They say that
New York City is the city that never sleeps, and that's probably because it's been up all night reading. When I moved to New York, I knew I'd be in the heart of the literary world, but I didn't quite realize exactly how amazingly bookish this city is until I lived here. Sure, NYC is the center of publishing, but the book love goes much beyond the publishers and authors that call this city their home. Every corner of the city is buzzing with literary marvels — from tiny used bookshops to old haunts of famous authors to places featured in your favorite books.
This list is long, yet somehow it doesn't even come close to being exhaustive. New York City is filled with so many great treasures for the literary-minded, that it's impossible to list them all. (It's a great problem to have; I know.) Below, read up on some of the absolute literary must-sees. Whether you're here for just a visit or you're in it for the long haul, you'll find that New York City is overflowing a with unique bookstores, beautiful libraries, literary monuments, and old haunts of famous authors.
It's good to be a book nerd in NYC. So go out, and paint the town
The New York Public Library
The central branch of the
New York Public Library, at 42nd Street and 5th Ave, is such an iconic spot it's been the location of more than a few literary weddings. Boasting beautiful architecture, luxurious reading rooms, and fascinating exhibits, this monument to literature is an absolute must-visit on any trip to New York City.
The literary hub of New York City,
Strand Book Store boasts "18 Miles of Books." The staff of Strand seriously knows their sh*t, so it's absolutely necessary you stop to check out their recommendation tables. Plus, they host amazing events nearly every night — check their calendar for all the details.
Housing Works Bookstore Cafe
Housing Works Bookstore Cafe is a nonprofit, all-donation bookstore, run by volunteers, with proceeds benefitting people affected by homelessness and AIDS — which means that every time you buy a book or a treat from the cafe, you're doing a really good deed. Plus, the bookstore is gorgeous, filled with cheap and amazing finds, and has a full schedule of super cool events. (Full disclosure: I work here, so I'm a little biased.) The Algonquin Hotel was the famous meeting place of the legendary Algonquin Round Table (aka the Vicious Circle) of the Roaring '20s — a coalition of writers, editors, and critics that counted Dorothy Parker, Harold Ross, Robert Benchley, Franklin Pierce Adams, Heywood Broun, Alexander Woollcott, Harpo Marx, George S. Kaufman, Marc Connelly, Edna Ferber, and Robert Sherwood among its members. You can still drop in for a meal or a drink — or you can rent a room and spend the night in a historic literary destination.
Every September, one of the
largest book festivals comes to life in the center of downtown Brooklyn. The entirely festival features an amazing line-up of authors and a huge marketplace of booths to explore. The festival itself is one day only, but the week preceding it is filled with stellar "book end" events all over the city. Mark your calendars STAT.
The Morgan Library and Museum
Poets House is a 70,000-volume poetry library and literary center that's free and open to the public. A beautiful space that features fantastic events, this is a must-visit for anyone with an interest in poetry. Drunk Shakespeare is, well, exactly what it sounds like. In this wildly entertaining performance, one actor tosses back five shots of whiskey, then attempts to act the lead their troupe in a performance of a Shakespeare play. It's rowdy, literary, and hilarious — what more could you want?
If you're into children's or YA lit, you
have to visit Books of Wonder. A bookstore entirely dedicated to young readers, this place is basically wonderland.
Astoria Bookshop is one of Queens' most beloved spots. This gem of a bookstore has exactly what every book nerd needs, including a book club and fantastic readings. The Drama Bookshop is heaven for anyone who loves plays. This friendly store features a huge collection of plays, the shop also has great events with playwrights and authors.
Literary Walk / Poets Walk in Central Park
The Literary Walk (also known as the Poets Walk) is part of The Mall, one of Central Park's iconic features. Not only is the path beautiful, but it features statues of writers you probably know and love, including Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scot, Fitz-Greene Halleck, and William Shakespeare.
Nestled in DUMBO, the
Powerhouse Arena is one of the premiere spaces for author events in the city. This huge venue and bookstore is packed with tons of A-list events every week. WORD Bookstore is a wonderful indie bookstore that will make your bookish heart smile. With locations in Greenpoint and Jersey City, WORD is one of the most accessible bookstores in the city. Plus, it's cute AF and they hosts tons of amazing author events.
Bowery Poetry Club is a classic poetry performance space that hosts readings and events every week. Greenlight Bookstore is a cheery bookstore with two locations in Brooklyn. A lively atmosphere featuring world-class author events, this is a store you could spend an entire day in. Community Bookstore is one of my personal favorite spots. This cozy bookstore in Park Slope features comfy chairs to read in, a piano, a nice garden, and even a bookstore cat.
A literary/music cross-over, every month
The Bushwick Book Club picks a book and invites musicians to perform original pieces about that book. (Seriously — what could be cooler??) Three Lives & Company is a gorgeous little bookstore tucked into Greenwich Village. If you're lucky enough to stumble upon it, you'll definitely get sucked in for an entire afternoon of shopping and reading.
The Mysterious Bookshop
Mystery-lovers will delight in
The Mysterious Bookshop, which specializes in mystery, crime, and espionage books. Plus, they have a superb collection of rare books. The Minetta Tavern in Greenwich Village was an iconic hang-out spot for famous writers. Its patrons have included Ernest Hemingway, Ezra Pound, Eugene O'Neill, E. E. Cummings, Dylan Thomas, and Joe Gould.
Nuyorican Poets Cafe is a classic open mic and poetry slam spot. Allen Ginsberg once called the Cafe “the most integrated place on the planet.”
Edgar Allan Poe Cottage
Poe spent the last years of his life in
this cottage in the Bronx, located in Poe Park in Fordham. Poe fans can still visit the cottage today!
Alice in Wonderland Statue in Central Park
One of Central Park's most iconic statues is the gigantic Alice in Wonderland statue, certain to delight any Lewis Carroll fan.
Speaking of Alice in Wonderland, every Alice fan should check out this
cute little tea shop inspired by the children's classic. Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
Listen up, nerds,
Forbidden Planet is the store to visit for comic books, figurines, and t-shirts. Bonus, it's right next to Strand Book Store. Cornelia Street Cafe is an artists' cafe in Greenwich Village known for its stellar performances and open mics. A cultural landmark, this is a great place to go to discover some new art.
The Jefferson Market Library
This absolutely gorgeous
library in Greenwich Village is the perfect place to spend a lazy winter afternoon. Denise Ofelia Mangen/The Moth The Moth StorySLAM is one of the best storytelling competitions in NYC. Set in different venues around the city, The Moth is sure to give you an unforgettable experience.
The Public Theater’s Free Shakespeare in the Park
Every summer, The Public Theater presents free productions of Shakespeare plays in Central Park. Is there anything better than Shakespeare under the open night sky? FYI: you do have to
The White Horse Tavern was a hot-spot for Bohemian writers in the '50s and '60s — including Dylan Thomas, Bob Dylan, James Baldwin, Norman Mailer, Jim Morrison, and Hunter S. Thompson. Legend has it, this is the spot where Dylan Thomas drank his last whiskey.
Unnameable Books is the magical sort of place used book lovers dream about. The best part? The store posts all the treasures found in their books on a special wall.
Dorian Gray Tap and Grill
Allison Joyce/Getty Images News/Getty Images Dorian Gray Tap and Grill is a literary-themed bar in the LES, supposedly opened by the great-grand nephew of Oscar Wilde. With literary decor and drinks named after famous authors (including Virginia Woolf, Tennessee Williams, and Charle Bukowski), this Irish Pub is a fun stop for any bibliophile. Marie Angle/Bluestockings Bluestockings is a volunteer-powered and collectively-owned radical bookstore, fair trade cafe, and activist center in the LES. They specialize in feminism, queer and gender studies, global capitalism, climate & environment, political theory, police and prisons, race and black studies, and radical education. (I don't think you need me to tell you why that's freaking awesome.)