1. Strand Bookstore - 828 Broadway
Strand Bookstore boasts that their shelves would stretch a whopping 18 miles if all lined up, and when you actually step inside, this isn’t difficult to picture–the carts of used one dollar books that greet you on your way in are almost too much to handle. The largest of the bookstores on this list, it can be slightly overwhelming. Still, with three floors and a basement lined in shelves of books, everyone can find something they are interested in when visiting the Strand. If you find yourself a compelled fiction reader, the “Banned Books” or “Future of Fiction” displays on the first floor might be a good place to start. If science is your preferred area, the basement has a wide selection of books on chemistry, medicine, physics, and nearly any other scientific topic you could find an interest in. Bargain hunters will be pleased to know that the basement also houses half-priced books, both new and old.
If you are a collector, or if you just want a quieter atmosphere, the third floor houses the rare and out-of-print books. Its shelves overflow with fine binding and original editions. The third floor also makes for a perfect place to escape from the crowded aisles between shelves and take a breath of the comforting, musty scent of old books. Besides all these volumes, the Strand also sells tons of book related–and non-book related–merchandise, from postcards to mugs and socks. The store also hosts book signing and release events at its flagship store in Union Square. The Strand can be hectic, but so many gems are hidden within its shelves. Make sure to give yourself some time to, as their tote bags say, “get lost in the stacks”.
2. Housing Works Bookstore and Cafe - 126 Crosby St.
Located in SoHo, Housing Works Bookstore and Cafe creates a relaxing environment for those wishing to escape from hectic city life. The store is a part of New York City’s Housing Works, a non-profit organization which aims to fight AIDS and homelessness. Nearly all of the staff members are volunteers, and 100% of the proceeds go to the Housing Works charity. If you are looking for a wide array of books for a reasonable price, Housing Works is the place to be. The store presents books of all different subject matters, and all of the store’s merchandise is donated. This makes the prices of the used books quite low and gives customers the opportunity to go on a major book haul without dipping too much into their wallets.
The name itself denotes that Housing Works is not only a bookstore, but a cafe, as well. The cafe serves hot drinks like tea and coffee along with sandwiches, salads and various pastries. The homey, yet refined environment provides ample space for guests to sit and leaf through the books they have just purchased, or to catch up on work.
3. McNally Jackson Books - 52 Prince St.
If you can imagine Barnes and Noble going to college, breaking free from the boundaries of conformity, and somehow acquiring a printing press in the process, you would be envisioning McNally Jackson Books. The two-floor independent bookstore has something for every taste; its topics range in everything from poetry to parenting. You can also find books on business, architecture, cooking, and (of course) literature. If fiction literature peaks your interest, McNally Jackson has a wide selection, all organized by country, putting a different spin on the typical organization system. McNally Jackson also houses a cozy cafe where you can sit down and read–or maybe even write–the latest craze, all while enjoying coffee and a scone.
The store doesn’t only sell books, but it prints them as well. The “Espresso Book Machine,” so-named because it quickly prints books for its customers, lies within McNally Jackson’s walls. The machine prints from a network of over 7-million titles, which include public domain, blacklist and out-of-print titles. Customers can also request personalized editions of select literary classics. If you are a writer looking to take your piece to the next step, the Espresso Book Machine even prints self-published works. Whether you are a reader or a writer, McNally Jackson poses the perfect place to sit back and indulge in your work.
4. Rizzoli Bookstore - 1133 Broadway
This bookstore’s backstory is tragic. In 1985, Rizzoli Bookstore moved into the elegant six-story townhouse, complete with a balcony and beautiful chandeliers, that would be its home for 25 years. In 2014, however, the classical 57th Street location was torn down, much to the dismay of frequent customers. Now located in Manhattan’s NoMad neighborhood near Madison Square Park, Rizzoli Bookstore maintains the sophisticated ambiance it was known for. The most striking element about the store is its polished design, featuring marble floors, chandeliers, and masterfully painted wall murals.
Dark wooden bookshelves stretch from floor to ceiling, giving book-lovers myriad choices for their next read. Rizzoli’s selection is specialized in visual subjects such as fashion, interior design, architecture, photography, and art. Even so, their collection does not neglect other areas of interest. Customers can also find books on music and film, and view the store’s selection of European magazines and newspapers. All the books are new, so you won’t be finding any used-book deals, but the quiet and classy atmosphere is enough reason make a visit.
Olivia Diulus '20