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Although New York City isn’t exactly a calm reading oasis, it’s still a reader’s (and writer’s) haven. With its many historical literary landmarks and quaint reading nooks located in every borough, if you love a good book, you’re bound to love New York City.
In the event that you’ve arrived to the city tragically bookless, though, we’ve got some great New York City bookstores to check out for your next read. And no, we’re not going to point you in the direction of The Strand. Can’t make it into the city? Many of these bookshops include online ordering so you can have your favorite titles delivered to your door all while still supporting independent New York City bookstores.
Printed Matter, Inc (PMI)
Starting our list of New York City bookstores with a Manhattan nonprofit, Printed Matter, Inc. is a seller of artists’ books. In fact, PMI “is the world’s leading nonprofit organization dedicated to the dissemination, understanding and appreciation of artists’ books and related publications.” PMI defines artists’ books as “publications that have been conceived as artworks in their own right.” This NYC bookstore aims to make these pieces of art available to passersby, creating a democratic investment in such pieces.
It first opened in 1976, so PMI has an established history right here in the city and has shaped Chelsea just as much as Chelsea has shaped it. Featuring different exhibitions and installations as well as art programs, there’s no way you won’t be wowed by this space. Recently, though, they opened a second shop in Bed-Suy, so head there to show your support for their expansion, too!
Housing Works Bookstore Cafe
Another nonprofit NYC bookstore, Housing Works is ideal for grabbing a new read and then starting it right there in its cafe. With all of the books being donated and all of the store staff being volunteers, Housing Works Bookstore is truly a collaborative community effort. As an organization, they are dedicated to their mission “to end the dual crises of homelessness and AIDS.”
Not only do they sell books but also movies and music, so they’ve got materials for everyone you’re with to browse through! Plus, of course, they’ve got a decent cup of coffee for anyone who wants to sit out browsing in favor of some caffeine. Most nights, Housing Works Bookstore also hosts events, like “A Feast for the Books” and “Fashion for Action.”
Every Thing Goes Book Cafe and Neighborhood Stage
Although Staten Island may not be high-up on your list of boroughs to visit, you’ll consider yourself lucky to be there if you stop inside Every Thing Goes. Touting itself as “the largest used bookstore on Staten Island,” Every Thing Goes is ideal if you want to shop sustainably for the next book on your “to-read” list. And, with its brightly colored awning and royal blue storefront, this emporium of literature is impossible to miss.
It’s just the right amount of overcrowded, with titles smushed together on every shelf available, the walking room somewhat limited and the entire shop feeling cozy and welcoming. Every Thing Goes’s website is even kitschy and dated in a way that feels the same as its physical location.
Moreover, it also features a cafe that fits right in with all of the books, mismatched chairs pushed in close to the tables and a coffee menu almost too small to read posted above the counter. They’ve got a garden patio, too, and free Wi-Fi. Local art can be purchased inside, or just admired as you search for the perfect new(ish) book to buy. What can’t you find here? At night, this bookstore transforms into a venue for diverse performers of all kinds, complete with a raised stage and the ambience that comes with such an intimate and well-loved setting.
A gem of Greenpoint, Word is a bookstore and event venue that supports Brooklyn’s reading community. Word regularly hosts readings, talks and signings by established authors like an upcoming evening with Josh Ritter (and his latest novel, “The Great Glorious Goddamn of It All”). They also host virtual book clubs with all kinds of compelling themes, from “Alien Autopsy” to “Indie & Small Press” to “Well-Read Black Girl.” Trust us, they’ve got a discussion you’ll be dying to join, and you can do so from your laptop at home!
Word is the home of “Word Live Wedne5days,” which is a weekly crowdcast. With their subscription boxes and mystery boxes on sale, too, there’s so many ways to patronize Word without making the trek to Brooklyn, though we recommend that you do. Its corner storefront attracts book-lovers of all ages and interests, its green banner beckoning to lovers of lit.
Another Brooklyn pick, Desert Island is nearby in Williamsburg. Priding itself on selling materials that represent “experimental and underground artistry,” Desert Island is a legendary comic book seller. Looking for something more mainstream? They’ve got it. Looking for “photocopied-and-stapled booklets with a D.I.Y. aesthetic?” They’ve got that too!
If you love comics in any way, shape or form, they’ve got what you’re looking for. Desert Island is refreshing in how it runs its “no restrictions” consignment-based business, independent artists splitting profits on their comics with the shop. This method of bookselling encourages independent publishing and smaller, underrepresented as well as international artists and writers.
Although this may at first appear to be any comic book seller, Desert Island is an oasis for art lovers and book lovers alike, as innovative blue sculptures and tapestries adorn the entire store. And, indie press fans will be excited to know that Desert Island also publishes its own art-illustration newspaper, in partnership with Pratt Institute, titled “Smoke Signal.” Visitors to Desert Island are encouraged to take a free copy. Can’t make it into the shop? Visit their web store!
Make sure to stop by another Bushwick staple while in the neighborhood! Human Relations is a used bookstore with a purpose: bringing humans together through shared stories and physically shared books. “Human relations are difficult, especially for book people” their website says.
They sell books pertaining to “the best quality used fiction, philosophy, film, foreign language, pulpy noir, history, art, science, food, drama and pretty much anything else.” You’ll immediately feel welcome here, the awning above the storefront reading “BOOKS” in large, block letters in multiple languages. Founded by the people behind Book Thug Nation, Human Relations is a store for the book nerd in all of us.
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