What’s your favourite NYC bookstore?


I’ll be back in one of my favourite places in late January: New York. The trip is partly for a holiday, but I’ll also be celebrating the US publication of my debut novel, Beside Myself.

I already have a reading lined up at wonderful WORD in Brooklyn, where I did an event in May when The World Between Two Covers came out (you can see me outside the store in the picture above). But I’m keen to visit some other bookstores around the city too – whether for readings and events or simply to browse.

Over the many trips I’ve made to New York since I was 18 (when I first visited and fell in love with the city), I’ve got to know quite a few of its bookstores. I have a fond memory of taking over the world literature section in McNally Jackson one afternoon back in January 2012, at the start of my year of reading the world. Under the eyes of the bewildered sales assistants, I pulled heaps of titles off the shelves in an effort to identify works that might be suitable for my quest.

It was really quite funny, looking back. While most people were out sales shopping and trying to bag the hottest ticket in town, there I was, panic-buying books!

The trip proved worthwhile. Several of the titles I found that day ended up being my choices for the project, including Germano Almeida’s witty The Last Will and Testament of Senhor Da Silva Araújo for Cape Verde, and Nuruddin Farah’s engrossing Secrets for Somalia.

No doubt I’ll pay another, less disruptive, visit to MJ while I’m in town (I can still remember the thrill of popping in last spring and seeing The World Between Two Covers displayed on one of its tables).

But one thing I love about New York is the way new things are happening all the time and there’s always more to discover. So I thought I’d asked your advice about what stores and initiatives should be on my radar.

New start-ups or old faithfuls would be equally intriguing. As ever, I’m particularly interested in places that have a good selection of translated works. But I’m keen to hear about anywhere you think is great. And if there are other book-related places (cafes, libraries, community projects, festivals – you name it) that you’d like me to know about or that you think might be interested in hosting an eccentric British wordsmith for an hour or two, tell me about them below.

Ooh, this is going to be fun!

Picture by Steve Lennon

23 responses

  1. I live in Minnesota and it’s been 2 years since being in New York but there are 3 book related places I like to go. The first is the Strand where you can actually get overwhelmed with the books. They have quite the used book collection and there is a neat sidewalk shop on the south east side of Central Park which is open in Sunday’s but not sure of other days.

    The other two are more for the book atmosphere then actually buying anything. In fact you can’t buy anything at one and the other is fairly expensive. The first is the Morgan Library which has the collection of Pierpoint Morgan. The second is Bauman Rare Books on 5th avenue I believe. Not only are the bindings works of art in many cases but it seems the “aura” of past owners and authors seems to permeate the atmosphere.

    My really favorite bookstore is in Boston (Cambridge to be specific) and that’s the Harvard Bookstore. They have a great website which is what I get to use more often and I’ve been able to find many of the books and authors on your list.

    Good Luck.

  2. I love Three Lives and Company on W. 10th in the Village. Also, Tibet House on 15th Street
    (between 5th & 6th Avenues) has a bookstore. I actually have not been there but it’s always intrigued me. Perhaps they would have books not available elsewhere. Have a wonderful time!

  3. Please stop by Word Up Community Bookshop/Librería Comunitaria, an all-volunteer-run bilingual bookshop in Washington Heights (upper Manhattan).
    2113 Amsterdam Avenue at 165th St

  4. For used, Housingworks, a charity bookstore for AIDS patient support…and they get amazing titles. MJ is definitely a great store on the southern end. Book Culture, 112th Street always has surprising, current, well organized selection.

  5. Pingback: What’s your favourite NYC bookstore? | Albert Emurwon

  6. My favorites have already been listed here (Strand, Housing Works, Book Culture), and you wrote about my #1 choice, McNally Jackson.

    There is a bookstore (and cafe) I recently discovered on the Upper East Side that is lovely: Shakespeare & Co on Lexington Ave and 69th St. They sell books they printed on their own press there as well. There is also Argosy Book Store on E 59th St. between Park & Lexington. They have antique books! And P.S. Bookshop on Front St. and Washington St. in DUMBO, Brooklyn, has used and rare books. It’s a cute little space as well.

    Happy Book Hunting!

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