14 Very Special Independent Bookstores in NYC

A woman standing at the outside entrance of Cafe Con Libros in Brooklyn, NYC.

New York City is home to many indie bookstores, each of which has its own unique charm, mission, and literary personality. Most of these bookstores even advocate beyond book-buying and literature. They host author events and book clubs and foster a sense of community that transcends the pages of the novels lining their shelves, too. Here is my list of really special independent bookstores in NYC that book lovers should visit!

14 Special Independent Bookstores NYC List

1. World’s Borough Bookshop

This new, first-generation, Latino-owned bookstore in Jackson Heights is a haven for BIPOC stories and storytellers. Adrian, the founder, has grown a beautifully curated collection of books by Asian, Black, and Latine writers. After winning community awards and grants, he pursued his dream of opening a bookstore for his local community.

In addition to the in-house gift shop, which showcases a variety of locally made art, stickers, and other products, World’s Borough Bookshop hosts fun community events. So, if you’re in Queens, enjoy reading and connection, and want to refresh your book list with readings representing our community, World’s Borough Bookshop is the spot for you!

Bonus: This bookstore also has a children’s room where your kids can read and play!

  • Location: Jackson Heights, Queens (3406 73rd Street)
  • Hours: Monday – Sunday (11 AM – 1 PM; 2 PM – 8 PM)
  • Latino-owned

2. Bluestockings Cooperative Bookstore

This bookstore stands as the only queer/trans/sex-worker-owned bookstore in NYC and focuses on women, LGBT, and various social justice topics. Its diverse collection spans books of all ages and genres, reflecting a commitment to inclusivity and representation. 

Beyond its shelves, Bluestockings actively engages in community support by offering community workshops, training and resources for harm reduction and operating a free store as part of its mission to foster mutual aid. This unique bookstore stands at the intersection of activism and literature, creating a space that goes beyond selling books to contribute to social change and awareness actively.

  • Location: Lower East Side Manhattan (116 Suffolk Street)
  • Hours: Tuesday – Sunday (12 PM – 7 PM)
  • Queer/trans-owned

3. The Lit Bar

This cute bookstore in the Bronx is proudly the first independent bookstore in the borough. Owned by a Afro-Latina owned entrepreneur, The Lit Bar seamlessly combines literature and libations, offering a unique space where you can enjoy a drink while perusing a diverse selection of POC and Latinx readings. 

Beyond books, the place hosts a variety of events, such as book signings. But these also expand beyond traditional book-centered gatherings to create a vibrant community space that celebrates both literature and culture.

  • Location: 131 Alexander Ave., Bronx
  • Hours: Tuesday – Saturday (12 PM – 7 PM); Sunday (12 PM – 5 PM)
  • Afro-Latina owned

4. Yu & Me  

Explore the special culture of Manhattan’s Chinatown by paying a visit to this nook, the first Asian-American-woman-owned bookstore in NYC. They exclusively feature works by AAPI, LGBTQIA+, and BIPOC authors. Despite its temporary closure due to a fire, this bookstore promises a revival that will once again offer a haven for literature enthusiasts. 

At Yu & Me, you can immerse yourself not only in a rich literary collection but also enjoy a unique blend of ambiance with offerings such as coffee, alcohol, and non-alcoholic beverages. 

  • Location: Chinatown (44 Mulberry Street)
  • Hours: Tuesday, Wednesday, Sunday (11 AM – 7 PM); Thursday – Saturday (11 AM- 11 PM)
  • Asian-American, woman-owned

5. Book Club Bar

Yes, you’re right, this NYC bookstore is a bookshop where you can also get some drinks! Aside from their amazing collection, they also serve NY state craft beers and locally roasted coffee. The Book Club Bar’s cozy space does not only make a home to their fiction and romance book clubs but to other events such as acoustic nights and flower arrangement workshops, too. If you’re a reader who’s looking for one of the best bookstores for making friends in NYC, add this to your list!

6. Cafe con Libros  

Explore the vibrant intersection of literature and activism by visiting this unique Afro-Latinx owned bookstore/cafe founded by a dedicated husband and wife duo. Their rich selection of books features intersectional feminist literature that transcends boundaries and amplifies diverse voices. 

With book subscriptions tailored to your preferences and a commitment to hosting impactful events showcasing Black and Afro-Caribbean authors, Cafe con Libros is not just a place for enhancing book culture but makes a space for a community that values inclusivity, representation, and the power of storytelling. It makes a spot on my favorite NYC bookstores list!

  • Location: Crown Heights, Brooklyn (724 Prospect Place)
  • Hours: Monday, Wednesday – Friday (9 AM – 3 PM); Weekends (9 AM – 5 PM)
  • Afro-Latinx owned

7. Books are Magic  

Visit Books Are Magic, a bookshop owned by the accomplished novelist Emma Straub. This family-friendly haven not only offers a carefully curated selection for all ages. It also hosts engaging events, creating a welcoming space for the community to gather and celebrate the joy of reading. 

Every visit to this bookstore is impactful as they’re commitment to supporting the Brooklyn Book Bodega, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting literacy and access to books for underprivileged children. By stopping by at Books Are Magic, you not only immerse yourself in the world of literature but also contribute to a meaningful cause that extends the magic of reading to those who need it.

  • Location: 225 Smith St., Brooklyn
  • Hours: Daily (10 AM – 6 PM)

8. The Ripped Bodice 

In the heart of Brooklyn sits this unique, cute, woman/queer-owned bookstore that caters specifically to fans of romance stories. The Ripped Bodice stands as a pioneer, being the only exclusively romance-focused bookstore in Brooklyn, making it a must-visit for fans of the genre. 

Beyond their carefully curated selections, this charming bookshop is beautifully decorated with a couple of cute chairs and a sitting space in the back.

  • Location: Boerum Hill, Brooklyn (218 5th Avenue)
  • Hours: Monday to Friday (11 AM – 7 PM); Saturday (10 AM – 8 PM); Sunday (10 AM – 7 PM)
  • Queer, women-owned 

9. The Center for Fiction  

The Center for Fiction is a stunning space, featuring towering shelves of fiction books! On their second floor, they have an even more beautiful studio member space, where writers are free to work regardless of genre and career stage. 

Aside from this, they have a cute cafe and host events and workshops that range from reading groups and writing sessions. If you wish to enjoy their other perks, such as tech-free reading room and borrowing privileges, check out their annual membership!

  • Location: Fort Greene, Brooklyn (15 Lafayette Avenue)
  • Hours: Daily (11 AM – 8 PM)

10. Dear Friend Books

This woman-owned Brooklyn bookstore is more than just a sleek place where you can browse a collection of vintage books and some vinyl records. It also has a bar, where you can order a glass of wine, beer, sake, kombucha, or tea. 

Whether you want to stay in their beautiful indoors, with wooden furniture, or their spacious outdoor patio, Dear Friend Books makes a great place for reading alone, playing board games with a friend, or connecting with a stranger!

  • Location: Bed Stuy, Brooklyn (343A Tompkins Avenue)
  • Hours: Weekdays (4 PM – 11 PM); Weekends (11 AM – 11 PM)
  • Woman-owned

11. Sweet Pickle Books

If you’re into secondhand books and records, jars of pickles, and merch, Sweet Pickle Books is the place for you! And if you’re looking for a new home for your used books, you can trade them there for jars of tasty dill pickles, which is a very environmentally ethical way of discarding your stuff. 

  • Location: Lower East Side, Manhattan (47 Orchard Street)
  • Hours: Daily (11 AM – 7 PM)
  • Woman-owned

12. Sister’s Uptown Bookstore

This quaint, charming bookstore is owned by a Black mother-and-daughter duo who curates their shelves with literary works crafted by talented Black American authors. More than just a bookstore, it positions itself as a “community resource center for the exchange of information and ideas.” 

That is why Sister’s Uptown Bookstore goes beyond offering a fantastic selection of books by hosting events focused on and featuring Black writers and arists, including spoken word performances, enhancing its role as an important community cultural hub.

  • Location: Harlem (1942 Amsterdam Ave)
  • Hours: Tuesday – Saturday (12 PM – 6 PM)
  • BIPOC, women-owned

13. Topos Bookstore Cafe  

Treat yourself to books and caffeine by having a literary escape at Topos! Their collection of eclectic secondhand books, coffee, plants, and inviting, cozy atmosphere seamlessly work well together. While they don’t take donations, you can sell your books here for cash or store credit!

  • Location: Ridgewood, Queens (788 Woodward Avenue)
  • Hours: Weekdays (8 AM – 7 PM); Weekends (10 AM – 7 PM)
  • Location: East Village, Lower Manhattan
  • Hours: Sunday – Wednesday (9 AM – 12 AM); Thursday – Saturday (9 AM to 1 AM)

14. Housing Works Bookstore

Housing Works is a secondhand bookstore, cafe, and thrift shop with a curated selection of books, clothing, and houseware. It is staffed by volunteers, and all of its profits are used to support the housing, healthcare, and treatment of homeless people with HIV/AIDS. If you love reading and wish to advocate for people with this condition, visiting Housing Works is a great place to support their cause!

Fun fact: If you’re a Taylor Swift fan, this SoHo bookstore might ring a bell as it was featured in one of her music videos. 

  • Location: Lower Manhattan (126 Crosby Street)
  • Hours: Daily (11 AM – 8 PM)

Coolest Bookstores in NYC: Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is an independent bookstore?

An independent bookstore, also called “indie bookstore” is a retail, independently owned book shop. Usually small businesses, these are not part of larger chain bookstores.

Q: Why do independent bookstores matter?

Independent bookstores are important because they support the local community’s economic health. Most of them build long-term relationships with authors by hosting events for them and customers by giving personalized recommendations.

Q: How many independent bookstores are in NYC?

While the exact number of independent bookstores in New York City is unknown, it is home to the most of the 300 in the United States.

Q: Which are queer bookstores in NYC?

Queer-owned independent New York bookstores include Bluestockings Cooperative Bookstore and The Ripped Bodice.

Related Blog Posts

Author’s Biography

Gerry is the editor and founder of Dominican Abroad, a popular travel and culture blog that shows people how to travel meaningfully, highlighting cultural gems and unique experiences. Follow her on Instagram @DominicanAbroad.

Sharing is caring!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *