The Big Apple


Since I live in New York and I write about books I guess it’s time that I share some of my favorite bookstores  and libraries in New York.  Truthfully, much like everything else in NY, your location dictates your taste.  I have spent most of my time here living and working in downtown Manhattan so all of my favorite places are there.  Although Manhattan is a relatively small place (basically 10 mi by 2 mi) it takes longer than you might expect to get from one end to the next and there is usually no reason to go outside your five block radius.  Every five blocks in New York has everything you might need and probably 5 of some things (convenience stores come to mind).   So while the Upper West Side or Brooklyn Heights may have some wonderful bookstores, chances are I don’t know about them.  I plan to update this list as time goes on and will make a special effort to explore new bookstores and libraries as I pass them.  So stay tuned, this list is not final yet.  Without further ado, in alphabetical order, here are some bookstores and libraries to check out next time you’re in NY:


Bookleaves; 304 W4th (at Bank)                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                This might be one of the most quaint used bookstores in NY.  It’s tiny and in the middle of the West Village with books stacked on top of each other.  Very close to Magnolia in case you’re in the mood for a cupcake with your book.

East West Books; 78 5th Ave (btw. 13th and 14th)                                                                                                                                                                                                            This is what might be described as a “new age” bookstore with lots of crystals and books about healing, mysticism and angels.  Whether or not you are in the market for this type of literature (nonfiction?) it’s a very entertaining place where a friend and I once spent over an hour reading excerpts to each other from various books on “fairies.” (yes, with wings like Tinkerbell from Peter Pan). 

Strand Bookstore;  828 Broadway (at 12th street)                                                                                                                                                                                                              Ah the Strand, the origin of the favorite canvas tote bag of the yoga crowd.  The Strand is a giant used bookstore that isn’t your typical chaotic used bookstore.  There are out-of-print and rare books that you would be hard pressed to find in one place anywhere else all carefully catalogued and shelved by knowledgeable employees.  I once bought a book here called Rift and Revolt in Hungarywritten in 1961 about the 1956 Hungarian revolution.  Not sure even Google knows this book exists.

St. Mark’s Bookshop; 31 3rd ave. (at 9th)                                                                                                                                                                                                                              This is in NYU territory so is a type of college bookstore, which makes it a little more academically oriented than your average bookstore.  They file books by topic not author, which makes for interesting browsing and also have an excellent selection of off-beat magazines.

Three Lives & Company;154 W. 10th street (at Waverly Place)

This is another really cute Greenwich Village bookstore.  It’s relatively small with an excellent selection of fiction and books stacked from floor to ceiling.  When I was in there last time one of the customers was having a heated debate with the proprietor about books on the theater and it was clear this was not the first time they had been through this topic.  It is a charming, neighborhood bookstore of which there are very few left these days.


The NY Public Library has dozens of branches.  Here are a few that I have visited or that have been recommended to me by friends:

Jefferson Market Library; 425 6th Ave (at 10th).

The New Amsterdam Branch;9 Murray Street (btw. Broadway and Church)

Science, Industry and Business Library; 188 Madison (at 34th)

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