A Guide To My Favorite Bookstores In NYC – NYU Local

Since coming back to New York, I’ve made it my life’s mission to find the best independent bookstores in the city. Given the devastation that many small businesses faced during the pandemic, instead of shopping at big monolithic businesses like Barnes & Noble and The Strand, it remains necessary as ever to continue supporting local bookstores and helping them recover from the financial hardships of the past year, many of which are still ongoing. Plus, smaller independent bookstores have a tendency to be less exploitative of their employees.
While it can be fun to browse the endless sections of giant bookstores, there is just something a little more exciting about spending time in an intimate space with more carefully curated selections. Of course, it can be a bit daunting trying to figure out which small bookstore to visit next, given how many of them are scattered throughout the city.
To make it easier for myself, I made a folder on Google Maps that bookmarked all the places I wanted to go to eventually. But regardless if you’re going in with or without a plan, there is something so endearing about spending an entire afternoon getting lost in a sea of book stacks. If you’re unsure of where to start and need some guidance, here are some of the most charming bookstores I’ve come across in NYC, in no particular order.
Alabaster is one of my favorite bookstores in New York for so many reasons. The first time I came here I accidentally left with about five or six books (I think I have a problem). Located seconds away from The Strand by Union Square, this cozy used bookstore has so many affordable books lined from the ceiling to the floor. They even have rolling carts with $2 books sitting right outside the door. Despite it being a very small space with an overwhelming amount of books, it is carefully alphabetized and organized by genre, making it very easy to track down specific titles. Thanks to the varied selection, every visit to Alabaster is different from the last, and you never know what you’ll find next.
I strongly recommend checking out Codex (which means book in Latin) on Bleecker Street, which is a used bookstore that has a wonderful collection of both new releases and secondhand books. Opened in 2018, the store has a strong emphasis on literary fiction and art books. They host a variety of events, including poetry readings, book launches, writing workshops, and more. The store is also connected to a coffee shop, which makes a cozy venue to spend a couple of hours reading whatever book you picked up from next door.
Located in NoMad just a couple blocks away from Madison Square Park, this bookstore’s beautiful interior looks like something straight out of a museum. From the wooden bookshelves to the elegant paintings above, visiting Rizzoli is an experience in and of itself. Beyond the lovely interior, the bookstore offers an assortment of carefully curated titles and so many wonderful gift items as well: tote bags, stationery, puzzles, film DVDs, and more. While other stores tend to feel slightly overwhelming due to the sheer amount of books lining the walls, Rizzoli offers a more spacious, peaceful atmosphere, perfect for those looking to escape the fast-paced, claustrophobic aspects of the city.
Located right on Bedford Ave. in Williamsburg, this independent bookstore is the perfect place to get lost in, as it's connected to dozens of cool vintage stores and shops for your browsing pleasure. The shop’s floors are covered in stacks of books, including new releases, secondhand books, and rare editions in every genre imaginable. Alongside books, the store has plenty of adorable stationery items and gifts to indulge in. Spoonbill & Sugartown is everything you could possibly want out of a bookstore, and a little bit more; it’s impossible to leave without finding something you didn’t even know you were looking for.
In the heart of West Village lies this small but mighty bookstore. Three Lives & Company is the perfect example of a friendly neighborhood bookshop, providing a uniquely intimate feeling the moment you step in. The entire store is essentially one room, but it is packed so full that you are sure to find what you’re looking for (and more). I first visited this particular bookstore over the summer on one of the hottest days of the year and was impressed by how many books the store had for sale relative to its size. The staff are so lovely and knowledgeable, so you’ll probably get some fantastic recommendations during your visit. Plus, they include super cute bookmarks with every purchase (pictured above).
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hello! i’m on twitter @ddiannashen
The independent blog of New York University.
Written by
hello! i’m on twitter @ddiannashen
The independent blog of New York University.

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