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Friday, November 02, 2007

NYC Bookstores

(Updated 2017.01.25 – Removed Brooklyn's Book Court, which closed its doors permanently on December 31, 2016.)
Here's my list of the Top 10 Bookstores in New York City for books on architecture and urbanism. The list includes a web page link (if available), address (all shops in Manhattan, unless noted otherwise), description, and one or more "finds" made at each. I'll admit my tastes veer to the used and the cozy, two qualities that bookstores definitely shouldn't be afraid of.

At bottom is a list of all the independent, non-antiquarian, non-collegiate, non-specialized (cookbooks, children's books, travel, etc.) bookstores in NYC that I know of (though I've yet to visit them all...yet), as I assume no one needs help in finding or learning about chain bookstores. I hope this list is helpful for those living in and/or visiting the city. I'll try to update it as needed, and please comment or e-mail if you notice omissions or errors.

  1. McNally Jackson Books, 52 Prince Street (between Lafayette and Mulberry): This two-story space with cafe in Soho/Nolita has an excellent selection of architecture books that has gotten bigger and better, carrying titles by publishers not found in other bookstores; likewise for its selection of periodicals on architecture. I'm looking forward to their expansion into Williamsburg, set for fall 2015. (Find: Translation from Drawing to Building by Robin Evans)
  2. Strand Bookstore, 828 Broadway (at 12th Street): No surprise here, as it would be difficult for the store with a self-proclaimed 8 miles of books not to have a great selection of architecture books, not to mention good selections of books on landscape architecture and urbanism. Most helpful is their website search, which allows new and used books alike to be researched before wading through the many shelves of architecture books. (Finds: Good City Form by Kevin Lynch, File Under Architecture by Herbert Muschamp)
  3. Kinokuniya Bookstore, 1073 Sixth Avenue (between 40th and 41st Streets): The Japanese bookstore's new location across from Bryant Park is a three-story space with a large selection of Japanese and English-language books, magazines, as well as Japanese tchotchkies and a cafe. The architecture selection is solid with hard to find titles from Japan alongside domestic and European releases. (Find: Casa Brutus)
  4. MoMA Design and Book Store, Midtown: 11 West 53rd Street (between 5th and 6th Avenues), Soho: 81 Spring Street (at Crosby Street): It would be surprising if MoMA didn't have a quality choice of books on architecture; unfortunately the best selection isn't at Spring Street, which removed many of its bookshelves ca. 2015, or the 53rd Street storefront, but on the second floor mezzanine inside the museum, where a $25 fee gains you admission (free admission is on Fridays after 4pm). (Finds: AMP Arquitectos monograph)
  5. The Skyscraper Museum, 39 Battery Place (at First Place): This small gift shop features merchandise related to the museum, but also a good selection of architecture books ranging "from the theoretical to the aesthetic, of interest to everyone from the novice to the connoisseur." Admission to the museum is not necessary for a visit to the gift shop.
  6. Spoonbill and Sugartown, Booksellers, 218 Bedford Avenue, Brooklyn (at 5th Street): While the used books in this Williamsburg shop can be a bit overpriced, especially when it comes to illustrated books, the selection can be really good. Perhaps this level of quality stems from the people that frequent the shop and bring in books, but some of it can be attributed to the book buyers; I brought in some books to sell once (some decent books, from what I recall), but they turned them all down. (Find: Design with Nature, 1st edition, by Ian McHarg)
  7. Book Culture, 536 West 112th St. (1/2 block east of Broadway): Located close to Columbia University, this two-story store naturally caters to academia (meaning the best time NOT to go is the start of terms when the store is turned upside down to cater to students and professors), though it carries a really good selection of new titles on architecture and urbanism, with many remainders at low prices and the occasional used gem. (Find: Production of Space by Henri Lefebvre)
  8. Mercer Street Books, 206 Mercer Street (between Bleecker and Houston): While the architecture section of this Greenwich Village used bookstore has steadily dwindled the last year or so, some top-notch titles can still be found, perhaps stemming from the architects that live or work in the area. For me, a trip to this store also means a visit to the nearby Housing Works Bookstore, a great place to browse and have a cup of coffee. (Find: Wrapper: 40 Possible City Surfaces for the Museum of Jurassic Technology by Robert Mangurian and Mary Ann Ray)
  9. Mast Books, 66 Avenue A (between 4th and 5th Streets): This small store has a tiny selection of books on architecture and design (they have a larger selection of art books), but what they have is very well curated, especially for a used bookstore. Books lean toward academic titles, though coffee table books are also in abundance. (Find: Alvar Aalto: A Critical Study by Malcolm Quantrill, Alvar Aalto by Karl Fleig)
  10. East Village Books, 101 St. Mark's Place (at Avenue A): This used bookstore obviously located in the East Village is a great spot for academic titles, probably due to the proximity of The Cooper Union, NYU and The New School. They don't have a lot of architecture titles, but what they have had on previous visits was pretty solid. I've yet to buy any architecture books there though, since their prices for illustrated books are pretty high.
Tied for 11 (while these don't have "top-10"-worthy architecture selections, they excel as places to "make finds" in other subjects or just hang out):

THE FULL LIST (NEW: # in parentheses is approximate linear feet of books devoted to architecture and urbanism, a work in progress. Also I've added a designation for what each store sells: NEW, USED, RARE, etc.):


  1. And another one bites the dust... #10 Park Slope Books is slated to close later this year.

    I liked the list but I was disappointed that Court Street's Community Bookstore didn't make the list... I'm convinced that it contains every book you may desire. You just have to dig through every random, nicotine stained pile to find it.

  2. Park Slope's closing? I noticed 7th Avenue books next door is closing soon (if not already, and changing owners, if lucky) though I didn't know about Park Slope closing.

    I've been to Community Bookstore once and can't say I found much while wading through the piles of old books. The architecture section was definitely slim and on the "home and garden" end of things, though the social science area did have some stand-outs, as I recall. It reminded me of a place in Chicago that seemed ready to cave in on itself. Good thing books aren't part of a code inspection...or are they?...

  3. Labyrinth Books is now Book Culture and is between Broadway and Amsterdam, not west of Broadway but east of Broadway.

    1. These are two different places. One is on the West Side of Broadway at 114th. The one (two stories high) is on 112th between Broadway and Amstersdam.

    2. The one on Broadway was added later, something I didn't put yet in the list. Thanks for pointing it out. I'll add it soon.

  4. You missed The New Museum Store. They have a great selection and the design of the Museum itself is a beaut.

  5. Thank you for this list. I have made some great finds because of it.

  6. Hey there, I have a bunch of new and very good Architecture books.
    Any recommendations as to which store gives the best bang for your buck when it comes to selling?

    1. The only stores I have experience with for reselling are Strand Bookstore, Book Culture, and Spoonbill and Sugartown. I would not recommend Spoonbill and Sugartown (they were snobby and didn't take any of the books I brought them, ones that I thought were a good fit for the store...otherwise I wouldn't have lugged them there); Book Culture is good for trades (they give more in trades than cash); Strand only deals in cash, and their prices were close to the ones I had in my head before bringing them to the counter.

      Ones I haven't dealt with that would be worth looking into are P.S. Bookshop (like Spoonbill and Sugartown their prices are high, so they might give a good bang for the buck), Mercer Street Books (when I'm there and they're dealing with customers bringing in books, they seem to be at least reasonable), Alabaster Bookshop (small bookstore near the Strand that has a decent architecture selection), and Argosy (they deal with fine and rare books and with large libraries).

      In general it seems like bookstores pay 25% of the cover price for a book, unless it's worth more for some reason (out of print, signed, rare).

  7. Thanks for sharing this list. It is very to me usefull since I´m going to NY in Spring. I´m an architect who teaches and practices in Santa Fe, Argentina.


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