Bibliophile, audiophile and future educator. Bringing the human story to others in any way possible
1. Strand Bookstore
If you ever find yourself in Manhattan, you have to stop by the Strand. Their motto is "18 miles of books," and once you're inside, you'll see why. With three massive floors of books, don't expect you will spend only 40 minutes here. Dedicate at least a few hours to exploring. Founded in 1927 and a family-owned business for the last three generations, the Strand is always crowded by people of all ages. (Trust me I am there almost all the time.)
A word of advice for all you old book lovers—the third floor is a rare book room, with books from $25 to $3,000 dollars. On the first two floors, the Strand has old and new books alike, with some for as low as $1. The Strand also has pins, bags, socks, and cool shirts, like a 1984 shirt and a shirt for all you ladies saying "A well-read woman is a dangerous creature."
Note: If your collection is growing a little too large, you can sell your books to the Strand.
2. Westsider Rare & Used Books
This is another bookstore in Manhattan that is beloved by locals. Founded 35 years ago, the store recently announced that it will be closing its doors. Almost immediately, people began donating money to keep the store open. If that doesn't show how much the store means to people, I don't know what does. You can see why it made it on my list!
While it is smaller than the Strand, you can definitely expect to spend a few hours there. The store even has a rolling ladder. A ROLLING LADDER! As the name says, they specialize in rare and used books.
Note: For you audiophiles, they have an adjunct store called Westsider Records located at 233 W 72nd St, New York, NY 10023. Just like the bookstore, it has shelves and rows of records.
3. Mysterious Bookshop
If you love a good mystery, you will never want to leave this store. Stacked with a staggering collection of used, rare, and new books, they specialize in mystery, true crime, and thrillers. At last a store where you can find a book, curl up with a cup of tea, and enjoy waiting for answers on the edge of a delicious cliff-hanger.
Note: Whether you're a New Yorker or a visitor to the city, at some point, you will likely find yourself at the 9/11 Memorial. This store is nearby, so you can cover both on the same visit.
4. Molasses Books
Let us head to Brooklyn, now. Coffee (or tea) and a good book is a classic combination. But how about alcohol? At Molasses Books, you can choose between a hot cup of coffee or tea or an adult drink to enjoy while you browse for books. A cup of coffee goes for $2.50, and a cold Budweiser goes for $3.
This bookstore feels more like a neighborhood library, making it a fun place to explore and stumble across a good book you can enjoy with a hot cup or a cold one.
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5. Unmeable Books
This quaint little book store in Prospect Heights isn't too far from Barclays Center. A mix of all genres and sorted in no particular order, they also have a small section of rare antique books for you to browse.
Tip: After you buy a book or two, head next door for some cake, pudding, or coffee at the Little Cupcake Bakeshop.
6. Human Relations Bookstore
Another Brooklyn bookshop located in Bushwick (East Williamsburg, to be specific), do not take the size of the store to heart. Despite the lack of real estate, Human Relations has many reasonably priced books to sift through. It may look small from the distance, but wait until you enter the store to make your judgment. As they say about the TARDIS in Doctor Who, "It's bigger on the inside."
7. Housing Works Bookstore Cafe
Heading back to Manhattan, this store is pretty awesome. Besides being able to get yourself some coffee and a good book, Housing Works is actually a nonprofit organization that helps low-income families. Besides being a relatively big bookstore, they also have thrift shops all around New York. Just google "Housing Works Thrift" and you'll find branches.
8. Argosy Bookstore
Calling all history buffs and hardcore bibliophiles: This store was built just for you. Six stories high, it houses some of the rarest books and antiquarian volumes. With over 60,000 out-of-print books in their basement alone, you might as well spend your entire day there. But if you're a starving student like me, you'll have to be satisfied with getting high on the smell of books; your wallet may not be fat enough to purchase any of the offerings here.
Note: At the start of this article, I mentioned that the Strand is one of New York's oldest bookstores, but Argosy takes the prize. Founded in 1925, it beats the Strand by only two years.
9. Blue Stockings Bookstore, Cafe, and Activist Center
Yes, that is the full name of the bookstore. In fact, it is within walking distance of the Strand, so you can visit both of these bookstores in one shot. The cool thing about this place is that it is completely volunteer-run.
While you snoop for books, you can grab yourself a cup of coffee or just sit and chill in their cafe area. They mostly concentrate on current issues, but they also have historic activism posters. Another unique aspect of this place is found at the side of the entrance—a jug of free condoms.
10. Books of Wonder
I will close out this article with a bookstore for little ones. This shop is geared towards children. They sell children's books and have story time, so if you're looking to make your child a bibliophile, take them here.
It is a cozy little store, and they even have rare titles. Don't worry, parents—they have places for you to sit as your children browse and get enthralled by the wonderful world of books.
10 Must-Visit Bookstores in New York City
© 2019 Rachel Dawidowicz