Greenlight, designed by architect Frederick Tang, offers a tremendous fiction section, a roomy children’s nook (wisely set apart from the rest of the stacks), and lots of coffee-table books on street art, hand-built bicycles, and other such Brownstone Brooklyn preoccupations. Readings draw on the neighborhood’s sizable author population. 686 Fulton St., nr. S. Portland Ave., Ft. Greene; 718-246-0200.
The unapologetically hip two-month-old shop comes complete with aloof clerks and jagged music, as well as very strong fiction, art, and film selections. The sections are unmarked, which can lead to the odd head-scratcher (how did The Beat Reader land next to The Crisis of Islam?), but puzzling out the order is part of the fun, as is the presence of so many unexpected gems. 66 Ave. A, nr. 5th St.; 646-370-1114.
Last year, Chris Doeblin and Annie Shapiro opened the second Book Culture on the site of the former Morningside Books (and, before that, Papyrus Books, which incidentally is where Doeblin got his start in the eighties). While the original Book Culture, two blocks south, caters largely to the Columbia U. crowd, this one is more mainstream, aimed at locals outside the halls of academe. 2915 Broadway, at 114th St.; 646-403-3000.
Many hard-core comic-book stores emit a kind of radiation that repels non-fanboys, but Desert Island, which opened in 2008, manages to appeal both to Comic-Con junkies and to casual readers. There are the small-press comics and Dash Shaw prints, but also twenty-year-old packs of Garbage Pail Kids (complete with fossilized gum) and punk-rock ’zine anthologies. 540 Metropolitan Ave., nr. Union Ave., Williamsburg; 718-388-5087.
Facing a rent hike on the store he was running on Bergen Street, last year Adam Tobin moved to a heavily foot-trafficked block of Vanderbilt. Business at this shop—which offers an idiosyncratic mix of new and used books, most notably fiction, art, and poetry—has boomed ever since. 600 Vanderbilt Ave. nr. St. Marks Ave., Prospect Heights; 718-789-1534.
Book Thug Nation
The name suggests an overdose of hipsterism, but it’s actually a reference to the seven years Book Thug’s co-founders have spent selling books on the street (which they still do at North 6th and Bedford). The small shop, opened last fall, specializes in used fiction but offers a decent selection in art, film, bios, and pulp paperbacks. Coffee and tea are always free. 100 N. 3rd St., nr. Berry St., Williamsburg; no phone.
Idlewild is nominally a travel bookstore, but instead of trafficking in the usual Frommer’s fare, owner David Del Vecchio, a former U.N. staffer, selects and organizes fiction, nonfiction, and, yes, travel guides, by region. It’s catnip for the peripatetic reader, who might find an Audubon guide to African wildlife sharing shelf space with Edith Wharton’s In Morocco. 12 W. 19th St., nr. Fifth Ave.; 212-414-8888.
Open Air Modern
Artist Matt Singer ran a weekend book market on Metropolitan Avenue in Williamsburg before demand became so great he opened a brick-and-mortar shop last August. Inventory includes vintage furniture, plus used art and printed curiosities, ranging from a signed 1965 edition of David Heath’s A Dialogue With Solitude ($750) to an illustrated book about seabirds ($12). 606 Manhattan Ave., nr. Nassau Ave., Williamsburg; 718-383-6465.
A rent spike flushed the former Biography Bookshop to a new store a few blocks east last winter. The new space is comparable in size, if a touch sterile, and houses an excellent selection of remaindered books, plus enhanced mystery and cookbook sections—the latter a hit with the foodies mobbing nearby Murray’s Cheese. 266 Bleecker St., nr. Morton St.; 212-807-8655.
In May, owner Yuval Gans left his digs down the street for this big corner space in the shadow of the Brooklyn Bridge. The east wall is devoted to indie magazines and books in the art realm. Amid the inner labyrinth of fiction and nonfiction titles, there’s a kids’ area, and a small but quality selection of signed first editions. 76 Front St., at Main St., Dumbo; 718-222-3340.
The cramped but cheerful three-year-old shop has a solid stock of fiction, nonfiction, and kid’s books, alongside cards and stationery. Word hosts events in-store and at nearby bars, and runs a basketball league strictly for book nerds. Seriously—you have to take a test to be eligible. 126 Franklin St., at Milton St., Greenpoint; 718-383-0096.
Like its Grand Central location, Posman’s new Chelsea Market store is rather Borders-like in looks, but the general-interest selection is deep, the staff is sharp (the prison classic Hard Rain Falling is an inspired summer-reading pick), and the food-related book events are popular among the Market’s gourmands. 75 Ninth Ave., at 15th St.; 212-627-0304.
Boulevard Books & Cafe
South Brooklyn’s two-month-old Boulevard is a welcoming shop, featuring commendable fiction and cooking sections and a kids’ area with flattened animal seats. The book club already attracts dozens of locals, and a coffee bar and crafts area are in the works. 7518 Thirteenth Ave., nr. 76th St., Dyker Heights; 718-680-5881.