By Simran P. Gupta
Living in an “outer borough” of New York City has made me appreciative of what lies beyond the hustle and bustle of Manhattan. While many of the best-known NYC bookstores are on the island, there are a number of hidden gems that warrant a subway ride across the river to Brooklyn. While it’s true that certain neighborhoods are facing waves of gentrification, the borough as a whole has held on to its roots. That is to say, community spaces still reign supreme. And of course, at the heart of it are its independent bookstores.
Specializing in secondhand books only, visitors will immediately feel relaxed and at home at Molasses. It’s easy to miss from the outside, tucked away as it is on a quiet street between two busy avenues in the neighborhood of Bushwick. However, even if book browsing is not your goal, the dollar cart will be enticing enough to draw anyone in. On a warm, sunny day, expect the doors to be propped open and the blinds rolled all the way up to allow for maximum sunlight. Inside, despite the small space, expect to encounter a maze of tall bookshelves and a surprising number of nooks and crannies with seating.
The books themselves vary; expect poetry collections, academia, vintage editions of various classics, used copies of contemporary fiction and young adult novels, and every subject a reader could want in a bookstore. ‘Zines and art books round out the collection, with fairy lights dangling between shelves. At night, they give the space a cozy glow, making it all the more enticing.
The bar with coffee, tea, and wine is the cherry on top and makes this diamond in the rough the ideal morning or nighttime spot. Stop by with a friend for coffee and browsing, or bring your journal and scribble some thoughts while sipping coffee. Perhaps you’ll stumble in on a game night or chess night and make some new friends.
Molasses Books, 770 Hart St, Brooklyn NY, 11237 and most social media. Open until midnight every night.
“Coffee. tea. books. art. community.” This is the tagline from the little bookstore’s website, a perfect summary of everything it includes. Another tiny but important space, Café con Libros was founded with the intention of providing a community-focused space in the rapidly gentrifying neighborhood of Crown Heights. Seating can be found against the front windows, with a full coffee bar directly across the wall. The floor-to-ceiling windows allow for an abundance of natural light, making the visitor feel like they are in a dear friend’s living room. The remaining two walls are full of books, from memoir to fiction to picture books. Everything in stock centers on diverse viewpoints, a wonderful reflection of Crown Heights, which is known for its racially diverse inhabitants. Finally, the café-bookstore hosts a number of events, from small open-mics to book club meetings. Read more about this wonderful space’s story here.
Café Con Libros, 724 Prospect Pl, Brooklyn, NY, 11216 is closed Mondays, open from 8 am to 3 pm Tues-Thurs, 8 am to 6 pm on Friday, and 9 am to 6 pm Saturday and Sunday.
A more traditional, general indie, this is still a necessary addition to any book-lover’s list if they’re passing through Fort Greene, Brooklyn. They host regular book sales and book groups, which are wonderful opportunities to meet some members of the surrounding communities for anyone who may have just moved to the area. They also have a wonderful abundance of signed books, and beautiful, themed display tables (their Black History Month table was one of the best I’d ever seen). The surrounding cafes and restaurants make for an excellent post-book browsing spot, whether to visit with a friend or simply alone with your new stack. Greenlight has another location near Prospect Park, in addition to the location profiled here.
The Greenlight Bookstore, 686 Fulton St, Brooklyn NY, 11217, is open 10 am to 10 pm seven days a week.
Simran is the Poetry Barista at FC and a serious coffee bar/bookstore habitué. She welcomes your comments and stories about your favorite caffeine-and-literature hangouts.