One of my favourite things to do in New York City is to shop for books.
There is no other city in the world (that I’ve visited) that I’ve found to have the most amazing independent bookstores.
Walking around the West Village, the Lower East Side or Soho will lead you to numerous shop windows with amazing displays that will draw you inside to a world of new, used or rare books.
In this list below, I take you through my most favourite bookstores in Manhattan to visit if you ever find yourself in the area.
1. Sweet Pickle Books
You’ll find Sweet Pickle Books on one of my favourite streets in Manhattan, Orchard Street. You’ll find many a gem on this street, including Sweet Pickle which sells jars of pickles alongside their used and new books.
If that doesn’t entice you enough, Mr Harry Styles has also visited the store and purchased some merchandise (a tote bag I am also the proud owner of).
2. PT Knitwear Books & Podcasts
Another incredible bookstore in the Lower East Side, PT Knitwear may not sound like a bookstore, but it’s even more than that.
A store that has an area for reading, working or studying, a free podcast studio that you can rent and also a coffee shop – what more could you need? Obviously, it also has a large variety of books on offer to buy too.
If I was a digital nomad/remote worker, this would be my first choice of location to work from in the city.
3. Strand Bookstore
What’s a New York City bookstore list without the Strand? The biggest independent bookstore in New York with 18 miles of books, you’ll definitely find what you’re after in here.
With carts and carts of used, cheap books outside the store, you’ll be fighting your way through the crowds inside as well as this store has now featured in quite a few TV shows and movies too, making it one of the most famous bookstores in the city.
4. Alabaster Bookshop
A personal favourite of mine, just around the corner from the strand on 4th Avenue, Alabaster Bookshop is home to a small number of used books with carts outside displaying some cheaper options.
It’s a small space which makes it feel all that more homely, with the owner knowing everything and anything about recommendations, books that you’d like or the newest releases.
5. McNally Jackson Books
I was hesitant to add McNally Jackson Books to this list as there are quite a few dotted around New York, making it lean into more of a chain, but each of their stores are beautiful and deserve a mention.
Particularly the Seaport and Soho stores which I can never walk past. You’ll find all the new releases here and a host of author nights and events throughout the year.
6. Mercer Street Books
It might be the neon sign outside that always calls me into Mercer Street Books, but there’s something about the long layout of the store that lets me escape the hustle and bustle of New York City for a while and get lost among the towering shelves of used books.
With a section of the store dedicated to just about every genre you can think of, you’re bound to find something that tickles your fancy. Plus the staff here are always incredibly friendly.
And to top it off, you can grab a book here and then head to Washington Square Park to read it.
7. Three Lives & Co.
This was a recent find of mine when I visited New York at the beginning of 2023.
An insanely picturesque bookstore in the West Village, it was full of people when I visited, even with the small space that it offers.
What I loved most about this store was that the staff seemed to know a lot about books, be it old or new releases, but they also had a great rapport with their loyal customers who they also would ask for recommendations or steer new customers to for knowledge.