The Brooklyn Book Festival kicked off last night (full schedule here), so it felt like a pretty solid time to run you through some of MY MY MY favorite bookstores in NYC! We’re certainly not a city short on solid reading material, but here are ten of what I think are the best venues:
Except you do.
Spoonbill & Sugartown
This Williamsburg shop (218 Bedford Avenue, plus another outpost at 99 Montrose) is a very dangerous place for yours truly, because I typically walk in with the intention of just browsing, and then somehow wind up with a stack of books that I didn’t even know I wanted until I saw them. A book about mushroom foraging? Need it. Psychomagic by Jodorowsky? Sure, why not! It’s fairly tiny, but the very well-curated selection of reading material (new and used books, plus magazines) makes great use of the space. (And they’ll always have room for more books seeing as I clean them out on a regular basis.)
ASMR4 (ft. Katie Murray) Release Party – 9.13, 99 Montrose
Poetry & Jazz w/ Anne Waldman & Devin Brahja Waldman – 9.14, 99 Montrose
How To Read Nancy (part of BKBF) – 9.15, 218 Bedford
I mean, I probably don’t even have to shout this one out since it’s so widely accepted as one of the greatest bookstores in NYC, but I’m just gonna do it anyway, okay?! I have spent hours on end cruising the shelves at Strand (828 Broadway, just below Union Square), because there is just SO MUCH volume. (One of my absolute favorite pastimes is to scour the ultra-bargain carts that line the outside of the shop – I’ve picked up tons of great stuff that way, some of which only cost $0.48!) And let’s also just take a minute to appreciate the heck out of their events calendar, which is always full of amazing guests and panel discussions! Truly an institution.
If you’re searching for someplace to get your drink on AND cruise for used books, then this is most definitely the spot (at 770 Hart Street) to do it – open until midnight nightly, you can take a literary load off while sipping coffee, tea, beer and/or wine. (Pro-tip: happy hour runs from 6pm until 8pm.) Cozy as heck, 10/10 would hang.
With locations in Brooklyn (126 Franklin Street) and Jersey City (123 Newark Avenue), WORD has remained one of my favorite neighborhood bookstores for the duration of my 7.5 years in NYC. The selection of books is always on point, but they’ve also always got interesting programming happening throughout the week, which is a major added bonus!
Greenlight is another spot with two locations to choose from – 686 Fulton Street, or 632 Flatbush Avenue – and has also remained a consistent favorite of mine, in part due to the book selection, but also because they tend to have really solid programming! (I mean, Eileen FLIPPIN’ Myles is gonna be at the Fort Greene shop tomorrow night, and that’s just one example.)
Beatriz Bracher & Adam Morris with Eric Becker – 9.11, Fort Greene
Jessica Bruder with Kerri Arsenault – 9.11, PLG
José Andrés presents We Fed An Island: The True Story of Rebuilding Puerto Rico, One Meal at a Time – 9.11, BAM
Eileen Myles – 9.12, Fort Greene
This is admittedly not everyone’s cup of tea leaves, but if you identify as an Occultist, Yogi, Pagan, Mystic, Thelemite, Witch, Chaote, or are just looking to enhance your spiritual self, then you may have found your hub in Bushwick’s Catland (987 Flushing Avenue). In addition to books, you’ll also find things like candles, tarot decks, altar wares, crystals and other spiritual tools and supplies. It’s your one stop shop for the esoteric ‘n occult.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – Bluestockings is THE wokest bookshop in NYC. It’s volunteer-run, and serves as both bookstore and activist center. Fuel up on drinks and snacks from their fair trade cafe, and then get lost in shelves filled with literature about everything from feminism to queer and gender studies to global capitalism to climate & environment to political theory to police and prisons to race and Black studies to radical education and beyond! They’ve also got incredible programming, so be sure to bookmark their calendar.
Overdose Prevention Training – 9.12
Terrorist Assemblages Ten Years On in the Time of Trump – 9.13
Graffiti Grrlz: Performing Feminism in the Hip Hop Diaspora – 9.14
If you’re specifically interested in books about food, Archestratus (160 Huron Street) should be your go-to! In addition to selling a fantastically curated selection of books on the fact (and fiction) of food, this Greenpoint spot serves up some incredible (for real) housemade Sicilian baked goods, which can be washed down with coffee, tea, beer and/or wine.
Trivia Night (FREE!) – 9.12
TOMATONESS: A Dinner Celebrating the Bittersweet Close to Summer ($40) – 9.13
Greenpoint Cat Club (FREE!) – 9.30
Books Are Magic
Co-owned by the one and only Emma Straub, this is a Cobble hill shop that TRULY lives up to its name – tip-top aesthetics (dangerously ‘grammable, you guys), a great selection of books and some pretty epic programming make it near impossible to leave 225 Smith Street.
This is a great bookstore/cafe combo in the first place, but the fact that Housing Works has gone to great lengths to end homelessness and HIV/AIDS in NYC is a major additional reason for all of us to be shopping with them at 126 Crosby Street (and their other retail locations). Hugely admirable advocacy.