NYC Bookstores

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), and my brief description. 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 -- the few that remain, at least. 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 me if you notice omissions or errors.

First posted November 2, 2007
Updated December 10, 2021

THE TOP 10:
  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. They opened a branch in Williamsburg, with an equally good selection of architecture books, in 2017.
  2. Rizzoli, 1133 Broadway (at 26th Street): The new location for Rizzoli, which was booted out of its old 57th Street townhouse, is almost grand and ornate enough to make one forget its previous lodgings. Architecture and other design books are in the back, where talks also take place. The selection, though all new, is deep, with titles here that I haven't seen at other stores in the city.
  3. 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. The best selection isn't at Spring Street, which removed many of its bookshelves ca. 2015, but at the newly expanded museum, where browsing the supersized gift shop doesn't require admission.
  4. Kinokuniya Bookstore, 1073 Sixth Avenue (between 40th and 41st Streets): The Japanese bookstore's 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.
  5. Strand Bookstore, 828 Broadway (at 12th Street): No surprise here, as it would be difficult for the store with a self-proclaimed 18 miles of books not to have a great selection of architecture books, not to mention good selections of books on landscape architecture and urbanism. The pandemic has considerably downsized the selection of architecture books on their shelves, both in quality and quantity, leading me to knock the Strand down a few spots. Hopefully they will reverse that trend in the future.
  6. 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, but it's only $5 and worth going in to see the SOM-designed space as well as the current exhibitions.
  7. 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.
  8. Mercer Street Books, 206 Mercer Street (between Bleecker and Houston): While the selection of architecture books in some used bookstores diminished during the pandemic, as selling/buying decreased or disappeared, a recent visit (fall 2021) to Mercer Street Books revealed a large and varied selection of architecture books and magazines, the last including many issues of Quaderns and other publications that are probably more sought after than the usual newsstand title.
  9. Mast Books, 72 Avenue A (at East 5th Street): 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.
  10. Argosy Book Store, 116 East 59th Street (Between Park Avenue and Lexington): Occupying a couple bookshelves by the register at the front of the store, the architecture section tends toward titles on classical rather than modern architecture and carry high price tags, but some finds at reasonable prices can be made. There are more books upstairs, but they are employee-only access, at least during the pandemic. All of the books in stock are on the website, so if you don't see it on the shelf it might be upstairs.
Eleven tied for 11 (While these don't have "top-10"-worthy architecture selections, they are bookstores I visit whenever nearby, and they excel as places to make "finds" in other subjects or just hang out.):

THE FULL LIST:
Header image is my photo of Van Alen Books (RIP) in 2013.