Any great metropolitan area will give you your pick of the litter when it comes to bookstores. Sound like a strange assertion? It shouldn’t. Think about it: Portland has Powell’s City of Books, Minneapolis has Wild Rumpus, D.C. has Politics & Prose… the list goes on and on. Luckily for those of us in New York City, we have a rather large number of fantastic independent bookstores to choose from, not just a single one or two.
The digital age that has taken over our book culture simply can’t beat the unique and cozy environment found inside of a physical bookshop. Plush chairs, that certain silence paired with pages turning, and walls of books towering around you. Like we said, we’re lucky to have options in our City, but to make things easier, we’ve narrowed our list of best bookstores to ones that are relatively easy to get to from our (also) incredibly cozy Greenwich Village hotel. If you want some suggestions on books to read during your visit to the City, you can download our free ebook listing 20 diverse books set in the City, which includes a list of places described in the books that you can see for yourself while you’re in town!
1. Strand Bookstore
Strand Bookstore might be one of the most iconic bookshops left in the City. If you like having a large selection to choose from, they literally offer 18 miles of books to get your hands (and eyes) on. You’ll find these miles of books at 828 Broadway, Monday – Saturday between 9:30 a.m. and 10:30 p.m., and on Sundays from 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Strand offers new and old books, as well as best sellers and a large (and solid) collection of used books.
Strand has been around since 1927 and was a part of a section in NYC called “Book Row”. Today, it’s the last surviving bookstore in the famous row of 48 bookshops. The store is named after the London Street where the likes of Dickens and Thackeray gathered. Ever since its creation, Strand has been about pleasing its book-loving visitors and building relationships in order to help customers find the next best book.
2. McNally Jackson
McNally Jackson is an independent bookseller located at 52 Prince Street in Nolita. This bookstore has events almost every evening of the week. It features readings, talks, and special guests, as well as a couple monthly book clubs you can choose to join—one being International Literature and the other a Spanish book club. The bookstore has a real sense of community, along with a café, which makes hanging out there that much easier. The shop also offers self-publishing print options, custom journals, and personalization of classics. All of this is, of course, just an added bonus to the fantastic selection and walls of books available for browsing and buying. They just opened a new stationery store down the street as well!
Photo Credit: Three Lives & Company website.
3. Three Lives & Company
This snug bookshop has been around since 1978. Three Lives & Company might offer one of the most thoughtfully curated selections of books in the City. It’s located in the heart of our very own Greenwich Village at 154 W 10th Street and has created such a special culture, it’s really a treat. At Three Lives, you can walk in and talk to just about anybody in there about books, culture, recent events, or really almost anything. That’s the type of person Three Lives attracts. The staff, of course, is extremely well read, and when you walk in you’ll find an artfully crafted display of books surrounding you, right at your fingertips.
In the early 1990s, the Greenwich Village Historical Society named this little shop a “pocket of civility,” and they’ve been striving to live up to that name ever since. We’d say that they’ve been doing so with quite the level of success, indeed, as they’re still around and going strong, listening to every reader who comes in. Check their website for a list of live reading dates and the like.
4. Housing Works Bookstore Café
Housing Works offers a great selection of not only books but also movies and music. Their fully stocked café makes it a great place to meet up with and hang out with friends. A unique thing about this bookstore is that it’s almost completely volunteer-run, which means that these people have really got to love what they’re doing! And that fun fact also definitely creates a stellar sense of community. Better yet, for every book purchased, the profits go to the good cause that is Housing Works, which includes preventative health care services for those affected by HIV/AIDS. The store frequently houses events that range from a night of board games to discussions, café specials, storytelling, and book launches. You can find this destination at 126 Crosby Street.
This shop is another very special volunteer-run store and café to grace our list. Bluestockings offers a selection of over 6,000 titles on important topics relating to social activism. If you’re not exactly looking for a book relating to social activism, you’ll also find fiction, sci-fi, and poetry. Almost every night there’s something going on at 172 Allen Street—from readings, workshops, performances, and films—and of course, all of these are followed by discussions—make sure to check their events calendar.
Bluestockings’ café also makes sure to offer vegan and organic options, as well as fair trade. We’re sure the discussions here are riveting and passionate. This is a bookstore for people who are impassioned about the society in which we live, the environment, politics, and so much more. If nothing else, this is a place for people to become aware, all while bonding over books.
So—whether you’re into the classics, new, used, rare, under the radar, or books with powerful topics, there is a bookstore in Lower Manhattan tailor-made just for you. Each of these places on our list offers something a little bit different—a little out of the realm of normalcy, let’s say, just like us bookworms tend to be. Waste no time, friends: dive in.