What tour of the Big Apple would be complete without an act of conspicuous consumption at one of these – the 6 hippest independent bookstores in NYC?
I’ve pulled this list together so you can: Impress your pretentious friends! Gain the attention of the barista in the Warby Parker glasses! And, maybe, actually buy a book or two, just to stiff it to Jeff Bezos.
As bookstores, some of them are actually not all that good, but all of them do sell books. It’s not like you’re going to walk into one and fall down a trap door into a piranha pit. Calm down.
The Coolest Independent Bookstores in NYC
The walls are made of wood. The floor is also made of wood. There are a bunch of New York Review of Books Classics editions, and the guy browsing them is wearing tight pants. The staff recommendations are trying very, very hard.
While an absolutely sterling example of bo-bo Brooklyn, I have never actually managed to find a book I was looking for in Greenlight Bookstore, but that might be on me, and in any case, they’ve got really magnificent branding. Which is the more important bit of it anyway, no one actually reads things anymore. Just buy one of their bags and stick other things in it, you’ll get the same amount of hipster street cred.
Address: 686 Fulton Street (at South Portland), Brooklyn, NY 11217
Hours: Open Daily 10 AM – 10 PM
Phone: (718) 246-0200
Pushed out of its former digs in post-gentrification Park Slope some years back, Unnameable Books manages somehow to survive in post-gentrification Prospect Heights, despite being a pretty legitimate used book store, with appropriately-cluttered isles and an inexplicably harried staff.
Half the stock consists of the predictable hipster lineup at full price, but the rest is are gloriously varied and happily cheap. Step carefully between the narrowed stacks, however, as one wrong move and you’ll be avalanched in out-of-date history books and second-hand paperbacks.
Address: 600 Vanderbilt Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11238
Hours: Open Daily 11AM-11PM
Phone: (718) 789 1534
This kinda always struck me more as a place where you might film a movie about people working in a bookstore than an actual bookstore. If the book you want is the same book you saw a guy reading at the coffee shop this morning, they will probably have it. Just be prepared to elbow your way through a Polo commercial’s worth of yuppie flesh to get to the register.
Address: 52 Prince St, New York, NY 10012
Hours: Open Daily 10AM – 10PM
Phone: (212) 274-1160
All independent bookstores in Brooklyn are kind of the same independent bookstore. This is also true of restaurants and bars. It’s a really good bookstore, though, and if you were in Greenpoint instead of Fort Greene (confused yet?) and you wanted to pick up an Elena Ferrante novel or whatever, you could do a lot worse than WORD Bookstore. It’s charmingly tiny and the staff are always nice, and after you can take your purchase to the neighboring waterfront for a genially stunning view of downtown Manhattan, check out the towers and enjoy that glorious East river funk.
Address: 126 Franklin St, Brooklyn, NY 11222
Hours: Open Daily 10AM – 9PM
Phone: (718) 383-0096
Housing Works is a downtown institution manned by volunteers that uses its proceeds to combat homelessness and conducts their charitable doings in a scruffy but spectacular two stories. The books are cheap (they’re all donated) and appealingly haphazard, and if you don’t mind a little scanning, you can always come away with a happy bargain.
Then you can sit upstairs by the window and drink a reasonably priced cup of coffee (Manhattan reasonable, not reasonable reasonable, obviously) and feel really good about yourself not only for being a clever intellectual type but also for caring about the world. You hero, you.
Address: 126 Crosby St, New York, NY 10012
Hours: Open Mon-Thu 10AM – 9PM, Fri-Sun 10AM – 6PM
Phone: (212) 334-3324
Despite its endless slew of tourists, the Strand, just south of Union Square, remains the gold standard by which all other New York Bookstores (and bookstores generally) are judged. If your idea of heaven is to leave with a bag full of books so heavy you have to struggle to get them home, then you’re going to dig the Strand. Also, we’ve got a boulder we could use some help with.
Up front they have some full price stock scattered to distract the tourists, but struggle past and you’ll discover endless-seeming rows of stocked shelves, used and remaindered books of every genre imaginable, floor after floor of beauty and erudition… give me a moment. I’m tearing up just thinking about it.
Address: 828 Broadway, New York, NY 10003
Hours: Mon to Sat 9:30AM – 10:30PM, Sunday 11AM – 10:30PM
Phone: (212) 473-1452
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