by Jaylynn Korrell
Hop on your bikes and buses. Brooklyn, New York has an indie bookstore for everyone.
*A version of this blog post was originally published on Earth to Jay.
Brooklyn has long been home to some of the most notable writers of our time. Even contemporary authors like Jhumpa Lahiri, Jonathan Safran Foer, and Emma Straub have chosen to live in this popular New York borough of New York at one time, so you could probably imagine how great Brooklyn’s literary scene must be. During an amazing day of walking and driving around the city, Joe and I saw firsthand that Brooklyn offers an abundance of great indie bookstores to browse.
In terms of both quantity (there are over twenty!) and quality, Brooklyn exceeded expectations and proved to be an incredible city for the literary community. They have it all — from holes-in-the-wall bookshops to grand open spaces with natural light to spaces with thousands of titles to peruse. Overjoyed would be an understatement to describe our feelings walking through each of these stores a few weeks ago. It took a while, but we were able to make it to over a dozen stores and found ten of them that we loved and would recommend.
Here is that list, in no particular order.
If you’re planning a trip to Brooklyn, don’t leave without checking out these great bookstores in Brooklyn, New York!
1. Mcnally Jackson
From the outside, it’s almost impossible to tell how large and beautiful McNally Jackson’s is. Set on a quiet warehouse street in Brooklyn, this shop is easily one of the most gorgeous bookstores I’ve ever seen. With an open floor plan and high ceilings, it enraptures you with visual appeal but keeps you there with its wide variety of books.
Somehow, they’ve figured out a way to make every single book on the shelves look like the one you need to learn more about. They have a wide selection of all genres, many indie press books, and even a nice variety of magazines to look through.
2. Unnameable Books
This tiny bookstore features mostly used books, but it has new titles available as well. Their selection varies because so many books are bought from the community, so it could make for a really fun bookstore discovery day.
When browsing the shelves, we found tons of cool titles, old and new. There were also plenty of books by indie presses and even some that were signed by local authors, which I really enjoyed browsing.
3. Greenlight Bookstore
🎵Give me the green light🎵
After seeing this bookstore, I could tell that John Legend was talking about this shop when he wrote it. Greenlight Bookstore was one of the many highlights of this trip. In addition to their popular displays and eye-catching kids’ section, they also had this amazing collection of indie press books from the picture above.
This section grabs your attention as soon as you open the front doors, and since we stan the indie bookstores that put this type of work front and center, we couldn’t help but add Greenlight Bookstore to one of our favorites from the day.
There’s even a second location in Brooklyn! Check those people out over at 632 Flatbush Avenue (at Fenimore), Brooklyn, NY 11225.
4. Book Thug Nation
Book Thug Nation is a cute little community space/used bookstore in the Williamsburg area of Brooklyn. Focusing on used literary fiction, this shop fits a lot of books in a small place at really affordable prices. It’d be a great spot to wander around for a while and find out which books the community has been reading over the years.
5. Desert Island
If you’re looking for comic books in Brooklyn, Desert Island is the place to go. Their plywood shelves are filled with the coolest, classic, popular, and self-published comics across many genres and storylines.
With experimental and underground art filling the walls, this colorful comic store will be a haven for those looking to increase their comic book intake.
6. Books Are Magic
What’s better than a bookstore that is owned by an author? If anybody understands the amazing things a bookstore offers a community, it’s the one who is writing the books!
Books are Magic is owned by Emma Straub, the author of great fiction like Modern Lovers and The Vacationers. She and her husband, who also live in the neighborhood, created a literary slice of heaven with Books are Magic. The store is spacious, has a ton of cool author events, and also has a really awesome mural outside for all you #bookstagrammers out there.
*Bonus! On your way to the bottom floor there is a poetry gumball machine, where you put in a quarter and get a cute little poem. How sweet!
7. Spoonbill & Sugartown
Walking into this bookstore felt like taking a step back in time. If Kerouac and Ginsburg were to run in there, you better believe they’d love what they found. With a collection of poetry, literary criticism, and classics prominently displayed, we felt that it offered a really well-defined Brooklyn mood that we could get behind.
Spoonbill & Sugartown feature a mix of used, rare, and brand new books. They handpick their selection in hopes that you can find the book you’re looking for, but also be drawn to pick up something that you may not have expected.
Quimby’s gave off some serious occult vibes, and we were into it! Creepy things hung on the walls like preserved insects and funky art, all designed to prepare you for their book selection which give off a similar vibe.
This bookshop describes their title selection as unusual publications, saucy comic books, and aberrant periodicals–so get ready for an interesting mix. Every item in the store demands your attention. Oh, and they do tarot card readings in the back!
9. Powerhouse on 8th
Powerhouse on 8th has a great mix of books and book-inspired gifts. The store sits on a cozy street that is great for walking, and then once you get inside, you can appreciate the brick walls surrounding the carefully curated book selection.
From the outside, it looks a bit like a gift store, but on the inside you’ll see that their relatively small collection still includes some great titles, even including small press gems like Emerald City by Brian Birnbaum. They have a terrific kids book section which takes up the majority of their second floor, too.
10. Community Bookstore
Community bookstore feels like walking into someone’s literary-focused living room. The lights are kinda low, the shelves are black, and the back of the store looks out onto a small patio and a beautiful little garden. To make it even homier, this is the only bookstore (that I saw) that had a very sleepy resident cat in the aisles! Talk about homey.
Community Bookstore is known for their many events that aim to bring the community together, and their selection of new and rare books. This is the kinda place where you bring a coffee, chill, and feel right at home.
*Bonus Bookstore Alert*
This is the only all-poetry bookstore not just in Brooklyn, but in all of NYC! I couldn’t get this list out there without mentioning it, even though we weren’t able to make it on our trip. But Berl’s specializes in indie press chapbooks and books! Talk about a shop that tugs at our indie heartstrings.
Visit them at 141 Front St, Brooklyn, NY 11201
And that’s all you’re getting from me this time! Have you been to any of these stores before? Which is your favorite?
About the Author
Jaylynn Korrell is a nomadic writer currently based out of Pennsylvania. Follow her blog at EarthToJay.com.
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