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5 must-visit independent book stores in NYC (that aren’t Strand)

By Lyka Sethi · Feb 13, 2018 · ·

Jamie taylor 110195

Ah, book shopping. The only form of consumerism that, by the time I’m sliding my credit card into the chip reader and there’s no turning back, still has me feeling like I’ve done something right. All book-readers know the behemoth that is Barnes and Noble, have spent hours among the sacred aisles of Strand, and have witnessed the ironic emergence of Amazon Books. But New York has a lot more to offer in the realm of literary experiences. Here are just a few of our faves in the city.

Books Are Magic

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This cute corner Cobble Hill shop was founded by novelist Emma Straub and her husband, designer Michael Fusco-Straub. It’s cozy and inviting on cold and warm days alike, but with a fresh, organized feel. The store’s selection includes all of the new arrivals, best sellers, and contemporary works you could hope for, and they have reasonable sales on popular books quite often. It’s refreshing that they put just as much thought into their children’s section as the adult section — but beware, you might see more adorable toddlers waddling around than you can handle. The staff is very willing to help, so know that you won’t be browsing long before your arms are full. Books Are Magic also has a jam-packed calendar of free-of-charge author events and readings, perfect for switching up your after work activities. Last but definitely not least, their branded merch is so trendy, you’ll be eager to sport it around town.

Westsider Rare & Used Books

This unassuming used bookstore is an Upper West Side gem. It’s considered a historic neighborhood landmark by locals. Though it’s dangerously close to a giant, much newer Barnes and Noble, it has managed to hold onto its roots and flourish. The ambiance feels reminiscent of another era — books stacked floor to ceiling, narrow aisles, unclear organization scheme, and a vintage papery scent that fills the space (bookworms, you know what I’m talking about). The bottom floor focuses on used books while the top is dedicated to rare collectibles. If you’re willing to spend some time rummaging through the shelves, you can score heavily discounted books written by contemporary authors, easy beach reads, and interesting out-of-print works alike. My best advice is to come in here not searching for any title in particular, but expect to be thrilled by what you walk out with. And don’t forget to check out their sister store, Westsider Records, down on 72nd Street.

bookbook

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Greenwich Village staple bookbook is a small but mighty contender. It’s somewhere between old-school and modern, and perfect for those interested in a variety of genres. On practically any day you visit, you’ll encounter an awesome deal on a new book that has been waiting patiently on your Goodreads list. Their staff is friendly, helpful, and ready to make suggestions, which brings a small town feel to the downtown shop. I’ve walked in and out of bookbook in 15 minutes with a new book in hand, it’s that easy and affordable. The cherry on top? The shop a stone’s throw away from Murray’s Cheese. You deserve it.

McNally Jackson

Just a few weeks ago, beloved Soho bookstore McNally Jackson opened a brand new Williamsburg location at the highly trafficked intersection of North 4th and Wythe. McNally has long been well-known for its incredibly wide selection of new and old books, its large, two-story Prince St. space + cafe (brewing up yummy Stumptown coffee), and its full events calendar. Now, with a second space in Brooklyn, the company is cementing its status as a New York literary hub. Mcnally Jackson also owns and operates two Goods for the Study stationery stores, one on Mulberry St. in Soho, and the other in the West Village.

Book Culture

Currently operating storefronts along the Upper West Side of Manhattan and in Long Island City, Book Culture is poised to take over. Book Culture’s store-specific membership program is great for those who want to stay loyal to a shop and unlock consistent discounts. They also offer a monthly subscription service called Book Culture Selects, through which you receive curated, hand-selected books within a certain theme, including “Queer Voices”, “Around the World”, and “New and Noteworthy Fiction”. Recently at one of their stores I came across a table with a “Blind Date with a Book” sign on it. The books on it were wrapped in brown paper so you couldn’t see what was inside, and each book had a label on it that stated something like, “Read me if you liked X, Y, and Z book!” If you need a little more excitement in your life, this is your place.

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Cover photo by Jamie Taylor on Unsplash