Five Small Bookstores You Need to Know About


Sarann Spiegel, Staff Writer

While Ms Ross advocates for use of the Baruch library on the fifth floor, plenty of Baruch students (myself included) enjoy writing in their books and making them their own. And despite the ease and accessibility of the many Barnes and Nobles scattered across the city, sometimes you want to go somewhere smaller, somewhere more personal and better at uplifting indie writers.

Check out these five small(er) bookstores downtown that just might fit these criteria… and maybe you can collect a few complimentary bookmarks along the way.

1. Posman Books – Chelsea Market
At the south end of Chelsea Market, Posman Books burns bright. The first few tables vary in genre, from classics to cookbooks to memoirs, with stickers and magnets on display by the entrance. Further back, the south wall blends from poetry to books in Spanish to musical criticism to biography to realistic fiction. Children’s and Young Adult novels are stacked between toys and stuffed animals along the north wall, and tables filled with popular novels sit in between.

What makes Posman Books special is the pure maximalist array of tote bags, decomposition notebooks, and, of course, books. The location also gives it an extra edge, as you can browse for your next read while eating gelato from L’Arte del Gelato or after throwing a penny in the waterfall and making a wish. Posmanis the easiest to waste time in while admiring every little detail that makes it special.

2. McNally Jackson – 134 Prince Street
Having moved slightly west from their previous SOHO location, McNally Jackson’s new store by West Broadway is a labyrinth of books. I’m personally a big fan of the exposed pipes along the ceiling and metal under the stairs that give the store that perfect NYC-industrial NYC look. McNally Jackson not only sorts books into expected genres but divides them along country borders, making it easy to find that new book by your favorite Irish author – just check the Irish Literature section!

Recently, McNally Jackson has started printing their own editions of books by indie authors, all of which have gorgeous covers. They also had an April Fool’s shelf when I stopped in and a shelf of indie poetry books (all of which were the size of my palm) that aren’t even listed on Goodreads. In addition to all of this, McNally Jackson’s stationery offshoot Goods For The Study can be found by the front of the store. Out of all the stores on the list, this one may be the most dangerous for your wallet.

3. Three Lives & Company – 10th and Waverly
With its signature red doors, Three Lives is bound to catch your eye. The indie bookstore in Greenwich Village has been around since 1968. About the size of a living room, books are organized by genre on shelves throughout the store, with new hardcovers at the front and general fiction at the back.

While this isn’t the biggest bookstore, it has undeniable character. What Three Lives lacks in stock, it makes up for in personnel. Asking for a book recommendation earns you a passionate response and a kind farewell after a purchase. Three Lives is best for a personable exchange that leads to a unique pick landing in your bag.

4. Codex – 1 Bleecker Street
The Oxford Dictionary defines a “codex” as “an ancient manuscript text in book form”. A bedroom-sized store snugly placed between a coffee shop and a bar, Codex feels as ancient as its name suggests. One long bookshelf divides the store in half with a display table right by the cashier. Stripped of any decoration, the store is still overwhelmed by the towering stacks of both new and used books.

This is not the store to come to if you have a specific book in mind. While classics are relatively easy to find at Codex, be prepared to discover books you’ve never heard of, as well as indie classics. To shop here is to stand on your tiptoes or crouch down to try and read a title – while also trying to let someone walk between you and the narrow aisle. It is, however, the place to go if you want to read something unknown.

5. Housing Works Bookstore – 126 Crosby Street
Last but not least: Housing Works. Best known for their advocacy for those affected by HIV/AIDS through use of social enterprise businesses to fund the community, the Housing Works Bookstore is only one part of that effort. If you thought searching for books at Codex sounded difficult, the HWB is a different beast; despite being separated by genre, titles are often not quite organized alphabetically by author, and there is no assurance that a certain title will even be there.

Despite the drawbacks, though, the HWB is a great option for any reader. Anyone into the whole “Dark Academia” aesthetic will feel at home among the mahogany wood and towering stacks of books. Furthermore, a mezzanine wraps around half the store to supply more room for all their books. You’ll likely find classics with unique covers or old photos stuffed between pages. Buying secondhand books is better for the environment and for your wallet, and your cents work towards helping to end homelessness and AIDS, so it’s money well spent.

Happy shopping!