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The Best Niche Bookstores in New York

Photo-Illustration: Curbed; Photos: Getty

For an ‘Excavation-Level Experience’

High Valley Books, 882 Lorimer St., Greenpoint; 347-889-6346;

Since 1999, rare-book collector Bill Hall has been running a secondhand bookshop out of his two-story Brooklyn apartment. On the ground floor, Hall keeps a neat, highly curated collection of works including Thornton-edition Brontës and first-edition P. G. Wodehouses. Everything else, thousands of vintage books and magazines (there’s a 1939 Vogue and Flair’s 1950 “All Male Issue”), is in the low-ceilinged, sprawling basement, where Hall will give you a lantern and leave you to explore and read, unbothered. “I always come away with an armful of strange and exciting books I would otherwise never know existed,” says Perrin Drumm, A24’s head of publishing, who most recently left with a complete set of Eros magazines, a booklet for properly identifying and categorizing buttons, a tiki-themed cookbook, and an illustrated series with rhyming advice for newly divorced women. “This isn’t the kind of place where you pop in for a quick perusal — this is a full-throttle, dig-site, excavation-level experience. Spend enough time elbow deep in the shelves and you’ll discover long-out-of-print titles, rare editions, weird one-offs, and back catalogues of fashion, interior, and design magazines from around the world.”

For Shelves Sorted by Animal

Pillow-Cat Books, 328 E. 9th St.; 917-261-7926;

The window display at Pillow-Cat features 1960s animal-themed Japanese Playboys. This is characteristic of the stock: The tiny shop in the East Village is stuffed exclusively with books that are about animals, feature an animal character, or have an animal on the cover art. Inside, on the lime-green walls (painted in tribute to owner Cleo Le-Tan’s father, the New Yorker illustrator Pierre Le-Tan), are shelves organized by species: Cats (Queer Icons and Their Cats and Miss Sniff, the Fuzzy Cat), Horses and Donkeys (The Mules That Angels Ride), and Rodents (Frederick), among others. “They have a particularly strong collection of Japanese publications,” says graphic designer Elizabeth Goodspeed, like Nobuyoshi Araki’s photo book of his beloved cat, Chiro. “Many of them I’ve seen online but never, ever Stateside.” Speaking of cats: The shop has a locked wooden-and-glass cabinet filled with rare, feline-focused books. On a recent visit, museum-development director Grace Astrove found a photography book from 1979. “It’s about cats with jobs,” she says. “It was very funny.”

For Immigrant Stories

Yu and Me Books, 44 Mulberry St.; 646-559-1165;

“It’s a moderate bummer to find that most New York bookstores don’t have a vibe-y place to actually read while you’re there. Yu and Me Books is an excellent exception,” says Delia Cai, senior “Vanities” correspondent at Vanity Fair and author of Central Places. Lucy Yu opened the shop (incidentally the city’s first Asian American female–owned bookstore), located across from Columbus Park in a former funeral-supply store in Chinatown, in December 2021. The space curates a selection of immigrant stories you wouldn’t necessarily find at other bookshops, like Heart of Fire: An Immigrant Daughter’s Story, by Mazie K. Hirono, and The Age of Goodbyes, by Li Zi Shu. And it feels, says Cai, more like a loved one’s living room than a shop—dim table lamps, comfy armchairs, and portraits of Chinatown residents abound. (There’s even a special reading nook with a coffee table and a coat hanger.) “You can sit at the bar and drink a latte and read until like 11 p.m.,” adds Cai. That bar also serves beer and wine (and other drinks, such as “lunar hard seltzer” with plum and yuzu) and is used as a spot to host events, including a reading with Hua Hsu and a “Diasporas Zine Workshop.”

For Hard-to-Find Photo Books

Dashwood Books, 33 Bond St.; 212-387-8520;

David Strettell was working as Mario Testino’s assistant in 2005 when he decided to open Dashwood, a store devoted entirely to photo books. Eighteen years later, the place remains much as it was: a garden-level shop near the Bowery with spare, blond-wood floor-to-ceiling shelves full of contemporary, vintage, and extremely limited-distribution photo books, including a first edition of Luigi Ghirri’s Kodachrome and Gabriele Basilico’s Marocco 1971. The shop also has a robust selection of limited press runs from publishers hard to find elsewhere in the States, like Germany’s Steidl, France’s Editions du Regard, and the U.K.’s Mack. Photographer Tyler Mitchell says that when he was a student at NYU, he would go after class and “spend hours poring through books by Wolfgang Tillmans and Viviane Sassen.” Manager Miwa Susuda, according to filmmaker Yashaddai Owens, has an uncanny ability to recommend books to her longtime customers. “Over time,” says Owens, “Miwa gauges what your interests are through conversations and recommends books — for research or just for your everyday life. She once told me to get a three-volume set by Bruce Davidson. When I came back the next day to buy it, Jay-Z’s estate had taken the entire collection.”

For Queer Authors and Narcan Training

Bluestockings Cooperative, 116 Suffolk St.; 917-409-0440;

Once a month, Nina Haines heads to Bluestockings Cooperative, a queer-, trans-, and sex-worker-run bookshop, to track down texts for her sapphic book club. The blue zigzagged shelves are so stocked with works by queer, trans, and BIPOC authors that Haines can consistently find titles even her very well-versed club members have never heard of — recently, Pleasure Activism, by adrienne maree brown; the anthology Queer Little Nightmares; and Fierce Femmes and Notorious Liars, by Kai Cheng Thom. The staff are savants at unearthing exceptional books. “Sometimes you go to a bookstore and, yes, they have independent books, but the curation feels kind of amateurish,” says professor Rosana Cabán. “Not here. Once, I grabbed Love After the End from the staff-selection shelf — an Indigenous queer love anthology I’ve since recommended to so, so many people.” The shop has a shed in the back for events, among them craft clubs, chest-binder giveaways, and Narcan training.

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The Best Niche Bookstores in New York