For writers and bookworms—New York City is quite possibly the best place in the world to read and write and pay homage to great literary minds. From bookstores to writer-friendly cafes, to literary ghosts, there’s something for every lover of literature. Lots of dark academia, gorgeous historical locations to sit and write away the day. And of course, millions of books…
The Marlton Hotel: A favorite of Beat Generation writers like Jack Kerouac, the Marlton is one of my favorite spots in the city to set up shop and write for hours. Located in the heart of Greenwich Village, non-guests are more than welcome in the hotel lobby, which is super warm and *oaky*, decked out in fashion-y art prints. Dark academia at its finest. It’s cheap enough to sit by the fireplace and order cup after cup of coffee, but if you can spend a little more the bar is also great.
Oscar Wilde: An awesome bar in the Flatiron district, themed to the hilt around the fabulous Oscar Wilde and his writing. Incredibly Insta-friendly, and very very fun. The drinks are literal works of art (tasty too), and the decor is INSANE. Quotes and artwork paying homage to the writer are all over. Great energy all around.
Sleep No More: No longer new, but still oh-so-cool. Sleep No More is a FREAKY quasi-interactive performance of Macbeth at the McKittrick Hotel. They’ve also got a great bar (Gallows Green) you should most definitely go to after the show. It feels like a little woodland paradise. Low-key creepy. The show itself is high-key creepy. The actors are masked, and naked at various points. Definitely a dark, adult, but top-notch performance. If you really want to go for it, smoke a joint before going. You may or may not regret it.
Strand Books: Strand is probably my favorite bookstore in the City, because quite frankly they’re objectively the best. The store is HUGE, spread over four massive floors. They carry more than 2.5 million books, and I’ve spent full days sitting on the ground reading in the maze of bookshelves in the basement (“the Underground”). They’ve also got an amazing rare book room, which carries first editions and odd finds. You can even tell them what you’re looking for, and they’ll keep an eye out for it and call you if whatever it is you want comes in. The one thing I don’t like about this place—I’ve heard from multiple people that the owner is really not good to her employees. Could just be talk, but it does put a slightly bad taste in my mouth. Still, the place is undeniably incredible.
McNally Jackson: If you’re looking for a smaller but still large, well-stocked alternative to Strand, my second favorite bookstore in the City is McNally Jackson. They’ve got multiple locations, all of which remind me of getting lost in Barnes and Noble as a kid but not trying to find my parents because I was enjoying reading so much. MJ is more “light academia”. Comfy and warm, filled with the smell of paper. No complaints. It’s also less overwhelming than Strand.
Bookmarks: Literary-themed bar atop the Library Hotel in Midtown Manhattan. They’re open in the winter, with a warm, enclosed area complete with cozy chairs and a fire to sit by. Cocktails are inspired by classic books. Sometimes they have some pretty good limited-time menu items. Before the pandemic, they had a drink for each Harry Potter house. Cool nerd’s paradise.
The White Horse Tavern: Aside from being a lovely little pub (located in the West Village), and a great place to spend a winter night, the White Horse was a favorite gathering place for bohemian writers of the 50s and 60s. Dylan Thomas was at the bar right before his death, and famously drank VERY heavily here before returning to the famed Chelsea Hotel and falling ill. It’s a myth that he drank himself to death, although the intense binge probably didn’t help. But his ghost supposedly haunts the tavern. The White Horse has a long list of famous patrons, from James Baldwin to Bob Dylan. Definitely worth a visit.
The Algonquin Hotel: Possibly the most famous writer’s hangout in the City, and a classy place to meet a friend or take your parents and hope they’ll pay. They have a $10,000 martini, which is stupid and capitalism sucks…but they also have plenty of semi- reasonably priced drinks. Before the Beat Generation came of age, there was the Algonquin Round Table. Some of the best writers of the early 20th century, like Dorothy Parker and Robert E. Sherwood, gathered here to eat and drink and be charmingly pretentious together. Even today, the hotel maintains a literary bend, and gives out free copies of the New Yorker. Very cool, and still a good place to write and talk books.
Book Club Bar: I discovered this one somewhat recently, and immediately fell in love. Located in the heart of the East Village, the Book Club Bar is what it sounds like—a bar and cafe located in a bookstore. And it’s actually good. This isn’t a run-of-the-mill bar with a bookshelf in the corner. It’s big, by EV standards, and has some super cozy chairs, perfect for reading with a glass of wine. It’s almost like being home (but much cooler).
The Center for Fiction: This place is awesome. So multi-faceted—basically a one-stop book lover’s paradise. In addition to their bookstore, bar, and cafe, they offer classes and workshops, lectures, even kids’ programming. They also provide grants to emerging writers, and have a mission of supporting the literary community of Brooklyn. There’s always something new here, and it’s the perfect place to grow as a writer.