Word on the street: a booklover’s guide to New York City

Posted on 20 March 2013

Call me a nerd, but I love nothing more than a cup of tea and a good book on a quiet afternoon.  In the midst of hectic travel, there’s nothing better than finding a moment to read and quiet the soul.  New York City is a booklover’s paradise, whether you’re looking to improve your own book collection at the city’s top bookstores, or if you’d rather follow the footsteps of great readers and writers alike.

No list of bookshops or book-related attractions for New York City can claim to be definitive and comprehensive, but these are a few of the places I always find myself going back to.

New York Public Library

The most obvious symbol of New York’s readers and writers, the New York Public Library is an institutional part of this city’s framework. Start your visit at the famous Stephen A. Schwarzman building on 5th Avenue at 42nd Street: take a photo with the library lions on the front steps, then wander inside to view the gorgeous reading rooms. Wander back outside with a book and enjoy the shaded café tables in Bryant Park. Don’t forget to check out the library’s website for information on a huge range of educational and entertaining programmes at library locations across the city.

New York Public Library

Don't forget to pose for a photo with the iconic library lions, Patience and Fortitude

The Morgan Library and Museum

While we’re talking about libraries, we can’t forget the Morgan Library. Once the private collection of J.P. Morgan, this former home is now a museum open to the public. Explore the original book collection – highlights include a 15th century Guttenberg Bible, as well as other publications from the early days of the printing press – and then wander through the exhibit galleries. There’s always something new at the Morgan, and their book-related temporary exhibits never fail to amaze me.

The Grolier Club

As you walk along East 60th Street away from Central Park, be careful not to blink or you might miss number forty-seven. Home to the Grolier Club, a private club for rare book collectors, this well-kept secret is a treasure trove. The club hosts exhibits on books and book-related topics in two small galleries, and admission is always free. My favourite exhibit a few years ago featured a collection of artist’s books, or books as art: the highlight was a pop-up alphabet book about opera, where the centre pages featured a 3-D illustration of an integral part of every opera – the intermission!

The Strand

The Strand makes it near the top of the list for many visitors to New York City. Its miles and miles of books is truly a sight to behold, even if you don’t usually include bookshops on your travel itinerary. Pay a visit to their landmark location at 828 Broadway, but while you’re up near Central Park after having visited the Grolier Club, stop in at the famous book stalls at the corner of Central Park East and Central Park South.

Strand Books at Central Park

Take a stroll through Central Park and don't forget to stop to look at the books!

Shakespeare and Co.

No, you’re not in Paris. There’s another Shakespeare and Co. in New York City, with locations across Manhattan and Brooklyn. The store’s cozy atmosphere is home to one of the most intelligent bookstore collections I’ve found in New York City. They also have excellent theatre and film sections, if you’re looking to read the script of a show you’ve just bought tickets to see on Broadway.

Shakespeare and Company, Manhattan

You're near the Hudson River, not the Seine! This Shakespeare and Co. bookstore is at the heart and soul of Manhattan.

Books of Wonder

Everyone is a child at heart, and every reader still loves children’s books. Books of Wonder is easily the best children’s bookstore in town, so head over to 18th Street to buy a gift for your favourite little person. Nothing packs more easily in your carry-on than a storybook! Books of Wonder carries the latest books for children and teens, but they’ve also got an excellent collection of rare and antique children’s books.

Books of Wonder

Relive the past by thumbing through original editions of your favourite childhood reads, then head over to the newer shelves to pick up something for a young reader in your life.

Now comes the best part of your book-fueled adventure: find a good cup of coffee, a cozy chair, and take a break from the hustle and bustle of maps and travel guides to read the afternoon away.

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