Tuesday, April 24, 2018

My Favorite NYC Bookstores

This coming Saturday is Independent Bookstore Day, and I realized I've never talked to you about the bookstores I love here in NYC.

So my favorite bookstore café, and probably my favorite bookstore in NYC full stop, is HousingWorks. Located in an alleyway basically (126 Crosby Street, between East Houston and Prince Streets in Soho), they do good by doing well. Part of a larger organization serving and advocating for HIV+ and homeless New Yorkers, the store is about the best used bookstore I've ever been in. It's huge; it's beautiful; it's well-organized and well-stocked. It almost always has what I'm looking for, or what I didn't know I was looking for. And I can always find a seat in its large café that also serves yummy coffee and treats. It's the perfect destination for bookish me-time.

A few steps away is McNally Jackson Books (52 Prince Street), an independent bookstore whose distinguishing feature is that it organizes its fiction by geographic region. So when you want the latest from Italy, or Japan, or Nigeria, you know just where to head. It's a bookstore for the truly bookish.

Head north a few blocks and you hit the Strand Bookstore (828 Broadways & 12th St.) a legendary landmark featuring new and used books in a multi-floor, semi-labrythine setting. Go early in the day and have the place to yourself.

And hey, there are lots of little bookstores tucked into the village here and there- and to be honest I haven't visited them all. I haven't made it to the new location of Idlewild Books, though it was one of my favorites when it was in the Flatiron district. And I haven't gone to some of the really tiny ones. But I keep them on my agenda.

So we're going to continue to head north and visit Rizzoli Books at 1133 Broadway and 25th Street. Rizzoli used to be located on 57th Street across from Carnegie Hall, but that gorgeous mansion was torn down and the store moved downtown to its present location in a magnificent space not far from Eataly. I love coming here. It's such a pleasure to browse the beautiful coffee-table books and foreign specialties, many of which Rizzoli also publishes.  I don't get here often but I never leave empty-handed.


In midtown proper my favorite bookstore is Kinokuniya (1073 6th Avenue near W42nd St.), the American flagship of the Japanese chain. I buy translated books here as well as manga and anime-related movies and merchandise. They also have a yummy Japanese-food cafe I've been known to nosh at.

Keep heading up Fifth Avenue and eventually you will get to Albertine (972 Fifth Avenue near E.78th St.), a French bookstore housed in the French Cultural Center and child of the French Embassy. It's in another gorgeous 2-floor space and I always leave with something wonderful. Downstairs is mainly fiction but climb the stairs for graphic novels, cookbooks, art books and all kinds of delights.

Out in the boroughs I have to admit I'm not as fluent as I could be with the bookstores. I love WORD Brooklyn in Greenpoint (and their Jersey City branch too). I'm excited about the new Kew & Willow Books in Kew Gardens, Queens, and of course Astoria Books in Astoria, Queens is adorable. But the only one I really make the trip out to visit is Greenlight Books in the Greenpoint neighborhood of Brooklyn, at 686 Fulton Street. (They have opened a second branch, on Flatbush Ave., that I have not visited.) Greenlight is probably my favorite bookstore besides HousingWorks. It's beautiful, well-lit, and the selection feels like it was curated just for me. It's irresistible.

And I love Little City Books of Hoboken, of course. Who wouldn't? It's adorable, well-stocked and the perfect neighborhood bookstore.

But I'll browse in any bookstore that's open and on my path. And we do have so many to choose from in this great city!

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