I’ve been wanting to go to Brooklyn ever since I read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn in college. It’s still one of my favorite books and was the inspiration behind my recent trip to the popular New York City borough. Though I’m sure I’ll be making many trips back to Brooklyn for other reasons, this trip was planned with the sole purpose of visiting all of the amazing bookstores in Brooklyn. From Williamsburg to Park Slope and with well over a dozen bookstores to choose from, I reluctantly narrowed it down to a few stand outs.
I’ve been to at least a hundred independent bookstores in America, but I felt intimidated when I first started thinking about all the bookstores in New York. This place has been a literary hub for so long, and I want to do it justice. In reality, there’s just no way to get to see all the bookstores NYC has to offer in one day. That’s why i decided I’d break my bookstore trips up into boroughs, and Brooklyn was at the top of my list.
When I googled bookstores in Brooklyn I was amazed at how many options came up. For just a section of New York City, Brooklyn had a ton of amazing independent bookstores to visit, and it took us an entire day to see them all. The ones in this list really wowed me and would be a great addition to any Brooklyn tourist’s itinerary. Here are 5 must-see bookstores in Brooklyn!
1. Books Are Magic
When one of your favorite authors opens up their own bookstore, you don’t ask questions–you just try to get there. I’ve been eyeing this place since Emma Straub opened it in 2017 and can’t believe I finally got to visit. Straub, who is the author of Modern Lovers and The Vacationers, opened this bookstore with her husband and created a wonderful addition to the Cobble Hill neighborhood that they also live in.
My hopes were extremely high for this place, and it exceeded all of my expectations, which is why I put it at the top of this list. Books are Magic is everything that a community centered indie-bookstore should be, and more. It has ample space, even more than the above photograph (that’s just the downstairs), and so many great books to choose from. They have tons of author events and a lot of signed books in the store to prove it!
*They even had the coolest little vending machine where you can get a poem for a quarter!
This little hole in the wall is full of quirky charm. When I walked in, I was overwhelmed (in a good way) with the smell of incense burning and funky art on the walls. It’s decorated with dead flowers and boxed up dead insects, which make it feel both dark and welcoming. The vibes in this store are peculiar, and so are the titles they carry.
“I really want to carry every cool – bizarre – strange – dope – queer – surreal – weird publication ever written and published and in time Qvimby’s will. Because I know you’re out there and you just want something else, something other, something you never even knew could exist.”Steven Svymbersky
Don’t expect to find the most recent best-sellers in this store. Their book selection includes independent zines, comic booklets and other unusual publications. Everything in Quimby’s feels uniquely hand-crafted and original. Speaking of unique things, they also do tarot-card readings in the back.
3. McNally Jackson
McNally Jackson was the largest of all the indie bookstores I visited while in Brooklyn, though it doesn’t look like it from the outside. The main entrance makes it appear like a small shop that’s just apart of a larger warehouse. But looks can be deceiving.
Walking in McNally Jackson feels like a breath of fresh air as the store immediately opens up into pretty huge space. The ceilings are incredible high, and the front wall is made up of mostly windows so they get tons of natural light.
They arranged their shelves in a way that made every book look like the one you should reach for. Plus they had a lot of books that I’ve reviewed over at Independent Book Review, which is always nice to see. They also had a large variety of literary and regular magazines.
You can definitely chill at McNally Jackson. Upstairs they had a cozy area to sit and read in, and overlook the store and there were a few chairs nestled throughout the shop to take a break in.
4. Powerhouse on 8th
Powerhouse on 8th was one of the last bookstores I visited during my day in Brooklyn. We almost skipped it, and when we did walk up on it, my guy didn’t think it looked like a bookstore at all. But this bookstore was a pleasant surprise.
“Look at everything always as though you were seeing it either for the first or last time: Thus is your time on earth filled with glory.”Betty Smith, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
This is a place you should go to if you love book inspired gifts just as much as the books themselves. They’ve got books by local authors, indie books, NYT best sellers, and all the knick knacks that go with them. They also have a ton of awesome kid-friendly books and items. I dunno, I just liked it in here. It was well curated, and it felt good to be there.
5. Unnameable Books
Unnameable Books was my favorite of the used bookstores that we went in. I love used bookstores because a majority of their selection reflects the community, since that’s who they’re buying their books from. And the overall vibes from the selection at Unnameable was smart, cool, and homey.
But they didn’t only have used and older books in this store. They had a good selection of new books, some from prominent authors who live in the neighborhood (which is so cool!) and then some of the more standard, popular new books.
This shop sits on a popular street, and it is next to a few other cool stores, like the awesome bakery next door. This bookstore is pretty small, so you can’t hang out there too long, but the bakery next door is a great place to read the book you bought at Unnameable and pig out on cheesecake and coffee!
That wraps up my bookstore list for Brooklyn. Overall, I think Brooklyn had the most quality bookstores of any city I’ve been to so far. There are usually a few duds mixed in with the greats in any city, but that just wasn’t the case. If you’re visiting Brooklyn and you’re a book nerd like me, check out some of their event lists beforehand. Most of these bookstores have tons of events lined up like author readings, signings, and community gatherings, so don’t miss out!
If you want to hear more about the bookstores in my blog, stay tuned to Independent Book Review in the next few weeks for my expanded list of best bookstores in Brooklyn. And If you like checking out cool and independently owned bookstores around America, check out some of my other bookstore blogs!