New York City is a hub of literary activity. Famous writers of various decades have lived here, and the publishing industry keeps many of its largest North American offices in the city. Outside of the book creation industry, there are a ton of bookstores throughout the city. Alongside your literary tourism trip, you can visit bookstores between every stop. I grew up in New York and wanted to present a ranking of New York City bookstores for your perusal and future trip planning.
I must admit now that this is an entirely subjective list skewed to my perspective. There are bookstores I like in New York City and bookstores I don’t. Since I grew up in the city, I have many enemies for reasons that range from petty to valid. I think it’s important to have enemies in New York City so you can narrow down the vast number of places you can go.
Numbered rankings aren’t entirely my thing, so I split up my favorite NYC bookstores into categories instead. Whether you’re searching for specific gifts, a lively event space, or a pretty place to explore, there are tons of bookstores to suit your fancy.
Best Language-Specific Bookstores
Albertine is a “project of the Cultural Services of the French Embassy” and includes a reading room. You can browse titles in both English and French.
If you’re looking for the latest manga and other Japanese-language books, this is the store for you. It’s a must-visit for Studio Ghibli fans as well.
Best Specialty Bookstores
Every book in this store has an animal or an animal character. There are books of all genres and for all ages.
With a café and bar in the store as well, this bookstore is one of the most pleasant places in the cities to search for books that highlight diverse immigrant voices.
This Lower East Side gem accepts book donations in exchange for pickles. I’m sure you can find a pickle-themed book in the store if you look hard enough.
Best Comic Book Stores
Full of hidden gems, Desert Island is a great place to visit for comics lovers and those interested in finding DIY comic books. Desert Island also co-hosts the Comic Arts Brooklyn festival.
Comics lovers absolutely must visit the largest comic book shop in the United State and revel in the nerdery.
Best Neighborhood Gems
I went to this bookstore growing up so I might be biased, but it’s a great space with an eclectic collection, and an extensive kids section so the whole family can browse together if you’re around Park Slope.
The Lit. Bar is legendary because it’s the only independent bookstore in the whole of the Bronx (which is indicative of the various ways New York City has ignored the Bronx). Add this to your walking tour when you go to the South Bronx.
If you’re willing to venture out to Kew Gardens in Queens, you’ll find another great neighborhood spot. They host a virtual book club and plenty of events.
This is a great intersectional feminist bookstore to visit when you’re wandering Bushwick. They also events and serves coffee and tea (as indicated by the name).
Bluestockings Cooperative Bookstore
Bluestockings is kind of legendary in the queer scene in the city. In 2021, it reopened as a fully worker-owned space. You’re likely to come across a cool event if you’re visiting the city for a day or two and swing by the Lower East Side.
Best Gift-Buying Destinations
Westsider Rare & Used Books Inc.
This crowded little store is full of used gems, including vintage prints and gorgeous leather-bound editions.
This is probably the biggest rare books store in the city, and it’s a great place to get lost in the shelves if you’re a book and antiquities nerd.
If you’re looking for art books or coffee table books, Taschen is the spot to check out.
A Book Lover’s City
One of my favorite activities in New York City is checking out what people are reading on the subway. It’s a lovely way to survey what’s popular, and genres even tend to vary by train line. The current author I see on all the subways is Colleen Hoover.
Bookstores are so important to the lifeblood of New York City because they are the site of so many events and discussions about literary life.
If you’re still interested in New York City bookstores, you can find a map to visit all New York City bookstores, dive into must-read books about New York City, and explore genre novels set in NYC (like romance and SFF).