12+ CHARMING New York City Bookstores You Can’t Help But Love

The Big Apple never does anything half way, and the plethora of charming and independent bookstores in New York City is living proof of that.

As an avid bookworm, one of my favorite ways to spend an easy-going weekend is by perusing various NYC bookstores in search of gems. After calling the Big Apple home for more than four years, believe me when I tell you there’s no shortage of great bookstores to choose from.

If you’re visiting New York City (or live here as well), I wanted to share my personal list of the best independent bookstores in New York City. I hope this list makes your search for a cozy NYC bookstore easier.

I’m not one for small talk, so without further ado, let’s get to it!

Visiting New York City? If you haven’t decided where to stay (yet) check out our helpful guide on Where to Stay in New York City (The best neighborhoods for first timers +2 to avoid). Don’t have time? Here’s our favorite hotel in NYC, hands down.


“I love New York, even though it isn’t mine, the way something has to be, a tree or a street or a house, something, anyway, that belongs to me because I belong to it.”

Truman Capote

Greenlight Bookstore (Fort Greene, Brooklyn)

Greenlight Bookstore New York City

A gem of an independent NYC bookstore, Greenlight Bookstore was founded in 2009 in a neighborhood itching for a quality independent bookstore.

Turns out a relaxing and well-lit bookstore was just what the neighborhood needed.

The founders wanted the bookstore to become a community-hub for the neighborhood and no one could have anticipated how well received this space would eventually become.

The strong sense of community is where this unique NYC bookstore truly shines. There’s so shortage of interesting events or guests speakers (check out upcoming events here).

Today, Greenlight Bookstore is the first place that comes to mind whenever I feel the need to attend an author discussion, book signing or simply hear an interesting topic analyzed via panel.

As for the book selection, the store is well curated and the knowledgeable staff are happy to point you in the right direction or offer a personalized recommendation.

And let’s get real, isn’t this the very reason most of us prefer shopping at a friendly neighborhood bookstore as opposed to buying online?

This independent bookstore in New York City is a true reflection of the beautiful partnership between a welcoming community and a small business. You’ll always leave with a smile on your face.

Address (two locations):

  • 686 Fulton St, Brooklyn, NY 11217 (Flagship)
  • 632 Flatbush Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11225

The Corner Bookstore (Upper East Side)

cute bookstores nyc
the Corner Bookstore NYC
You've Got Mail bookstore

Founded in 1978, The Corner Bookstore has been satisfying the literary needs of New Yorkers for three generations and doesn’t show signs of slowing down anytime soon.

This independent NYC bookstore is as charming as it gets. It isn’t a large by any stretch of the imagination, but the small size only adds to the coziness.

Don’t make the mistake of assuming the size is any indication of a limited or lack-luster selection. The selection is well-curated and it’s surprisingly easy to find a quality read.

It’s evident the staff takes great pride in their thoughtful recommendations of new fiction and non-fiction titles to share with customers.

I also feel compelled to mention the impressive children’s section, which seems almost disproportionately large. You’re bound to find both classics and creative new children’s books that touch on current goings-on.

Come to think of it, the wide-ranging children’s section makes sense when considering the high concentration of private schools in the upscale Upper East Side neighborhood.

Feel free to roam the store or ask one of the friendly staff members for a recommendation, I doubt you’ll be disappointed.

Address: 1313 Madison Ave, New York, NY 10128

Albertine Books (Upper East Side)

best bookstores NYC
Albertine Books  NYC
French Bookstore NYC

Arguably one of the best-hidden bookstores in New York City, Albertine Books is located within the French Embassy and is easily missed if you don’t know to look for it.

This gem of a NYC bookstore is devoted specifically to French literature but carries some English titles as well.

Admittedly, this bookstore is on the smaller side, which makes their vast selection of 14,000 books (spanning two floors), all the more impressive. They’ve made great use of limited space.

It won’t take too long to peruse, but goodness, you simply can’t miss it. The remarkable hand-painted celestial ceiling on the second floor is worth a visit alone!

Albertine Books is a must-see for anyone with the faintest interest in beautiful bookstores in New York City, the discomfort of a language barrier be damned!

Tip to my fellow Francophiles — brace yourself, the bookstore is so cool; you’ll be tempted to book a flight to France the second you walk through the door. Bring a friend to avoid making rash decisions.

Fun Fact: Albertine Bookstore is located within the Payne Whitney Mansion (within the French Embassy), which was designed by the same architect responsible for the Washington Square Arch — Stanford White.

Address: 972 5th Ave, New York, NY 10075

Albertine Books NYC

Rizzoli Books (Flatiron)

Rizzoli Books interior NYC
best new york city bookstores

Rizzoli Books is an independent NYC bookstore boasting handsome mahogany bookshelves filled to the brim with an extensive selection of books spanning a wide range of topics.

But where this bookstore truly shines is the vast selection of illustrated coffee table books. The reason? Rizzoli is a world renowned publisher of coffee table books.

Originally from Italy, Rizzoli chose New York City for their sole US outpost and as you can imagine — they aim to please.

I’ve lost count of the number of interesting photo books I’ve found here. Fascinating books I’ve never even heard of, let alone seen elsewhere.

To that end, if you’re looking for a unique gift for someone, why not swing by Rizzoli for a coffee table book on a topic that interests your special someone?

Address: 1133 Broadway, New York, NY 10010

Housing Works Bookstore

 Housing Works Bookstore nyc
Best bookstores in New York City

Housing Works Bookstore is a unique New York City bookstore because its noble cause makes it so much more than a standard bookstore.

This bookstore is managed by a determined non-profit (by the same name) that ambitiously aims to fight HIV/AIDS and homelessness — and the stigmas associated with both.

As such, 100% of profits from this NYC bookstore are donated to fight HIV/AIDS and homelessness.

Everything on the shelves (books, DVDs, housing items, etc.) is donated, but it goes a step further. The store is run by volunteers, so literally ever cent of the sale goes to the cause.

Since the books are donated, there’s no guarantee that you will find a specific title. However, if you’re feeling adventurous, peruse the shelves and pick something up that you normally wouldn’t.

There’s a great selection to choose from. The store is lined with dark floor-to-ceiling bookshelves that are well organized. Head upstairs to the balcony for the in-house cafe and spend an hour lingering for a good cause.

Address: 126 Crosby St, New York, NY 10012

McNally Jackson (Multiple Locations)

best bookstores NYC
McNally Jackson New York City

When looking for charming New York City bookshops, run, don’t walk, to McNally Jackson.

This beloved bookstore was originally founded in 2004 by Sarah McNally — whose parents own Canada’s largest independent bookstore chain.

The flagship store is located in the heart of SoHo and — to nobody’s surprise — spread like wildfire over the course of 15 years. There’s currently three locations in Williamsburg, South Street Seaport and Downtown Brooklyn.

Regardless of the location you visit, expect to find a great selection of books. You can easily spend an hour scanning the well-organized bookshelves for gems.

Word to the wise, the South Street Seaport location is especially charming and the big leather couch is dangerously cozy.

There’s also a great in-house cafe dishing out coffee and pastries from local bakeries like Sarabeths and Balthazar, highly recommend!

Best NYC bookstores

Argosy Book Store (Midtown)

Best bookstores NYC

No list of epic New York City bookstores would be complete without a mention of Argosy Books, the oldest bookstore in New York City. Founded in 1925, Argosy has been serving New Yorkers for almost 100 years.

It seems the family that runs the store aims to embrace the old-world charm. Indeed, stepping into Argosy Book Store seems to mess with the space-time continuum. Between the vintage decor and fascinating books, the hours seem to melt.

Argosy Book Store specializes in rare first-edition and out-of-print books and antique maps.

Spanning 6 floors, the interior is filled with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves, sturdy wood ladders, green lamps and the heavenly smell of old books. Some things never change, and frankly shouldn’t.

Address: 116 E 59th St, New York, NY 10022

Three Lives & Company (West Village)

cutest bookstores NYC
Best NYC bookstores

Three Lives & Co. is quite possibly the most beloved bookstore in New York City and it’s not hard to see why.

Opened in 1978, this gem sits on the cutest corner in the West Village and serves as a reminder of an older New York. In fact, New Yorkers have been relying on this welcoming bookstore and the well-read staff for more than 43 years.

Creaky floors, warm-toned wooden bookshelves and colorful books — when it comes to quaint NYC bookstores, this one takes the cake.

Of all the great bookstores New York City has to offer, you’ll be hard pressed to find kinder staff.

Also worth mention, the West Village is the cutest neighborhood in New York City. There, I said it! But listen, I have proof – check out these photos from an autumn stroll in the West Village.

West Village autumn

The Strand (East Village)

best bookstores New York
The Strand Books NYC inside

Beloved by locals and visitors alike, the Strand Bookstore is one of the most iconic bookstores in New York City.

Founded in 1927, the Strand is the only remaining bookstore from “Book Row” which was a coalition of 48 bookstores that lined Fourth Avenue. Every single bookstore, with the exception of the Strand, closed during the Great Depression.

Today this large NYC bookstore is home to 2.5 million books and serves as a safe-haven for insatiable bookworms far and wide.

Visitors are welcome to donate books and peruse the bookstore in search of something new. Definitely spend time exploring the deals on the racks outside the store as well, you might score a deal!

The Strand has several locations but I suggest visiting the flagship store in the East Village (828 Broadway, New York, NY 10003).

Books Are Magic (Cobble Hill, Brooklyn)

Book are Magic
Best bookstores nyc

The name alone is worth a visit to this interesting New York City bookstore, no?

Book Are Magic is a Brooklyn-based independent bookstore founded by a well known (and local) author, Emma Straub.

The impetus of the bookstore is just as important as the service it provides to the community.

Books Are Magic was opened in 2017 shortly after the closure of the neighborhood’s sole independent bookstore, BookCourt.

Inviting and vibrant, the interior is best described as “industrial Scandinavian” and feels like the only place you want to be on a rainy autumn day.

Also, can we talk about that awesome bright pink neon sign?! So cool. And the mural out front? Chef’s kiss.

Check out their unique subscription services as well and don’t miss the plethora of book signing events and panels that will hopefully resume post-COVID.

Even more great bookstores in NYC (Honorable Mentions)

As an avid bookworm it’s really hard to curate an honorable mentions section for bookstores in New York City! But listen, the Top 10 list is hard to crack.

I love visiting the bookstores I mention below and highly recommend them if you have more time in NYC.

Shakespeare & Co.

Founded in 1983, Shakespeare & Co. is a venerable NYC bookstore that has two locations in New York City (Upper East Side & Upper West Side).

The flagship store on the Upper East Side has been serving the neighborhood for more than 20 years. The bookstore was recently renovated to include a beautiful cafe and there’s even an onsite book machine that can spit out a book in no-time flat.

The drama bookshop

The Drama Bookshop has long been a staple of New York City’s theater scene. In fact over the course of it’s 100+ year history it’s been an invaluable resource to some of Broadway’s greats.

The beloved bookstore is popular to the casual fan largely due to Lin-Manuel Miranda purchasing it in 2020. Miranda, along with other Broadway peers, used the basement of the previous location to rehearse “In the Heights.” A musical that went on to win multiple awards and help launch Miranda to stardom.

The current location of the Drama Bookshop is in Times Square. It offers the warm and cozy appeal of a traditional bookstore.

Book Culture

Book Culture has two locations near Columbia University. The bookstore is charming and the staff are always happy to help.

Also, since most tourists don’t venture this far north, the customers that visit this iconic New York City bookstore are either locals or students at the university. So if you’d like to feel like a local, pop into this shop.

Also worth mention, you simply can’t visit Book Culture in the Upper West Side without swinging by the breathtaking Cathedral of St. John the Divine. Not only is it one of the most beautiful churches in New York City, but it’s also the fifth largest church in the world!

Westsider Rare & Used Books

Westsider Rare & Used Books is one of the most charming bookstores in New York City thanks to its size alone. Every inch of the interior is filled with books. As hard as it is to believe, there’s even an upstairs section where you can find records and the such.

Say hello to the cat that roams the store and get lost in the stacks of books. There’s no guarantee that the title you’re after will be in stock, but that only adds to the charm.

Further Reading: 18+ EPIC Things to Do on the Upper West Side

Westsider Books NYC

Best Bookstores in New York City (Post Summary)

In sum, these are the best bookstores in New York City:

  1. Books Are Magic
  2. The Strand
  3. Three Lives & Company
  4. Argosy Book Store
  5. McNally Jackson
  6. Housing Works Bookstore
  7. Rizzoli Books
  8. Albertine Books
  9. The Corner Bookstore
  10. Greenlight Bookstore
  11. Shakespeare & Co.
  12. The Drama Bookshop
  13. Books Culture
  14. Westsider Rare & Used Books

Best New York City Bookstores

Visiting New York City? If you haven’t decided where to stay (yet) check out our helpful guide on Where to Stay in New York City (The best neighborhoods for first timers +2 to avoid). Don’t have time? Here’s our favorite hotel in NYC, hands down.

And there you have it my friends – a quick roundup of the best independent bookstores in New York City.

I love living in a city that has so many charming little book stores to choose from and hope you enjoyed this post!