Williamsburg, Brooklyn is a delightful microcosm of all that’s trendy with today’s millennials. To our UK-based readers, it is to New York what Bristol is to, well, all of England. The area has vegan cafes, record stores, poetry events, and five unique and wonderful bookstores.
While the bookstore as a retail space is not faring so well across the whole of the US, in Brooklyn these five bookstores contain every kind of literature you could possibly require, from the newest released to rare second-hand finds; from leftist political theory to Korean cookbooks. Each of these stores is absolutely worth a visit if you’re ever in New York. Take an afternoon, visit Williamsburg, and indulge in some bookish goodness.
Located on Metropolitan Ave, this Brooklyn Bookstore focusses on a niche selection of liberal fiction and non-fiction. Here you’ll predominantly find current affairs books categorised into race, LGBTQ, NY interest, and even a punk section.
The store is filled with excellent little trinkets available to buy, from tote bags to enamel pins, mugs, and more. These items proudly brandish slogans such as ‘Kittens Against Trump’ ‘Black Lives Matter’, and other topical or book-related quips. The store also features some badass wall art.
Around the corner from Quimby’s is Ben’s Books, a quaint and darling little space – a single room dedicated to the prettier side of literature. In this shop you’ll find big books on art and art history, as well as a poetry section, books on sex and sexuality, essays, and some really really nice editions of sci-fi classics. Pretty much this book is tailor made to students, stocking whatever seems to take the booksellers’ fancy.
Classical music gives ambience to your browsing; the sell tarot cards and tamagotchis by the counter, and there’s even a small collection of vinyl for sale!
Spoonbill & Sugartown
Yes, this is the best bookstore name ever.
Located next to a shopping space in Brooklyn known as The Mini Mall (which also houses thrift stores, Coco bubble tea, and a tattoo shop), this is a kind of jack-of-all-trades bookstore, selling newly-released and popular contemporary fiction, as well as used books.
A little less niche, a little more traditional, Spoonbill probably has what you’re looking for. The most charming moment from our own visit to the store was overhearing a father and his elementary school-aged son discussing and comparing the writing styles of George Orwell and Maya Angelou. What a darling moment I wish I could have bottled.
Actually part of a collection of four independent bookstores around Brooklyn and Manhattan, McNally Jackson is easily the largest and most like your typical bookstore, but that certainly does not mean it is without its charm.
This bookstore houses everything you’d expect, with the newest fiction in hardcover taking pride of place as you enter. What is absolutely fantastic and honestly worth celebrating about this store, however, is its categorising choice: they organise their books by region!
If you’re looking for Latin American, Middle Eastern, or East Asian literature, it’s all organised by area. With more and more readers seeking literature from beyond their own borders and language (hence the existence of this very site), this could not be a more welcome sight. Simply brilliant. They also do staff recommendations on little tags (like our favourite Bath-based bookstores – Mr. B’s Emporium and Topping & Co. back home in England).
Book Thug Nation
Perhaps I spoke too soon when I crowned the best bookstore name.
Book Thug Nation is a quiet little space packed with exclusively used literary fiction. The lovely young lady behind the counter informed me that this store prioritised the buying and selling of classical fiction, award-winning books, literary fiction – basically, anything with real merit, for lack of a better term. The store even has a section for independent comic books from publishers like Image and Top Shelf.
While I was there, I grabbed a used copy of A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole. Happy reading!