My first bookstore was Coliseum Books on 57th and Broadway; my second was the Barnes & Noble on 82nd and Broadway, near the movie theater. My parents would only spend money on "quality" books, and so I devoted a significant portion of my elementary school years speed-reading the Animorphs series and YA Star Wars novels in the aisles hoping an employee didn't spot me. Bookstores are my happy places, and whenever I get "the mean reds" I make my way to one, if just to stand in the aisles for a few minutes and run my hands along the spines.

In some respects, bookstores—both independent and chain—have been disappearing, murdered first by Amazon and second by the death of print. But there are still some vibrant independent shops in town full of colorful, curated shelves and knowledgeable employees. Here are our favorites; as always, leave yours in the comments.

(Dustin Coates)

WORD: This lovely little bookstore's been gracing Greenpoint with the written word since 2007, offering a sharply curated collection within cozy stacks. Employees are quick to offer recommendations, some of which are on handprinted notes taped to their respective shelves. Downstairs, there's an events space for comedy shows, readings and the like, and the store also offers a rotating schedule of book clubs and writers' workshops for folks looking to take their relationship with literature a step further. Note that there's also a Word outpost in Jersey City, if you happen to find yourself across the Hudson at some point.

Word is located at 126 Franklin Street at Noble Street in Greenpoint, Brooklyn (718-383-0096,

(Dustin Coates / Gothamist)

BOOK CULTURE: The Upper West Side's not the most bookstore-heavy neighborhood in town, which is why the Book Culture trio's been such a welcome addition to the area. The academic-reading heavy 112th Street spot's existed as it is now since 2007 (it first opened in 1997, but was renamed a decade later), with the Broadway outpost, known for its delightful Children's Room, debuting in 2009. The Columbus Avenue shop, which opened in 2014, is located just across the street from the American Museum of Natural History, and is slightly sleeker in design though less stocked than its uptown counterparts.

Book Culture has three locations in Manhattan: 2915 Broadway between 113th and 114th Streets in Morningside Heights (646-403-3000,; 536 West 112th Street between Amsterdam Avenue and Broadway in Morningside Heights (212-865-1588,, and at 450 Columbus Avenue between 81st and 82nd Streets on the Upper West Side (212-595-1962,

STRAND BOOKSTORE: There's something soothing about the slightly-musty smell of old leather-bound books, and at the Strand, which opened first on Fourth Ave in 1927 before moving to its Broadway corner in the 1950s, that yellow-papered aroma reigns supreme. The store boasts 18 miles of new, old and used books, and whether that's true or not, there's certainly no stifling of the written word here. They've got everything from new bestsellers to out-of-print rare finds, and many of their offerings are used and come at discounted prices, a welcome perk for hungry readers on a budget.

The Strand also holds big-name readings and special events—James Franco seems to be a frequent guest here, in addition to writers like Dave Eggers and David Sedaris. Do note that though staff members are very knowledgeable, they're not always so eager to help a wandering patron; on the bright side, though, they're usually pretty easy on the eye, so don't feel too weird about moving in for a few hours.

The Strand is located at 828 Broadway between 12th and 13th Street in the East Village (212-473-1452,

(Dustin Coates)

GREENLIGHT: This beautiful Fort Greene spot opened in 2009, much to the delight of the neighborhood's lit lovers, and has since earned its rightful title as one of the city's best. Greenlight's big on local authors, boasting works by everyone from Jonatham Lethem to Jhumpa Lahiri to lesser-known names. There's also a large and vibrant children's area, along with regular readings and book signings by the likes of Teju Cole.

Greenlight Bookstore is located at 686 Fulton Street between South Elliot Place and South Portland Avenue in Fort Greene, Brooklyn (718-246-0200,

BOOKCOURT: BookCourt's got a little bit of everything, which is probably why it's one of the more popular independent bookstores in Brooklyn. The book recommendations are always spot on (one of my favorite books, Green Girl by Kate Zambreno, was an employee pick here), the aisles are easy to navigate, and the shop boasts everything from releases from small print publishing companies to bestselling self-help books. The events at BookCourt are the biggest draw, though, with readings from the likes of Junot Diaz, Karl Ove Knausgaard, and Don DeLillo.

BookCourt is located at 163 Court Street between Dean and Amity Streets in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn (718-875-3677,

(Dustin Coates)

192 BOOKS: Careful curation is the name of the game at this Chelsea bookshop, which specializes in literary fiction, children's books, translated works, and art. Though 192 is a tad cozy, to say the least, it's still a sunny, welcoming spot, and employees are quick to offer recommendations or chat about preferred titles. The shop hosts a number of readings, and the intimate environment makes it easy to end up having one-on-one conversations with your favorite authors.

192 Books is located at 192 10th Avenue between West 21st and 22nd Streets in Chelsea (212-255-4022).

(Dustin Coates)

COMMUNITY BOOKSTORE: I moved to Prospect Heights not long after my Greenpoint apartment caught fire. On one of my first days in the neighborhood, I went for a stroll through Park Slope, and spotted a packed bookshelf through the window of a brownstone, which struck me with a crushing sadness you can only experience after you lose all your books to toxic smoke. Thankfully, I ended up wandering into this bookworm haven, and I swear it saved my sad, bookless soul.

Community Bookstore—not to be confused with the erstwhile Cobble Hill shop of the same name—boasts everything from literary fiction to art books to bestsellers, with special attention paid towards local authors (many of whom show up for readings in the area) and independent publishers. This place comes with a big bonus in the form of an adorable shop cat, though an even bigger bonus is the vine-lined backyard, where you can sit and read your purchases in peace.

Community Bookstore is located at 143 7th Avenue between Garfield Place and Carroll Street in Park Slope, Brooklyn (718-783-3075,

(Dustin Coates)

MCNALLY JACKSON BOOKS: This Nolita shop might be the best bookstore in the whole damn city, thanks to its overflowing (and often quirky) collection, pristine layout, bomb magazine section, and stationery. Stationery!!!! McNally Jackson also hosts a wealth of readings for authors famous, amateur and in-between, plus there's an included cafe complete with free wifi, so you can work on your novel while sitting just feet from Hemingways and Pynchons.

McNally Jackson is located at 52 Prince Street between Mulberry and Lafayette Streets in Nolita (212-274-1160,

RIZZOLI BOOKSTORE: Though its name might trick you into believing it's an Italian restaurant, this spot, which first opened in 1964, does in fact sell literature. It was originally located in a grandiose building on 57th Street but had to move when its lease ended in April 2014. The former building was demolished and is being turned into a luxury hotel, of course. The new location still boasts their motto “Welcome to the most beautiful bookstore in New York City” and visitors say it lives up to the hype. The wooden shelves, chandeliers and sconces moved over to the 5,000 square foot location and it is every bit as dramatic and architecturally significant.

They specialize in illustrated subjects like fashion, art and design while also carrying literature in Italian, Spanish and French. They do have general interest books as well, so don’t worry—you can still get the next Real Housewives’ book. (Emily Siegel)

Rizzoli is located at 1133 Broadway between 25th and 26th Streets in Flatiron (212-759-2424,

THE MYSTERIOUS BOOKSHOP: The name does not lie. The Mysterious Bookshop carries just what you would expect—mysteries! It’s been open for 35 years and its owner, Otto Penzler, knows his stuff. He wrote the Encyclopedia of Mystery and Detection and founded the Mystery Press, which publishes crime and mystery fiction. This bookstore makes mystery lovers feel right at home. You can join their crime clubs, which range in genres from British crime to Thrillers and Espionage, and receive a signed first edition of a book within the genre of your club. They also celebrate Sherlock Holmes' birthday each year on January 6th with signed first editions and discounts on Holmes inventory. (Emily Siegel)

The Mysterious Bookshop is located at 58 Warren Street between Broadway and Church Street in Tribeca (212-587-1011,

ARGOSY BOOKSTORE: This is where you go for that old book smell nerds always talk about. Argosy Book Store has been around since 1925 and has been the choice bookshop for a few former presidents like Bill Clinton and Teddy Roosevelt. It specializes in rare and antique books and showcases them in a six-story townhouse on east 59th Street. You can also purchase antique maps and prints, autographs and art. Their books range in price, but depending on the item, you can walk out only spending a few dollars on a unique book.

Argosy’s owners refuse to sell the building even as skyscrapers pop up around them, though they did sell their air rights for a small $6 million in 2015. Hopefully they keep up the mindset that not everyone in New York reads on a Kindle. (Emily Siegel)

Argosy Bookstore is located at 116 East 59th Street between Park and Lexington Avenues in Midtown East (212-753-4455,

via Yelp

ASTORIA BOOKSHOP: The Astoria Bookshop is a relative newbie in comparison to some of the tried and true shops in New York City, having opened in 2013. Investing in a bookshop when most people are buying books on Amazon might seem risky, but the owners wanted to create a place for the community. They have a book club, story time for children, and book readings and signings. They sell modern books in a wide variety of genres and are very open to visitors and their children sitting down, getting comfortable and paging through the books. If you’re really anti-leaving your home and wandering into a bookstore, you can also order their books online. Supporting small businesses without leaving the harsh glare of your computer screen is a win-win. (Emily Siegel)

Astoria Bookshop is located at 31-29 31st Street in Astoria, Queens (718-278-2665,

MAST BOOKS: Mast Books is a used bookstore disguised as a new bookstore. This highly curated, small bookshop in the East Village carries a wide selection of unique and hard-to-find books in a clean and artistic setting. The books are in like-new condition and the selection is thoughtful and specific. They carry design books, coffee table books, and new and classic fiction. Though you feel like you are in a new bookstore, you are not spending new bookstore prices. Aside from the ultra rare books that go for a steep price, you can spend $3 or $4 and come away with a classic book you’ve always promised yourself you’d read or something you’ve truly never heard of before. It’s the perfect shop to spend a few hours in and come away with something unexpected. (Emily Siegel)

Mast Books is located 66 Avenue A in the East Village (646-370-1114,

HONORABLE MENTIONS: Unnameable Books, Housing Works, Books of Wonder, Posman Books, bookbook.