With the days getting colder and shorter, it’s the perfect time to never leave your apartment, wear fuzzy pajamas 24/7, and curl up with a good old fashioned book or five.
Or, if you’re not exactly the reading type, you undoubtedly know someone who is, and it being the holiday season, you’re likely hustling to finish present shopping, mmm?
We visited all 25 of Brooklyn’s independent book shops to help you locate the hardcovers and paperbacks on your to read list as well as some unexpectedly wonderful finds.
All photos by author unless noted
The Bookmark Shoppe
8415 3rd Ave.
The Bookmark Shoppe is the only independent book purveyor in Bay Ridge.Although there’s no indication from the outside, in addition to The Bookmark Shoppe’s literary offerings it also has a large selection of knitting supplies for sale. There’s also a large children’s section.
Better Read Than Dead
Tucked into an alley off Broadway, Better Read Than Dead is a repurposed shipping container peddling unique used titles. To wit: any five foot human could lay down and span the entire width of the store, with no room to spare. What the bitsy shop lacks in width it makes up for in selection: Don’t miss the vintage Philip K. Dick novels and their stock of zines.
987 Flushing Ave.
Looking to cast a circle, build an altar, or read some tarot? Catland’s your one stop shop for all things witchy. This occult bookstore is rather unassuming from the outside, but within there’s a wide range of spell books, crystals, candles, and other supernatural accoutrements. Probably the borough’s biggest selection of Aleister Crowley titles under one roof, too.
770 Hart St.
Famous for it’s barter-based business model, where books can either be bought or traded, Molasses has quite the random assortment of titles. Come here expecting to find…well, the opposite of whatever you expected to find. The bartering system also extends to the coffee, beer, and wine selection, so trading in your old titles can either get you some new ones or a free drink (or three.) If you’re a freelancer, Molasses is a quiet oasis with a few tables scattered about and Wi-Fi on the house.
658 Franklin Ave.
If you’re walking down Franklin Ave. with your nose buried in your iPhone, you might miss Hullabaloo, an adorkable shop both in size and decor. The interior feels like the perfect mix of someone’s personal library and a place of business. Their selection gives a sampler taste of the best of recent publishings. Another highlight is the tchotchkes dotted amongst the shelves. Their “Pay As You Wish” cart is also a must-browse.
7518 13th Ave.
Inside Boulevard, the floors and bookshelves alike are made of dark wood. The robust selection of fiction, nonfiction, and kids’ titles makes it a lovely place to browse. Extra points for the fireplace reading nook.
1067 Flushing Ave.
If you’ve got time to kill, Human Relations is an infinitely browsable outpost of used titles. Once you step onto their well-worn carpets, you’ll most likely be overwhelmed by the sheer volume of inventory. If you’re shopping for a bookworm, head over here for your choice of out-of-print classics (the hardcover Capotes especially are quite charming.)
Books Are Magic
225 Smith St.
Owned and operated by author Emma Straub and her husband Michael Fusco-Straub, Books Are Magic is a recently opened bookshop and community hub. The staff are warm, and magical touches like their poetry gumball machine make you feel the love for all things literary. Shoutout to the cozy book nook in their children’s section, a hit with any tyke toddling by it.
Columbia Waterfront District
123 Columbia St.
This quirky used bookstore is nestled amongst the small strip of revitalized storefronts on Columbia St., and it’s cozy and rickety in the best way possible. Here you’ll find typewriters living in the stacks amongst the books and a generously-sized reading area. Freebird boasts floor to ceiling shelves packed with titles from a variety of fun, hyper-specific genres including Bad Titles, Unfortunate Author Photos, and the Shelf of Apocalypse.
28 Adams St.
This gigantic Dumbo literary outpost is worth visiting just for the unique, multi-level architecture inside the store. Here you’ll find a generous assortment of current bestsellers, art books, and more. For the full Arena experience, try visiting after hours for one of their blockbuster book events.
Melville Publishing House & Bookstore
46 John St.
This teensy storefront is also the front of Melville Publishing House. Beyond the bookshelves you can glimpse employees at work, along with what looks to be a truly baller conference room. Pick up a little of everything on the fiction and nonfiction spectrum; the “Last Interview” series is on heavy rotation. If nothing else, visiting here is an “only in New York” sort of experience.
686 Fulton St. & in Prospect Lefferts Gardens at 632 Flatbush Ave.
A well-rounded indie spot, Greenlight is one of the bigger shops on this side of Fulton St. They’ve made the most of the space with expansive sections for all subjects and a particularly impressive selection of graphic novels. Their front table is a go-to, where you’ll find all manner of local titles and new releases. If you’re addicted to journals, Greenlight’s got an insane amount to choose from.
126 Franklin St.
Greenpoint’s only independent bookstore has been in operation since 2007, making 2017 it’s 10th anniversary. Their 1,000-square-foot blueprint hosts a heady assortment of paperback fiction and nonfiction. Stationery geeks are sure to strike gold here. Our favorite? The thank you cards with Tom Hanks’ face, which read “T.Hanks” (of course.)
Here’s A Book Store
1964 Coney Island Ave.
Family owned and operated since 1975, Here’s A Book Store is best shopped by only the most determined and experienced browsers. Their jam-packed shelves are two-booksdeep in titles, both new and used. If you’re interested in Judaica, a sizeable selection awaits you here. After all, Here’s A Book Store supplies twelve area yeshivas.
Community Bookstore & Cafe
43 7th Ave.
This Park Slope mainstay is well-appointed and sure to please any browser who comes in, with or without a title in mind. Be sure to say hello to Tiny the Usurper, their infamous shop cat. The backyard reading area is a Shangri-La in warmer weather.
Powerhouse on 8th
1111 8th Ave.
If Pinterest gave birth to a bookstore, Powerhouse on 8th would be it. Housed inside a bright, airy loft on Park Slope’s 8th Avenue, the curated displays feel special and look attractive. While you’re picking up the latest coffee table book, you can get a Hermione Granger-inspired tote bag reading “When In Doubt, Go To The Library”, or browse from a selection of enamel pins and other giftable items. The children section is browsable (read: low to the ground) for pint-sized shoppers. Make sure you browse their “New York Times Most-Snubbed” table for recommendations you wouldn’t get elsewhere.
Stories Bookshop + Storytelling Lab
458 Bergen St.
The only children’s bookstore in the borough, Stories Bookshop + Storytelling Lab is a cheerful addition to the plethora of shops popping up on Bergen St. If your tykes are interested in writing, they can take classes at the Storytelling Lab, located in the back of the store. Children’s handwritten recommendations dot the shelves, which is impossibly cute.
600 Vanderbilt Ave.
This unassuming new and used bookstore is unique in that it buys back titles from its customers, meaning bookworms can support their habit by selling back books for cash or credit. Arguably, the best feature of Unnameable is the bulletin board located to the left of the cash register. There you can peruse an eclectic mix of handwritten letters, old publisher communications, and other literary detritus.
289 Van Brunt St.
Pioneer Books is hands-down the smallest of Brooklyn’s independent bookstores. It’s attached to Pioneer Works, a neighborhood nonprofit dedicated to fostering creativity in the arts and sciences. The selection inside Pioneer Books is a reflection of the nonprofit’s mission.
242 Prospect Park West
A second branch of sorts for Park Slope’s Community Bookstore, Terrace Books stocks a selection of rare titles behind a very narrow storefront. With brick walls and a blonde wood floor, its tastefully minimal displays and selection of used and new books are easily browsable and not cramped. The kids section here is smaller than at most shops, but there’s still ample stroller space – and it’s decorated with a beautifully-detailed chalkboard mural. The display cabinet by the front is definitely worth a look (can you say first edition Joan Didion?).
Spoonbill & Sugartown Books
218 Bedford Ave.
Spoonbill & Sugartown has been a mainstay of the Bedford Ave. shopping district since 1999, which makes it a senior citizen of Williamsburg’s small businesses. Here you can browse dozens of magazines you’ve probably never heard of, as well as a comprehensive selection of art, design, and architecture books. Their used section is sizeable, too, as is the greeting cards selection.
536 Metropolitan Ave.
Quimby’s has a delightfully subversive edge to it. Between the wide array of zines, the taxidermy, or the ample stock of cheeky pins, patches, and postcards, there’s a lot of unique items to choose from. The staff are kind and helpful.
540 Metropolitan Ave.
Right next door to Quimby’s is Desert Island, a comic and graphic novel shop. Walking in, you’re greeted by a riotous rainbow of color from both the inventory and the interior decor. Everything is here, from Marvel and DC to Archie and Disney comics. They also rep smaller artists and independent publishers.
Book Thug Nation
100 N. 3rd St.
Hiding on North 3rd among the luxury condos, this small, well-organized used bookstore is a breath of Williamsburg circa 2009. New Yorkers will not only appreciate the depth of their inventory but also the wide aisles that are so rare in local retailers. It’s a welcome respite from the increasingly fancy shops popping up in the area.
64 N. 9th St.
Brooklyn’s largest record store is also a live venue and coffee shop. The best feature is hands down the second floor catwalk with its robust number of rock ‘n roll history, music theory, and New York titles to choose from. Here you can get things like the original UK edition of Morrissey’s “Autobiography” or all the books you ever wanted on Joan Jett and the Beatles. (To boot, the people watching from the catwalk is A+.)