Manhattan Bookstores to Discover
New York City is filled with readers and writers, and of course, bookstores. Beyond the large chain retailers like Barnes & Noble, you’ll stumble upon a few independent stores that remain here and there, though sadly, they’re not as common as they once were.
Here’s my pick of the best Manhattan bookstores, each with its own distinct personality. And if you live outside of New York City, peruse the websites because you might discover the next bestseller.
The Corner Bookstore, 1313 Madison Ave
Founded in 1978, the Corner Bookstore at 93rd and Madison chooses only the finest nonfiction and fiction titles. Inventory includes history, memoir, travel, cookbooks, poetry, and a large children’s section with selections for toddlers up to young adults. Courteous and knowledgeable staff bring knowledge and expertise to the intimate shop’s devout Upper East Side clientele. But beyond locals, the Corner Bookstore has a slew of long-distance regulars.
McNally Jackson, 52 Prince St
This Soho shop has long been considered one of the top Manhattan bookstores. In addition to selling hardcovers, paperbacks, e-books, and zines, the retailer offers publishing services and prints independent authors’ books, which can be purchased through the website as well as in the store. McNally Jackson prides itself on delivery. Below 96th Street, pay just $9.99, and in Lower Manhattan––north of Canal Street but south of Eighth Street, east of Hudson and west of Avenue B––delivery is free.
Westsider Books, 2246 Broadway
A rare and used bookstore on the Upper West Side, Westsider specializes in fiction, art, and literature, as well as books, design, and children’s books. The slim nook of a store near 80th and Broadway has been an uptown destination attracting book lovers who buy and sell for more than 40 years. Fun fact: Woody Allen chose Westsider Books as a backdrop for his film, Fading Gigolo.
Housing Works Bookstore Café & Bar, 126 Crosby St.
Shop books for a great cause at Housing Works Bookstore Café, where 100 percent of the profits are donated to Housing Works, an organization dedicated to helping people affected by HIV/AIDS. Volunteers staff this downtown shop, where you can escape for a relaxed read in the back section, or grab a house-made sandwich, soup, or fresh salad in the café. (The shop is currently closed due to Covid, but check back for its reopening.)
Shakespeare & Co., 939 Lexington Ave
You have to love the name of this shop in the Lenox Hill neighborhood on the Upper East Side. CEO Dan Neller wants to create the “biggest little bookshop in the world” as he feels every bookstore should be deeply rooted in the community it serves. The local chain also has an outpost at 2020 Broadway on the Upper West Side–-the second after closing more than 20 years ago––that opened in 2018. Shakespeare & Co. plans to expand to other areas of the city, spreading book love throughout Manhattan.
The Strand, 828 Broadway
A terrific spot for the bargain shopper, The Strand is popular among locals and tourists and always among the top picks for best independent bookstores in NYC. You can’t miss the bright red awnings on this village staple with its 18 miles of titles, located at the corner of 12th and Broadway. We had a scare last year when it nearly closed, but with customers’ help and a good bit of publicity, the emporium kept its doors open. You can find $1 books outside on the sidewalk, and art, culture and fashion on the upper floor. There’s so much to read here, and any bibliophile will adore The Strand.
Which are your favorite Manhattan bookstores?