The 9 Best Bookshops in New York City For Serious Bookworms

There’s a frequent debate among young writers in the United States: Do you enter an MFA (Master’s of Fine Arts) writing program or just move to New York City. That’s because New York is one of the most literary cities on the planet. Here, you can get an education in writing simply by meeting and hanging out with seasoned writers, attending readings and other literary gatherings, and of course, by hanging out in the best book shops in New York. 

In addition to its large collection of well-known retail book-selling giants, the Big Apple boasts a number of charming stores with a narrow focus, shops dedicated to just cookbooks, for example, or fashion or just fiction. So if you’re a reader and you happen to be in city, pinch yourself: you’re in literary heaven. Here are the 9 best book shops in New York.

Whatever is on your current to-read list, you’ll find it in one of these beautiful NYC bookstores. Photo credit: Michael Chin (Photo courtesy of Books Are Magic)

Three Lives & Co. 

Perhaps the quintessential Big Apple bookshop, 45-year-old Three Lives & Co. is anchored on the corner of Waverly Place and West 10th Street in Greenwich Village. It’s cozy. It has wood floors that creak when you walk. And it has walls and walls of books. The staff here are all professional readers, so if you need a recommendation, they’ll ensure you’ll walk out of the store with something that will spark joy in your mind. 

You can find several great bookshops in NYC, but a select few, such as Three Lives, just stand out above the rest. Photo credit: Bex Walton

While on your tour of the best bookshops in NYC, why not combine your literary love with some of Greenwich’s tastiest treats? On our Ultimate Greenwich Village Food Tour, you can try out some of the top restaurants in NYC’s trendiest area before popping into Three Lives and picking out a great read to take home.


The Center for Fiction

Opened in 2019 on the border where Fort Greene, Boerum Hill, and Downtown Brooklyn meet, the Center for Fiction is just that: a handsome, well-lighted space where fiction writers and the people who love them go to celebrate books. The high-ceilinged room has bookshelves that go from the floor to the ceiling. The Center does a lot of events, so have a look at the calendar. Perhaps your favorite novelist will be turning up soon. 

Books Are Magic

Come for the fantastic “Books Are Magic” mural on the outside wall of this shop; stay to browse the thousands of books inside. Co-owned by writer Emma Straub, Books Are Magic is a beloved bookshop in Brooklyn’s ambient Cobble Hill neighborhood. The shop does an ample amount of events, so time your visit to see an author reading. There’s now a second location on Montague Street in Brooklyn Heights, perhaps the city’s prettiest neighborhood. 

Books Are Magic is a local legend among bookworms. Photo credit: Michael Chin (Photo courtesy of Books Are Magic)

Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks

Are you a chef or at least a damn good home cook? Or perhaps you know someone who is? Point yourself to Second Avenue and East Second Street in the East Village to pay a visit to Ms. Bonnie Slotnick. She’s owned this unique and beloved bookstore that only sells cookbooks and food-related tomes since 1997.

She stocks newer cookbooks but her real specialty is selling rare, out-of-print, hard-to-find, and first editions of cookbooks. Of the 5,000 cooking-related books here, you just might uncover a gem. Some of the vintage cookbooks she might have on her shelves go back to the last century and beyond. And if you’re a lover of chefs, some of the city’s top toques are regulars, so keep your eye out for a celebrity chef. 

a bookstore display with cookbooks and a tea pot
Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks is legendary for home cooks and book collectors. Don’t miss a stop at this lovely NYC icon. (Photo courtesy of Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks)

The Strand

You really can’t talk about the best bookshops in NYC without mentioning the Strand. Anchored just south of Union Square since 1927 (and on the corner of East 12th Street and Broadway since 1957), The Strand has been peddling books since 1927. This is the granddaddy of New York City bookshops and arguably the most famous bookstore in the country with 2.5 million new, used, and hard-to-find tomes. The three-floor store has stacks of books that are so tall, only a giant might be able to reach the top shelf.  The  shop sells ample amounts of Strand branded merchandise, so you can pick up a tote bag and t-shirt as a great souvenir or gift.  

One the best book shops in New York. A visit to the Strand is a must for any traveler. Photo credit: Brecht Bug

Sweet Pickle Books

Located on the Lower East Side, Sweet Pickle Books is one of the quirkiest bookshops in town. Selling mostly used books, they have a good selection of everything from fiction to food to travel to history books. The owner of this is also a pickler and she has managed to combine pickling and books. You can either buy a jar of her pickles here or trade in some used books and walk away with a jar.

Leigh Altschuler, the owner, is paying respects to the history of the Lower East Side which was once awash in pickled vegetables sold by recently arrived immigrants.

pickles in jars
Pickles + books = a great combination. Photo credit: Amy Stephensen

Book Club

Combining books and booze: what could go wrong? Absolutely nothing. Just wonderful things, probably. Book Club, located in the East Village, began pouring booze (and coffee) and selling books in 2019. With a vibe that you’re in someone’s book-strewn living room, you can browse for intriguing reads while sipping a macchiato, a local craft beer, or a glass of wine. 

Argosy Books

This family-run bookshop on East 59th Street is a book-lovers gem. Since 1925 Argosy Books has had six floors of rare, vintage, hard-to-find, and out-of-print books. They mostly focus here on American literature. So if you’re looking for a vintage pressing of Steinbeck in hardcover or a Hemmingway first edition, you might want to gravitate to Argosy before anywhere else.

Argosy is the go-to shop for anyone looking for hard-to-find books. Photo credit: ShellyS

Bluestockings Cooperative Bookstore

Set on the Lower East Side, Bluestockings is a worker-owned bookshop that stocks tomes on the subjects of feminism, LGTBQ issues, race, climate change, and … you get the idea. Left-wing readers of the world unite here—or at least when they’re in New York City—to pick up a new book or a classic by writers like Angela Davis, Karl Marx, Bell Hooks, E.P. Thompson, or Hannah Arendt.  

interior space of bookstore with mural of woman's face on the wall
Bluestockings Cooperative Bookstore started as a volunteer-supported bookstore and has built a reputation for its strong activism. (Photo courtesy of Bluestockings Cooperative Bookstore)

From rare, out-of-print cookbooks to having a hankering for a pickle or some strong booze, you can see why these unique stores have earned their spot on our list of the best book shops in New York. As an extra bonus, from Greenwich Village to the Lower East Side, most of these shops will coincide with one of our New York City Walking Tours. Not only can you get a fantastic tour of the city, but you’ll be able to bring home a nice book as a momento. Not bad at all!

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About the author

David Farley is a West Village-based food and travel writer whose work appears regularly in the New York Times, National Geographic, BBC, and Food & Wine, among other publications. He’s the author of three books, including “An Irreverent Curiosity: In Search of the Church’s Strangest Relic in Italy’s Oddest Town,” which was made into a documentary by the National Geographic Channel. You can find Farley’s online homes at and

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