Exploring NYC’s charming bookstores on the weekend activates your mind and creative side. You can plan a New York book crawl and sprinkle in some cocktails throughout your journey too!
Maybe it’s the season or our love for exploring small bookstore nooks. Or, maybe it’s because we recently chatted with former Webster guest and author, Kayla Cagan, that has us thinking about how great NY bookstores are.
Either way, we hope you’re just as inspired as a guest at The Webster Apartments to plan a New York book crawl with our suggestions below.
How It Started
Full disclosure – this blog was going to highlight independent bookstores in NYC until we had a chat with one of our friends and former Webster guest, author Kayla Cagan. Kayla recounted her days with us fondly and how she and her friends would venture out on book crawls.
The Webster was my cozy home away from home when I lived in New York, and nothing made me feel more at home than being surrounded by books. When I moved to the city and discovered The Strand, the small bookcase in my room was soon populated with used and new releases. The poetry and stories of Manhattan were not just on the streets, but within arm’s reach. It was a time for abundant live readings and author appearances, indie and traditional bookstores, The Webster library and my bookcase. How lucky for me!” -Kayla Cagan
In fact, Kayla has written two books centered around budding artist, Piper Perish. And her second book in the series, Art Boss, nods to her time at Webster! You can pick up your copies of Piper Perish and Art Boss at some of the bookstores below, or order here.
[Photo by Chronicle Books, used with permission of the author]
The Strand is first on our list because you can spend an entire day getting lost in the stacks. Their main location is 828 Broadway at 12th Street, so you can easily walk there from Webster. The Strand has been family owned and run for 94 years! You will also want to check out their popular gift shop and live events. In fact, Kayla’s love of The Strand came full circle when she did a reading of Art Boss there!
Left Bank Books is nearby The Webster Apartments, at 41 Perry Street, between West 4th Street and Waverly Place. Left Bank Books is the place to go for their eclectic selection of books, first editions, and signed author copies. A book lover’s dream! The owners’ love of books, exhibits, and events makes them a favorite amongst locals and collectors. You can shop in person, or online here.
The Drama Bookshop recently relocated to 266 West 39th Street (between 7th and 8th Avenues). New co-owner Lin-Manuel Miranda and partners worked with Hamilton scenic designer, David Korins to design the new space.
Before you go see a show in the Theater District, pop in to check out the “bookworm” (seen in the photo below). You will be impressed by the timeline of plays suspended from the ceiling forming a bookworm!
[Source: The Drama Book Shop on Instagram]
Rizzoli Books is a literary landmark, located at 1133 Broadway in the NoMad neighborhood. Their stunning six-story townhouse is home to a variety of collections of books. Additionally, you can check out their calendar for upcoming author signings and events.
McNally Johnson Books has four charming locations to check out (Lolita, Seaport, Downtown Brooklyn, and Williamsburg). The image below definitely illustrates their cozy allure. And be sure to check their calendar of events for author visits and readings!
[Source: McNally Jackson Books on Instagram]
That Big Bookstore
This list isn’t complete without a tried-and-true, reliable, big name store.
The Barnes & Noble in Union Square the largest bookstore in Manhattan with four floors of literature. Because of its size, you will want to make stop here when staying in NYC. Authors frequently do speaking events there, so be sure to check out their calendar of events to see if anyone catches your eye.
Lastly, we have some free options!
NY Public Library for Performing Arts is located near Lincoln Center. And it’s home to works in theater, film, dance, music, and more. You can browse the library and check out their list of live events here.
The Center for Fiction is known for its celebration of fiction and for hosting literary events and readings. They host book groups and offer writing workshops as well as offer an extensive fiction library to their members.
Support NYC Independent Bookstores
We’ve given you our list to help plan a New York book crawl, each with distinct characteristics that make them special. We encourage you to shop locally and support independent bookstores when you can. And if you’re purchasing books for holiday gifts, now is the time to do so. The pandemic has unfortunately slowed down the printing process for many publishers and authors.
There’s something special about bookshops during the Fall and holiday season. Fall more in love with the city while spending an afternoon getting lost amongst the stacks!