Ordering a book online should seem like a strange idea to you as you walk around New York. Every neighborhood has its own special spaces for bookworms to unite and add something new to their reading lists.
While there's an abundance of local bookstores you can support in the city, here are a few that have caught our eye:
The first thing you’ll want to do is look up. Albertine’s ceiling is sure to take your breath away. The spread of constellations, stars, and planets is an homage to Franz von Stuck’s mural in the music room of his villa in Munich.
Located within the Payne Whitney mansion, Albertine opened in 2014 and has over 14,000 books (in English and French!) lined along its magical interior. Albertine’s founder, Antonin Baudry, envisioned the bookshop as a place to give yourself up to fate and make a connection with someone, like you might at a café in Paris or Madrid.
You can find helpful information about directions, hours, and more on their website. In addition to Albertine, there are several other spots in the city where you can experience a bit of France in New York.
A featured stop on Gesso and SoHo Memory Project’s SoHo walk, Housing Works is a volunteer-staffed, non-profit thrift store, bookstore, and cafe. All proceeds go to help unhoused people living with HIV and AIDS. Housing Works is usually open Monday-Saturday from 12pm-7pm and Sunday from 12pm-5pm, but check their website before you go.
“I love this bookstore because to me it embodies the spirit of old SoHo. It’s run by and for the community. The interior of the store is magnificent, with its dark wood bookcases and spiral staircases up to a mezzanine. I often sit up there with friends and books on rainy afternoons,” says Yukie Ohta, founder of the SoHo Memory Project.
Hear more from Yukie as she narrates the stories behind iconic storefronts, street art, and more in our SoHo audio walk.
Yu and Me Books
A featured stop on Chromic Duo’s Listen to Chinatown walk, Yu and Me Books is the first Asian American female owned bookstore. Founded by Lucy Yu and located at 44 Mulberry Street, Yu and Me Books opened in 2021 and has become a literary and community hub. Check out their website for the latest updates and hours. They host seriously cool events throughout the year like this Simu Liu book signing!
Reflecting on the bookstore’s opening, Lucy says, “I wanted to do things for communities that look like me – immigrant communities. Our immigrant communities can come together and find a lot of connection with each other.”
Imagine all of the knowledge, literature, and art that comes from cultures different from ours. Perhaps you too will find your own special sense of belonging among these books.
Bluestockings Bookstore was founded in 1999, and it’s the only radical feminist independent bookstore in New York City. Opened at a time when bookstores across the country were shuttering against economic pressures from giants like Amazon, Kathryn Welsh and a collective of female intellectuals saw a need for a feminist book seller in Manhattan.
Shortly after opening, the bookstore went under, only to be resurrected in 2003 as the Bluestockings Fair Trade Organic Activist Resource Center. Today, the store is run by a democratic collective under an anti-oppression framework.
You can find the latest information about what they're up to on their website.
WORD Bookstore is a testament to the idea that local bookstores are still local fixtures within the community. Since 2007, WORD has purveyed best sellers, hidden literary gems, and the occasional temporary tattoo created by local cartoonists.
Owner Christine Onorati is a big believer that a bookstore is more than just a collection of volumes. WORD has become a beloved community hub.
Hours, events, staff picks, and more can all be found on their website.
If you’re looking for a new book to read, here are a few recommendations from our team! These books served as inspiration for several of our audio walks.
To accompany our Brooklyn Bridge audio walk, our audio producers recommend:
The Great Bridge by David McCullough
To accompany our East Village audio walk, our audio producers recommend:
Devil’s Mile: The Rich, Gritty History of the Bowery by Alice Sparberg Alexiou
In the Fascist Bathroom: Punk in Pop Music, 1977-1992 by Greil Marcus
Just Kids by Patti Smith
Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk by Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain
The Downtown Pop Underground by Kembrew McLeod
To accompany our Williamsburg audio walk, our audio producers recommend:
Subculture: The Meaning of Style by Dick Hebdige
The Last Bohemia: Scenes from the Life of Williamsburg, Brooklyn by Robert Anasi
Discover hidden gems and explore local history in New York with Gesso, a GPS triggered audio tour app - browse audio tours!
Which NYC bookstore is your favorite? Share your adventures with us @gesso.app on Instagram.