Printed Matter bookstore

Previously, we rounded up some of our favorite bookstores in Manhattan and Brooklyn. Today, we’re consolidating them into a Foursquare list of the top 10 independent bookstores in New York City. These fantastic shops range from expansive, popular, and event-holding general interest megastores to teensy, artsy, niche-genre literary joints. Hopefully you’ll find a new reading spot from our list, but we encourage you to check out all of these amazing stores for the unique experience that each offers!

BookCourt (161 Court Street, Brooklyn): A large yet cheap (30% off all bestsellers!) store, BookCourt recently expanded to include a back room that doubles as an event space. Literary giants such as Junot Diaz often drop by this shop. Upcoming visitors to the store include Tao Lin (Taipei) and Colum McCann (Let the Great World SpinTransatlantic).

Bluestockings (Allen Street and Stanton Street, Manhattan): This Lower East Side shop isn’t afraid to take a stance on issues and offers both formal and informal readings pertaining to feminism, LGBT studies, race politics, etc. The store’s website also mentions “alternative menstrual products.” Not sure what this means, does anyone want to visit and report back to us? 

Forbidden Planet (13th Street and Broadway, Manhattan): Mostly a comic book and graphic novel store, Forbidden Planet sells your standard übernerd fare: manga, action figures, gaming equipment, etc. But the store also carries some great genre literature. For instance, just the first page of the sci-fi section of the website’s online store contains titles like A Princess of Mars, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and a discounted 60th Anniversary Edition of 1984.

McNally Jackson Bookstore (Prince and Spring Streets, Manhattan): This bookstore aspires to be “the center of Manhattan’s literary culture,” and it has largely succeeded. With its successful events series and the honor of hosting the official book signing for the annual New Yorker festival, McNally Jackson keeps itself busier than most bookstores. If you’re ever in SoHo, be sure to drop by and see for yourself this neighborhood landmark.

The Mysterious Bookshop (Warren Street and W. Broadway, Manhattan): The Mysterious Bookshop tries to scare off readers with signs that read, “Nobody shoplifts from a store that knows 3,214 ways to murder someone.” Still, we doubt that the store itself is actually so intimidating since it now holds the honor of being the only remaining all-mystery bookstore left in the city. Genre-readers, check this one out!

powerHouse Arena (37 Main Street, Brooklyn): This DUMBO bookstore and event space is situated like an amphitheater, making it appear large, open, and for lack of a better word, epic. So epic was powerHouse Arena that, after incurring damages from Hurricane Sandy, the store made a full recovery utilizing fundraisers despite having no flood insurance. The Arena then held a photo exhibition that showed the store’s devastation by Sandy, provoking visitors to rethink global warming and the limitlessness of human togetherness.

Printed Matter (231 11th Avenue, Manhattan): This arts store seeks to promote “artists’ publications,” and functions more as a gallery than as a bookstore. The books displayed and sold here are often works of art in and of themselves, and even the more conventional works are informational volumes that take the artistic media very seriously. For visual art enthusiasts, this store is truly a must-see!

Unnameable Books (600 Vanderbilt Ave, Brooklyn): Prepare to be overwhelmed by this one. This Prospect Heights store that specializes in poetry and zines has a massive collection of books that is sometimes a bit unorganized. Still, Unnameable is here to stay, as it has embraced its quirky indie reputation. It was once depicted on the cover of the New Yorker, a tribute that showed just how beloved Unnameable Books was to Brooklynites.

Van Alen Books (30 W. 22nd Street, Manhattan): Van Alen is a shop that specializes in architecture books, and it shows. The space is modern, and the store’s centerpiece is a grand, almost lego-like yellow staircase. Although the store only has a rather small collection of books, its mission to establish connections between architecture and physical books is admirable. We applaud Van Alen for standing its ground and encourage you to visit.

WORD (126 Franklin Street, Brooklyn): And lastly, we have WORD, a Greenpoint bookstore that is all about community and passion for books. From WORD’s website: “Why should [you] visit WORD? Because books are the repository of all that is good in this world, and we love them, and we love you.” Amen. Also, families should check out WORD’s great YA and kids’ events.

Check out our other fun lists on Foursquare. Get in touch with the author @YiinYangYale.