Bookstore Reviews // Lower Manhattan

Introducing a new feature: bookstore reviews! Book reviewing slows down quite a bit for me during the school year, since I don’t really have time to read (I’ve been perusing The Godfather since the start of September) and when I do I’ve usually read so much stuff for school that by that point I just want to binge watch Friends, but I still love books and spend a lot of my free time visiting bookstores (and studying in them, but that’s an entirely different topic). I have the privilege of spending my college years in New York City, which features some of the best bookshops in the world, and I plan to explore at least fifteen bookstores this year alone. Feel free to let me know if there’s a bookshop that I missed or that you want to hear more about!

Alabaster Bookshop

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122 4th Avenue, New York, NY (nearest subway stations are the Q, N, 4, & L)

The Alabaster Bookshop is located literally right around the corner from its more famous and also independently-owned neighbor, The Strand, but The Alabaster Bookshop is much smaller, quieter, and more academic. Books are stacked haphazardly in piles and on shelves, many of which focus on philosophy and classics. The lights are bright yellow, and there’s Buddhist and/or Asian-inspired decor all around. It’s tiny, but efficient, with books stacked all the way to the ceiling. Their sale cart is also fun to check out, and features some more contemporary picks. Price range: mid-range to pricey, except for the sales cart.

Recommended for fans of philosophy, used bookstores, and independently-owned bookshops.

The Strand Bookstore


828 Broadway, New York, NY (nearest subway stations are the Q, N, 4, & L)

The Strand, perhaps the most well-known bookstore in New York City, is known for its famous “18 miles of books,” along with its popular tote bags, post cards, and pins, which feature the likes of Michelle Obama and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, as well as feminist declarations and old-timey maps of the New York subway system. The Strand is three floors, and readers are sure to find something that interests them. Probably not the best bookstore to go to if you have a more conservative ideology, though, but I guess you could ignore all the non-bookish merchandise. Price range: average for an indie bookstore, but there are some good finds, especially on the sales carts on East 12th Street.

Recommended for fans of all genres, political and bookish postcards, pins, and totes, and 18 miles of books.

McNally Jackson Books


52 Prince Street, New York, NY (nearest subway stations are the R, W, B, & D)

McNally Jackson is located on the most beautiful street in Nolita, and has a wide selection of books, and a wonderful shelf of recommended popular fiction. Great reading spots are scattered throughout the store’s two levels, and the literature is well-organized, with different sections of the store dedicated to different genres. Well-lit and modern, it’s less than a block from the Basilica of St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral in one direction and Housing Works Books in the other. It also has a cute attached cafe, complete with floating books hanging from the ceiling and study nooks next to a wall of book pages (photocopied, not ripped out, of course). If its cafe isn’t your style, there are plenty of eateries nearby. Price range: average for an indie bookstore.

Recommended for fans of popular fiction, book décor, and Prince Street.

Housing Works Bookstore Cafe


126 Crosby Street, New York, NY (nearest subway stations are the B, D, R, & W)

Housing Works Bookstore Cafe is just a few blocks from McNally Jackson books, and features a selection of used books, CDs, and records. Housing Works is a great study spot, with tables scattered throughout the bookstore, most around the cafe area with some on the balcony overlooking the rest of the bookstore. All the proceeds from Housing Works stores goes toward aiding the homeless and those with HIV/AIDS. They also accept donations of books, if you’re looking to unload some older reads (they accept ARCs!). It’s a nice place to visit and shop, and is located just a few steps from the B & D trains. Price range: reasonable mid-range, all used books.

Recommended for fans of social justice advocacy, used bookstores, and bookshop-cafes.

Any other bookstore recommendations in Lower Manhattan?

2 responses to “Bookstore Reviews // Lower Manhattan

    • Glad you enjoyed the post! Unfortunately, I just heard that McNally Jackson Books is moving soon and I’m not sure when the new location will be opening/the old location will be closing, but I hope you get to see it on Prince Street at least once!

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