A Book Lover’s Guide to Brooklyn

There are very few things I enjoy as much as walking into a bookstore. There are so many worlds to explore in one place, so many opportunities for joy with the crack of a spine and the turn of a page. Luckily for me, my home borough is packed with bookstores and public libraries with shelves full of new stories to get lost in. With the pandemic slogging on for months on end, reading has never been a more important escape. In this post, I have compiled a list of independent bookstores throughout Brooklyn. What I love about these places is that each spot has its own unique identity, its own quirks and curiosities. From a much-loved cat named Tiny to unmatched collections of rarities, these shops are just as diverse and fascinating as the borough they are scattered throughout.

Read on for a the list of shops (which by no means claims to be complete), organized by neighborhood…

Bay Ridge
Bookmark Shoppe
This gem, smack dab in the middle of Bay Ridge, offers an array of fiction and nonfiction, as well as an extensive selection of children’s books. Be sure to check out their weekly book club, which meets on Thursday evenings.

Brooklyn Heights
Truman Capote’s House
Not a bookstore, by any means, but certainly a destination for book lovers. Capote lived in the basement apartment of this house (located at 70 Willow Street), and is said to have written some of Breakfast at Tiffany’s here.

Human Relations
Human Relations is a used book store on the border of East Williamsburg and Bushwick. They offer all genres of books, and also purchase used books from those wishing to sell.

Molasses Books
Molasses books is a cozy shop and café that sells used books and even accepts coffee as a form of currency.

Cobble Hill
Books Are Magic
This Cobble Hill destination is owned by the NY Times-bestselling author Emma Straub and her husband. They carry classics, popular new titles as well as hard-to-find works.

Freebird Books and Goods
Freebird Books is a treasure trove of used books and memorabilia. They have fiction and non-fiction works, an extensive number of cookbooks and a particularly wonderful ‘New York’ section.

Powerhouse Arena
Powerhouse Books describes themselves as “a laboratory for creative thought,” and there is certainly much to be inspired by when visiting their stores (3 throughout BK). They do not just sell books, but host events, performances, run a gallery space, and more.

Fort Greene
Center for Fiction
Located right across from BAM, the Center for Fiction supports readers and writers of all levels and areas of interest through discussion groups, seminars, book clubs, readings, fellowships, awards, and workshops. They also have an on-site library and book store with a wonderful selection of titles.

Greenlight Bookstore
This general, independent bookstore has been around since 2009 and now boasts two locations within BK (Fort Green and Prospect Lefferts Gardens). They offer a range of titles as well as book club picks, first edition collectibles and story time for kids, among other options.

Word is an independent bookstore close to the water in Greenpoint. Be sure to check out their book lists, curated lists of book recommendations by themes, as well as their virtual book club!

Archestratus Books + Foods
This shop combines two of the best things: books and delicious food. Archestratus has an extensive collection that covers all the food-related topics you could ever think of, as well as fiction, non-fiction, and more.

High Valley Books
High Valley books is an amazing place for the artistically inclined folks. This shop of wonders specializes in design-related books and magazines, but they also offer a selection of rare books and fiction. To visit, be sure to book an appointment first.

Honey & Wax
This Gowanus bookroom, located right near other local favorites like th eRoyal Palms Shuffleboard Club and Kick Axe Throwing, is open by appointment. They stock rare and uncommon titles, such as an 1805 ‘Thespian Dictionary’ and Tanaquil LeClercq’s cat autobiography.

Park Slope
Community Bookstore
A neighborhood favorite since its opening in 1971, Community Bookstore does not just offer a wide and well-curated selection of books, but they also have a charming garden and a much loved cat named Tiny. In 2013, this operation expanded into another shop on Prospect Park West called Terrace Books, giving us two times the happy.

Powerhouse on 8th
Powerhouse on 8th is run by the same group that runs Powerhouse Arena in DUMBO, and is a great spot to check out for folks in the Prospect Park area.

Prospect Heights
Unnameable Books
Located on St. Mark’s Ave in Prospect Heights, Unnameable Books “buys and sells used and new books.” In addition, they host regular events (virtually, these days) with an impressive roster of literary talent. Learn more on their blog.

Prospect Lefferts Gardens
Greenlight Bookstore
Owned by the same duo operating the Fort Greene shop, this Prospect Lefferts Gardens bookstore east of Prospect Park has something for everyone.

Spoonbill and Sugartown
Being the hipster mecca that it is, its’s no surprise that Williamsburg is home to some great bookstores, with Spoonbill & Sugartown being one of my favorites. In addition to their wide variety of new and used titles, be sure to check out the stand just outside the front door. Many a beautiful art book can be found there, often for just $10.

Book Thug Nation
Book Thug Nation sells an assortment of secondhand items including books, albums and memorabilia. They also host events and gatherings on a semi-regular basis. Check out their Instagram for the most up-to-date information.

Lastly, don’t forget to pay a visit to your Brooklyn Public Library branch if you’re a local. These institutions have worked hard to keep Brooklyn reading throughout the pandemic. While not all locations are open at the moment, books can be reserved and picked up at select locations throughout. Get the details here.

This post was inspired by the wonderful book “A Booklover’s Guide to New York.” If you enjoyed this post, I highly recommend looking into this whimsical and beautifully illustrated publication.