10 NYC indie bookstores you need to visit
I’m late to the party with Indie Bookstore Day happening last weekend, but I’d be remiss to let this special little holiday go by without a celebration. In a world run by corporate giants, we should take every chance we can to elevate our favorite local mom and pop shops that are alive and kicking. So today I’m sharing ten of my favorite independent bookstores across New York.
In no particular order, these bookstores span the boroughs of New York City and each has their own personality or speciality. Read on for deets!
Blue Stockings Bookstore on the Lower East Side is a volunteer-run indie bookstore focused on meaningful events, talks and distributing literature that disrupts our culture’s understanding of oppression. They describe themselves as “feminist” and “radical,” and I just find them to be an uplifting community space I can turn to when I need a knowledge boost on a topical issue.
Does a bookstore ever feel like a long lost love to you? When you’re out on a cold and rainy day, feeling kind of lost living in such a big city and needing someone or some thing to feel like home? This is what Three Lives & Co. in the West Village is to me. I found Three Lives not too long after landing my first job in New York and would find respite in its old world charm and friendly staff after a long day.
I’m not cool enough for Molasses Bookstore in Bushwick. No need to feel bad for me, I’ve come to terms with it. This non-profit bookstore is also a literary performance space and specializes in used books. It’s a homey little space and I highly recommend visiting in person as their site doesn’t do them justice.
Greenlight Bookstore in Fort Greene and Prospect Lefferts Gardens is the shining, supreme independent bookstore you wish every neighborhood had. It’s the beacon in the darkness of fake news, selfie sticks and impending artificial intelligence. Step into either of their locations and you’ll be reminded, yes, print is alive and well!
Sister’s Uptown Bookstore and Cultural Center in Harlem is the only black owned bookstore in Manhattan! Its vibrantly painted walls and warm atmosphere make it a must visit for any trip uptown. They even host meditation sessions and provide a wide range of books on spirituality.
Topos Bookstore in Ridgewood is one of the many locally owned shops that make this neighborhood in Queens so vibrant. The light-filled bookstore and cafe is often at capacity on weekends with visitors settling in to read and do work. But you should stop in for a used or new book and coffee regardless.
The long list of bestselling authors on their calendar of events has made Books are Magic in Cobble Hill a household name in just two short years of being open. The vibrant and modern aesthetic and large social media presence makes is giving the outdated image of dusty and unorganized bookstores a serious refresh.
Word Bookstore in Greenpoint is a cute little shop on the bustling main drag of Franklin Avenue. It’s a must-visit anytime I’m in the neighborhood because it carries a large variety of stationary and unique gifts. Go for the new bestseller section…stay for the Gilmore Girls book club.
Housing Works Bookstore and Cafe in Soho is the mothership of used bookstores in NYC. With events being held there almost every night, all proceeds from their books and activities go to fighting AIDS and homelessness. Its winding mahogany staircase and indoor balcony make it a lovely building to visit when you’re looking for some old school NYC vibes. Fun fact: it’s got quite the waitlist as a wedding venue as well.
It would be easy to miss the storefront of Turn the Page Again Used Bookstore in Bayside as it sits nestled among a long row of commercial spaces on a busy main road. But you will not want to pass up this sweet little spot selling extremely affordable used books with sales on whole genres happening every month, ranging from $1-$4 per book! The best part about it? Turn the Page Again employs people with a mental health diagnosis and provides job preparedness coaching too.
And while I missed the date on National Indie Bookstore Day, I didn’t miss today’s special event. I was shocked to learn that the last remaining bookstore in the Bronx (Barnes & Noble) shuttered its doors in 2016. Yes, you read that correctly. There was ONE remaining bookstore in the entire borough of 1.471 million people (according to Wikipedia).
But New Yorkers are resourceful and adept at turning what that most people may view as a negative situation into something brand new. Today marks the grand opening of Lit Bar: the ONLY bookstore in the Bronx (independently and woman-owned, to boot!). Congratulations to Noelle Santos, a native Bronx resident for making something out of (truly) nothing. I can’t wait to visit!