new york city bookstores

The Best Bookstores in New York City

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

New York City is a city with a great cultural and literal history. This guide will give you the run-down on some of NYC's best bookstores.

In the age of big-box stores, the amount of quality independent bookstores in New York City is refreshing. Any bibliophile will tell you that the pursuit of a good book is almost as enjoyable as actually reading one. Libraries in New York City offer a plethora of titles to choose from and cozy nooks to read in. Here are the best bookstores and reading spots in New York City, all offering something unique to readers.

Avid readers are fortunate to have a wide selection of quirky and charming bookstores in New York City.

Strand Book Store

Located in the East Village, this shop is a fixture in New York City. Strand opened in the 1920s and is staying true to its motto, “18 Miles of Books,” as the inventory stretches over 50,000 square feet and three floors, containing over 2 million titles.

strand bookstore new york city

Strand Bookstore in New York City, Trover Photo by Corrine Mason

Strand is easily one of New York’s most famous bookstores. It’s also known as a spot for celebrity sightings. Strand frequently hosts author signings, events geared towards children, and literary speed dating.

Three Lives & Company

Three Lives & Company refers to its shop as “a haven for people who read.” In addition to offering rows upon rows of hard-to-find books and popular titles, the staff is known for being incredibly well read and helpful.

Both the design and decor of the store are lovely and warm, with loads of natural sunlight and rich wood detailing. The inviting atmosphere encourages you to take your time to browse, do a little reading, and chat with staff about their top picks.

Bluestockings

Bluestockings is a volunteer-run bookstore that offers a wide variety of counter-culture and activist literature. This New York City bookstore is rooted in the community and offers activities, films, discussions, readings, and workshops almost every night of the week.

In addition to a superior selection of books on topics like feminism, global capitalism, political theory, and queer and gender studies, Bluestockings also has a fair-trade café. This brand is all about lighting a spark and reminding folks about the power of the written word.

Housing Works Bookstore Cafe

According to locals and book-loving tourists who visit Housing Works Bookstore Cafe, it is one of the best bookstores in all of New York City. It’s not just a bookstore but also a hub for advocacy. It was established in the early 1990s as a charitable base and support for people with HIV/AIDS.

housing works bookstore

Housing Works Bookstore and Cafe, New York City, Trover Photo by JoyFilledWander

The not-for-profit SoHo bookstore continues to support social initiatives like eliminating homelessness and providing relief to disaster victims. The books are collected via donation, and most of the staff are volunteers. Housing Works Bookstore Cafe even rents out its trendy space for events.

The Mysterious Bookshop

Located in Tribeca, this bookstore caters specifically to those who enjoy the mystery genre. The Mysterious Bookshop is one of the oldest and biggest bookstores in the world that offers only crime, spy thrillers, and mystery fiction.

mysterious bookshop

The Mysterious Bookshop, New York City, Trover Photo by Stephanie Mizuno

The shop’s tall ceilings are packed with rows and rows of mystery novels, and the store owner’s office is cleverly marked off with yellow crime scene tape. What’s interesting about this New York City bookstore is that it offers Bibliomysteries, which are short fiction or essays by popular writers that are developed specifically for the store.

Where to Read in New York City

Principal Library in New York City

Now that you’ve scored a great book, you need the right place to read it. One of the top places to devour a book is the Rose Main Reading room at the New York Public Library, which is probably the best-known New York City library. This luxurious reading room is ornate, to say the least, with gilded detailing on the walls and ceilings, carvings of cherubs, expansive murals, and grand chandeliers.

new york city public library

New York City Public Library, New York City, Trover Photo by Antonio Alonso

Such a stylish space sets the right tone to read, and you can select your next book while you’re there.

Central Park

It’s the quintessential New York City experience: whiling away an afternoon on a park bench or on a blanket in iconic Central Park. It’s even better if you’ve got your favorite book to keep you company.

central park new york city

Central Park New York City, Trover Photo by Cindy Baker

In Central Park, you can get comfortable just about anywhere, but some areas are quieter for reading than others. Check out Bethesda Terrace, Conservatory Garden, Shakespeare Garden, Strawberry Fields, or the East Green.

Place in New York City with good reading atmosphere

One of the best reading spots in New York City has to be the Center for Fiction in Brooklyn. This favorite among writers and readers opened originally as the Mercantile Library in the 19th century.

With its laid-back atmosphere and many amenities, it has everything you need for a memorable reading experience. There’s a bookstore, an open-air terrace, and a café offering impromptu literary discussions, as well as a reading room, a writing studio, and classroom space.

New York City is the ultimate destination for bibliophiles. The city has a thriving network of interesting independent bookstores and countless dreamy accommodations where you can browse and read in comfort.

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