New York City, although relatively tiny geographically, is a massive mecca for coffee-lovers and book worms alike. After spending five years in the big apple, I quickly discovered my favorite local spots to relax and enjoy a good novel (and maybe a cookie or two). There are hundreds of options to choose from, and it can be quite overwhelming upon first visit! But the following hidden treasures are my personal favorites and spots that I still to this day frequent quite often.

Favorite NYC Independent Book Shops

Mast Books

While wandering the east village, you might come across the tiny bookshop, Mast Books. This treasure is a heaven for art-lovers. Their collection of rare and used books on contemporary art, photography, architecture, fashion, and design is astonishing, and I often come in for a quick minute, only to stay way longer than I planned. The artist in me always feels emotionally fulfilled after an afternoon here. Mast buys and sells books, so definitely see if you can sell a few of those art books collecting dust!


Also located on the Lower East Side is a volunteer-supported and collectively-owned radical bookstore. With over 6,000 books on feminism, gender and queer studies, climate change, race and black studies, and political theory, this seemingly-small book shop is powerful and badass. They also have a fair-trade cafe and activism center! With only 13 feminist bookshops in the United States and Canada, this is definitely one to check out.


Just down the street from the towering Flatiron, this large bookshop with its sparkling chandeliers and marble floors, has a beautiful interior, and it was inspired by the classical style of 19th century Parisian town houses. The oak-paneled bookshelves are filled with illustrated and foreign language titles, coffee-table books on design and photography, as well as stationary and magazines. I especially love their New York City section of books and comfy sitting room.

Three Lives & Company

My favorite book shop in Manhattan, Three Lives and Company is a true mom and pop shop that I always visit and support when I plan on buying a new book. The staff is incredibly knowledgeable and warm and chatting with the people there always makes for a delightful experience while I peruse the travel and best-seller sections. This spot is charming to say the least, and I always feel like I’ve stepped back in time.

More Favorite Book Shops….

Although I couldn’t photograph all my favorite book shops, I also recommend the charming mom and pop Brooklyn shop BookCourt in Cobble Hill, WORD (in Greenpoint) and Namaste Bookshop (for my spiritual-minded friends). If you’re interested in browsing rare and antique books and maps, be sure to visit the 1925 family owned, Argosy Book Store. And of course, the “18 miles of books” Strand Bookstore in Union Square.

And with that, a few of my favorite spots to read….

Cafe Reggio

My go-to coffee shop. This is Greenwich Village’s oldest cafe and home to America’s first cappuccino. Located on a side street near Washington Square Park, this tiny Italian cafe is rich with the most traditional Italian cuisine, thickly coated painted walls, Renaissance paintings, and the most delicious chocolate mousse! This spot is also a famous filming spot for loads of movies. I love sitting in the center with a good novel, an Affogato (ice-cream and espresso!) and a hearty plate of good ol’ fashioned Italian spaghetti. Be sure to try one of their famous cappuccinos!

Ludlow Coffee Supply

For all you creative freelancers out there, this is a perfect spot to bring your laptop and hunker down for the day! Their chocolate pastries, plentiful desserts and avocado toasts are delicious, their cappuccinos totally on point, and the living area quite cozy. I am always amazed at how many local New York millennials call this coffee shop home.

Maman Greenpoint

This sweet little spot in Greenpoint Brooklyn is super cute with it’s hanging tables, rustic wooden benches and mismatched chairs, floral plants, glass jars, and tasty treats, quiches, and savory paninis! It’s a bit out of the way to get to, but if you’re in the Brooklyn area, it’s a perfect spot for delicious hot chocolate. Right around the corner happens to also be WORD Books!

Toby’s Estate

A favorite of mine, this Brooklyn-based coffee roaster hosts the boldest flavors in the borough. Their main coffee shop in Williamsburg is busy and buzzing with local hipsters on their laptops and the sounds of coffee brewing. It’s stylishly decorated with plenty of tables and spots to work. I also love the tiny location inside of the Club Monaco on 5th avenue in Manhattan. There happens to be a small Strand bookshop inside, as well! Double win!

A few snapshots of my recent trip to New York….


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Best Bookshops and Coffee Spots: New York City

October 4, 2017


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I'm Helena! As a creative storyteller, I document magical moments through my lens and my pen. A lover of childhood, fairytales and natural light, I'm inspired to share the light around me. I'm the ultimate Disney nerd, and I'm obsessed with cats and expressing my love for the simple joys of slow, daily life.

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Helena Woods is a destination newborn and family photographer based in France and New England and travels worldwide. She is known for her natural light, modern classic, and emotive photography style.