Brooklyn is the land of books, from the wonderland of Park Slope and the display tables of Spoonbill & Sugartown — permanently outfitted with offbeat titles — to the stacks of paperbacks adorning Williamsburg’s cheekily named Book Thug Nation. When it comes to readings, events, festivals, and troves of small press books Brooklyn is unmatched. The only real challenge to readers of Brooklyn is finding an apartment large enough to accommodate your library. Below is a shortlist of 10 bookstores worthy of Brookyn’s population of writers, students, and voracious readers.
Word is Greenpoint’s destination bookstore, with a top selection of buzzed-about titles as well as an excellent YA and children’s book section (readers of science fiction and fantasy will also appreciate the “Speculative Fiction” section). There are regular events held in Word’s dazzling basement and always top-notch Employee’s Picks too.
Perhaps the most eccentric and community-minded bookstore in the borough, Unnameable (with a small spelling quirk) is named for Samuel Beckett’s novel The Unnamable. As you’d expect from a bookstore with such avant-garde credentials, Unnameable’s proprietors stock this used-and-new bookstore with poetry, micro-press fiction, and bizarre finds that make perfect gifts for those with a taste for the outlandish.
Spoonbill & Sugartown will always be Williamsburg’s literary heart; it is as well known for architecture and art books as it is for its table of under-the-radar masterpieces and oddities. Almost always crawling with patrons, Spoonbill manages to run the gamut between must-have new releases and to hard-to-find used titles; you can often find signed books and artifacts from the Grove Press era as well.
It’s now been several years since Greenlight opened its doors, but this Fulton Street bookstore still feels new. Despite boasting the borough’s best hardcover section, this independent-minded bookstore also curates a table of small press titles and chapbooks. As one of Brooklyn’s largest bookstores, it also hosts well-attended readings year-round, with high-profile draws like George Saunders and Teju Cole.
This Bushwick bookstore is really so much more. Not only a café and poetry-world nexus, Molasses is probably the only bookstore in the tri-state area where you can actually barter your used books for theirs, making it a community library in addition to a next-level bookstore and café.
Ah, the Community Bookstore! From incarnation to incarnation, this Park Slope indie has remained the beloved (and animal-friendly) pulse of the neighborhood for decades. Though mascot Gomez the Lizard is dearly departed, there’s plenty of reason to while away an afternoon at this cozy locale, which stocks nearly every book under the sun and is renowned for its backroom, where you can catch author readings and join tight-knit book clubs.
Greenpoint’s culinary bookstore Archestratus is more than a cookbook store (although they have an incredible stock of cookbooks from every era and gastronomic predisposition), it’s a meeting ground for well-read eaters where one can find fiction and nonfiction relating to food — even The Grapes of Wrath! Archestratus proves itself part of its community with regular dinner parties and a welcoming staff happy to advise your next feast.
This one’s exclusively a used bookstore but whata used bookstore. Find inexpensive paperbacks side-by-side with rare first editions and winding shelves of fiction, theory, and science fiction. There’re also usually crates of old records to pore through.
POWERHOUSE Arena is Brooklyn’s neighborhood of DUMBO main event space, which is not to say that their shelves are devoid of interest, there’s plenty of new and even gift books to snag while you’re enjoying a reading or event.
At last, a little taste of the Bay Area in Brooklyn! Quimby’s is an anarchy-flavored indie that specializes in dissident, small press, zines, and cult books. Besides a multitude of titles by queer authors and racks of chapbooks and primers, this quintessential Williamsburg hot spot (next door to the Desert Island comic store) usually stocks a complete collection of the books of Jim Thompson, which belong in every crime fan’s library.