2 Chapter 2: Book Stores


Over the last few years, book-buying has changed. Technology has brought in waves of new trends for readers. Whether they’re buying discounted books online, or reading e-books, the changing habits of readers has meant that many local bookstores have disappeared from the blocks of New York City. However, the literary cornerstones that continue to exist have become both more specialized and more multifaceted. New York City is home to some of the most passionate readers with eclectic tastes, and for readers of any style, there is a bookstore to accommodate.  Here are some of the hidden gems of New York City’s bookstore culture, guaranteed to satisfy any reader’s literary appetite.


Barnes & Noble Main Store

Barnes&Noble Main Store Title Plate
105 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10003, between Gramercy and Flatiron

At this particular Barnes & Noble location, it doubles as The New School’s textbook store, where students and academics of all sorts can enjoy access to a large selection of used textbooks.


This three-story Barnes & Noble is one of the largest in the city and is also the flagship store.


This location offers a selection of new trade books at the front of the store as well as used academic, law, and medical textbooks. This is a particularly great find for students searching for deals on textbooks, who also want to pick up a great book to read for fun.


828 Broadway, New York, NY 10003

This bookstore was founded in 1927 on Fourth Ave. or “Book Row”. This bookstore has a rich history. Starting out as one of the bookstores on the coveted Fourth Ave. “Book Row,” The Strand represents a bookstore created by the Bass family with writers/readers in mind. It was the place where writers went to converse about different topics as well as to find hidden literary treasures and quirky books. Now the store is the only bookstore left on the designated “Book Row.” It carries over 2.5 million books and is designed for its loyal patrons. Books ranging from philosophy, finance, and the next bestseller, can be found on Strand’s never ending shelves. A customer can also buy Strand merchandise, i.e. shirts, trendy bags, and other apparel, as well as little writer books and other Moleskine items.

This is the place for groups of college students, for hipster moms and dads plus their cute kids or just about anyone who wants to tackle a new literary adventure.

 Barnes & Noble Union Square

33 E 17th Street, New York, NY 10003

There are plenty of Barnes & Noble stores, but this one is popular among Manhattanites because of its vast selections of books, as well as having four floors full of good reads. Each floor has a different theme. The first floor has mainly popular books and new releases. The second floor houses expansive children’s section, as well as a play area. The third floor has a Starbucks, periodicals, and the bargain books. The final fourth floor houses the majority of the store’s fiction and is a favorite among bookies because of the weekly free poetry and book readings.

P1020311Barnes & Noble is one of the few bookstores that features board games, novels, stationary sets, watches, cards, magazines, comprehensive study guides, and more. It is also an e-book haven for people who have gone digital. There are Nook kiosks on the first floor of this store which promotes e-book reading! Visit this Barnes & Noble if you are in the Union Square area and want to do some book, or just in general, browsing.

McNally Jackson

This place is for the coffee lover who enjoys reading international literature while drinking a mocha latte. It is also good for the independent author who is looking to self-publish a book one day.

52 Prince Street, New York, NY 10012

This bookstore has two floors filled with books. Each shelf specializes in specific books from different nations. Book-readers can find books from countries such as Greece and Hungary to China and Taiwan. This is also a popular place to join some cool book clubs such as “International Literature with Sarah McNally (the shop owner).” These book clubs allow book lovers to gather together and talk about new reads.

This place calls for book-readers who love reading literature from all over the world. This is also a great place for authors who are looking to self-publish print books. McNally has a print book machine and specials and guidelines about how to create print book to sell to the general public! Book-readers can also purchase ebooks onto their Kobo as well. There are even some deals for free ebooks!

Idlewild Books

If you are an inquisitive traveler, a lover of languages, an addict of guidebooks or just someone who is passionate about world literature, this is the place for you.

Manhattan branch: 12 West 19th Street,
New York, NY 10011.
Brooklyn branch: 249 Warren Street, Brooklyn, NY 11201.

This is not your average bookstore, instead it’s a traveler’s paradise. Not only is Idlewild Bookstore dedicated to selling guidebooks, it also also offers low price language courses. Learn Spanish or Arabic over the summer or take a stab at French and finally figure out what “je ne sais quoi” really means. (image)

Why come to this bookstore you might ask? This bookstore was designed with the quintessential traveler in mind. The staff is well versed in travelogues as well as world literature.

P1050743 They also sponsor events such as walking tours around Manhattan and “Cuban Party.” So step out your comfort zone, learn a new language, discover a translated Italian novel, and meet people who celebrate the diversity of different cultures and languages all in one place.

Book Court

163 Court Street, Brooklyn, NY 11201

This vibrant, independent, Brooklyn bookstore has plenty of discounts on books plus a wide variety of choices for people to find.


Book Court was voted NYC Best Bookstore in 2012 by The Village Voice. It definitely earned that title due to the cozy nature of the store and dedicated, off-beat staff. This is a great place for Brooklyn readers and writers to congregate.

St. Marks Bookshop

Are you a curious college student, a rising artist, and an academic looking for the next best indie author? Well, say hello to St. Marks Bookshop- this might be the place to you.

31 Third Avenue, New York, New York 10003

Open your critical eye and devour a book from this independent Lower East Side bookstore. This bookstore caters to the independent book reader– the person who might not find cult classics or unknown authors from their usual chain bookstore. Find poetry books, academic journals and even hand-made zines at this bookshop. Also attend free events! Poetry slams are a favorite among locals. Visit this bookshop for its intimate feel. This bookshop has one floor and reclining chairs scattered throughout it. You can often find soft jazz music playing in the background. With its dim light and homey atmosphere, this store is the perfect place to sip some coffee while reading a short undiscovered novel.

Shakespeare and Co.

716 Broadway, New York, NY 10003

This bookstore caters to college students. Specifically to the neighboring college around it. You can find course books as well as fiction novels, indie bestsellers, and guidebooks. It is located near many colleges in NYC, including Baruch College, Hunter College and NYU.


Sell back your old textbook all year round and pick a new one for your specific class.

La Casa Azul

143 E. 103rd Street, New York, NY 10029, between Lexington and Park Avenues.

Located in East Harlem, this bookstore has a heavy Latino influence.The Spanish name of the bookshop translates to “The Blue House”.  It is a tiny bookshop but makes a big impression with a friendly staff and a plethora of books to sort through. Most of the programs at La Casa are dedicated to promote cultural diversity and awareness of the rich Latino culture. There are book clubs such as the “Rice and Beans Book Club,” that showcased the heritage while having fun too. This is the perfect bookstore for anyone who is interested in finding books about Latino culture and Spanish heritage.



Readers come here to get a taste of the Latino community and celebrate long-standing Latino traditions. Attend a cultural event or join a book club. Practice some Spanish and feel the electric force of community when you come to La Casa Azul.

Book Culture

Location 1: 536 West 112th Street, New York, NY 10025 between Broadway and Amsterdam. Location 2: 2915 Broadway, New York, NY 10025, on the corner of 114th Street.

An independent bookstore since 2007, Book Culture has become an integral part of the Morningside Heights community. There are two main stores found within blocks of each other. This bookstore mainly carries academic books in the arts and humanities but there are also magazines and fiction and nonfiction works as well. There are tables that display bestsellers located in the front of the store.

Another nice feature of this bookstore is the Children’s Room. The Children Room has games, toys and other interactive learning activities for the kids to play with while the adults go search for the next “Fifty Shades of
Grey.” Book Culture also has Kids Events as well as Poetry Readings and Book Signings. Book Culture was designed as a community bookstore. It has two floors at most. Most people who come here are locals of the Morningside Heights area. Book lovers should mainly go here if they want to experience a small family style bookstore.


Appreciators of beautiful books and architecture should stop by Rizzoli’s.

31 W 57th Street, New York, NY 10019
This bookstore is located in a stunning, six-story townhouse, which is decorated with chandeliers and carved woodwork. Rizzoli's specializes in illustrated books on fashion, art, photography, architecture, and other similar subjects. The bookstore also carries literature in English, Italian, French and Spanish.

In the midst of Midtown Manhattan, Rizzoli’s is a peaceful escape. Come for the great ambiance, and leave with an equally gorgeous book. This bookstore is located in a stunning, six-story townhouse, which is decorated with chandeliers and carved woodwork. Rizzoli’s specializes in illustrated books on fashion, art, photography, architecture, and other similar subjects. The bookstore also carries literature in English, Italian, French and Spanish.


P1050762 2
172 Allen Street, New York, NY 10002

This Lower East Side bookstore is a self-proclaimed “radical bookstore,” and their stock includes texts on feminism, queer and gender studies, black studies, and more. The bookstore also has a selection of fiction, children’s books, alternative magazines, and zines. Bluestockings is collectively owned, which means it is run by a group of employees. Anyone who is interested in social issues will certainly find something to read here. Students from local colleges, including The New School and NYU, can also buy books for class here. Bluestockings not only has a great selection of unique titles, but it also has an activist center and vegan cafe. While you’re there, try a hot cocoa with almond milk, or ask about their latest events. The bookstore regularly hosts author readings, film screenings, and book discussions.


FAQ’s: New York Bookstores

How many Barnes and Noble locations are there in the U.S.?
There are 689 Barnes and Noble bookstores in the U.S. There are also an additional 677 college bookstores.

Are there any independent bookstores in Queens?
There was one independent bookstore in Queens-Seaburn Books but it is now closed. There are currently five Barnes and Noble stores in that borough.

What was “”Book Row”” and what happen to it?
“”Book Row”” was a strip of 48 independent bookstores along Fourth Avenue. When Barnes and Nobles became competitive in the book-selling business, the shops on “”Book Row”” quickly dwindled. Today, The Strand is the only bookstore left on what was once the mecca of the book world.

McNally is a pretty cool bookstore. Is there just one McNally Jackson location?
McNally Jackson will add a new bookstore on Mulberry St. NYC in April 2013. Get ready!

What is Upstairs at the Square and how can I attend one of the events?
Upstairs at the Square is an event series produced by Barnes and Noble. These events take place on the fourth floor at the Barnes and Noble in Union Square. The events are free but you have to register in advance.

Top Ten Tips for Visiting a Bookstore

1. Don’t be afraid to explore all the floors in a bookstore. Great discoveries can be made by browsing effectively.

2. Don’t judge a book by its cover. Take time to read the back flap or ask the staff for their recommendations. Normally bookstores have staff that is friendly and approachable.

3. Check out the bargain sections. Most, if not all, bookstores have bargain book aisles. Some aisles are hidden throughout bookstores. Ask around to find where it is. Getting a book for $4.00 beats paying $12!

4. Consider joining a book club. Book clubs are great way to meet fellow bookworms as well as discover a new novel. Sometimes book clubs even sponsor events and prized giveaways.

5. Make reservations for a book, especially a bestseller, online. This can help I a book is frequently sold-out or is hard to find in stores.

6. Shop ebooks at you favorite bookstores. This is a great way to get a book at deep-discounted price!

7. Check out the café! Reading books while drinking coffee is a great stress-reliever and can make a day more relaxing.

8. Attend a free book event. Many bookstores hold events where authors, sometimes even critically acclaimed authors, come and sign books.

9. Sell old books back. Bookstores often buy books, not just textbooks, back for almost 50% of the value.

10. Pick a place and immerse yourself in a book. A bookstore is one of the best place to read a book!


Books and the City Copyright © 2013 by eng31131. All Rights Reserved.


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