dark wood shelves, and chandeliers immediately give this bookstore an Old World feel.

It’s one one of the best bookstores in NYC in terms of art, design, fashion, architecture, food, photography, interiors, and more, offering gorgeous illustrated coffee tables on a wide variety of subjects.

Website: Rizzoli

Best Bookstores in NYC

8. Book Culture

The last bookstore on this list is located in Morningside Heights near Columbia University. There are actually two locations located within two blocks of each other, one on 112th Street and one on 114th Street. You might as well visit them both since they’re so close!

Book Culture on 112th is the larger store, covering two floors. The upstairs is mainly textbooks for Columbia University students. Book Culture on 114th is the newer and smaller location of the two.

Website: Book Culture

Best Bookstores in New York City

9. Molasses Books

Molasses Books is a quaint used bookstore and bar/coffee shop in Brooklyn. It has an amazing selection of books, great music, and an inspiring atmosphere that feels like an old art gallery mixed with a Parisian Cafe. It’s a great place to grab a drink and have interesting conversations with strangers.

Website: Molasses Books

Photo credit: @molassesbooks

10. Housing Works Bookstore

Housing Works Bookstore is a bookstore with a cause. All books are donated and 100% of the profits help fund social HIV/AIDS and homelessness programs of the non-profit of the same name. Located in downtown, it’s a great place to peruse when you don’t have a specific book in mind—I always find some gems in there.

Website: Housing Works Bookstore

Photo Credit: @housingworksbks

11. Argosy Book Store

Argosy is the oldest independent bookstore in New York City. It is housed in a six-story building and it’s like walking into another dimension. The store specialized in old, out-of-print books and has an exceptional selection of vintage books, manuscripts, and maps. The manually-operated elevator is a special treat that I highly recommend you try.

Website: Argosy Bookstore

Photo Credit: @lovesarafaye

12. Kitchen Arts & Letters

This one was a suggestion by one of my readers and it deserved to be added to the list! Kitchen Arts & Letters is located on Lexington in the Upper East Side and if the name didn’t give it away, they specialize in cookbooks. They have an incredible selection of books from all sorts of cuisines and cultures and the staff is super knowledgable! It is truly a gem for foodies and recipe book lovers!

Website: Kitchen Arts & Letters

Photo credit: @cookingbuffet

Best Bookstores in NYC

These are some of the best bookstores in New York that every book-lover needs to visit!

Although it may seem as though big chain stores have taken over, there are still plenty of independent bookstores left in New York that are just waiting for you to find them!

📚 Read also the 12 Coolest Bookstores Around the World

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You may also enjoy… The Ultimate NYC Bucket List: 75+ Things to Do in New York City

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Best Bookstores in NYC

Denise, travel blogger at Wander Her Way

About Denise Cruz

Denise is a marketing executive who escaped corporate to travel the world… twice. A Brazilian native living in the U.S., she’s lived in 4 countries and visited 35+ others. After side-hustling her way to financial independence, she curates solo destination guides, slow travel tips, and travel blogging advice on Wander Her Way. When she’s not on the road, you can find her in Miami with her dog Finnegan.