Call me old-fashioned but I still love going to bookstores and browsing the shelves to discover new titles. A friend once said that if she could choose a superpower, it would be to put her hand on the spine of a book and instantly read its contents. Even without this superpower, there’s something magical about running your hand over rows of books. Here are some of the best places in NYC to find a good book:
Idlewild Books (19th St between 5th/6th Ave) – a must if you like travel books. There are travel guides, maps, and novels in foreign languages. There are also lots of novels that have been translated to English so you can get a flavor of the country before you go. They also have foreign language courses here that I’m told are quite good.
Argosy Books (59th St between Park Ave and Lexington Ave) – for rare and antique books, this is your store. I like coming here to pick up gifts for (ahem) myself and also the special people in my life who like literature. They also have a great selection of antique maps.
Books of Wonder (18th St between 5th/6th Ave) – this place has many many children’s books and the staff is very friendly. I love coming in here and seeing books that I read as a kid like the Madeleine series or The Hungry Caterpillar. They have also a large collection of old collectible versions of children’s stories and some cool posters for sale. There is also a small foreign language section.
McNally Jackson/Goods for the Study (Prince St between Mulberry and Lafayette/234 Mulberry St) – they have a great selection of magazines (even academic journals!), books, and postcards. They also have an Espresso book machine so you can have books printed on demand and personalized, which is pretty cool! When you’re done browsing, walk around the corner to Goods for the Study, which has the most beautiful scissors, penholders, journals. I want to buy everything in this shop for my desk.
The Strand (at the corner of Broadway and 12th St) – New York used to have a strip of book stores below Union Square on 4th Avenue known as Book Row but the only store left from that era is The Strand. This store has been around forever and I hope it continues to thrive. There are many high shelves full of books here; I especially like the classics in the back and the coffee table books on the second floor. They also have some fun magnets related to reading (“Prose before hoes”). You can also find lost of fun used titles outside for $1 or so.
Unoppressive, Non-Imperialist Bargain Books (Carmine St between 6th and Bedford St) – not going to lie, I love this place just for its name. It’s a good place for browsing cheap books and the owner is very friendly.
Housing Works Bookstore (Crosby St between Prince and Jersey St) – 100% of the proceeds go to benefiting AIDS research so when you come here not only do you get to browse a huge selection of books in a beautiful space (dark wood bookshelves and a spiral staircase) but you’re also helping out others. They also tend to have really awesome readings or writing events or discussion groups almost every day.