Book Lover’s Guide to New York State.

The Big Apple’s Bookish Paradise

As a lifelong New Yorker and devout bibliophile, I’ve discovered that the Empire State is an absolute nirvana for book lovers like myself. From the iconic reading rooms that double as architectural wonders to cozy book bars serving up literature with a side of libations, my hometown and the surrounding region offers an endless array of literary destinations to explore. So grab your library card and get ready for a wild ride through New York’s captivating bookish universe!

A Legendary Spot for Lit Legends

We New Yorkers aren’t just passionate readers – we’re also writers, poets, and plain old word nerds. It’s no surprise that some of history’s most celebrated literary giants found a second home in NYC’s legendary watering holes. I can’t resist a good spirited tale, so grab a pint and let me regale you with the bookish folklore surrounding some of the city’s most storied taverns.

At the iconic White Horse Tavern in the Village, you can practically smell the cigarette smoke and cheap whiskey that once fueled masterpieces by Bob Dylan, James Baldwin, and Dylan Thomas within its dimly lit walls. I always request the same booth where O. Henry is said to have scribbled the final lines of “The Gift of the Magi” between sips at Pete’s Tavern. And don’t even get me started on Minetta Tavern, where Hemingway and his literary cohorts engaged in some seriously spirited wordsmithing back in the day.

Hobart’s Humble Book Village Hideaway

Hobart's Humble Book Village Hideaway

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Sometimes this city book rat needs to escape the urban jungle for a more rural reading retreat. Cue the impossibly charming village of Hobart tucked away in the Catskills where a delightfully bookish hamlet awaits. Wandering the main drag, you’ll stumble upon not one, but seven(!) independent bookstores nestled into historic buildings like a antwyr lovers utopia.

At Quarry Books, the sci-fi and mystery section overflows with enough dog-eared gems to send chills down any horror aficionado’s spine. I snagged a tattered copy of Dracula there last fall that may or may not be haunted (the jury’s still out). Creative Corner Books is a DIY crafter’s dream stocked with vintage home and cookbooks galore. And at New York Books & Ephemera, I always find quirky state-centric reads and offbeat ephemera to sate my local history fix.

The true magic happens during Hobart’s biannual “Book Village Daze” when the street transforms into a full-on booklover’s block party. There’s nothing quite like bonding with fellow literature nerds over mountains of discounted tomes and author events fit for the biggest word nerds. Just leave some rare finds for me, okay?

Manhattan’s Bibliophilic Best

When I’m craving a more concrete bookish adventure, NYC’s independent book havens never fail to satisfy. Sure, you’ve got those iconic mega-stores like The Strand with its “18 miles of books” and that tantalizing rare book room. But the real gems are the city’s well-curated indie shops stocked with whatever your heart desires.

Mystery fanatics flock to the Mysterious Bookshop – one of the oldest purveyors of crime, suspense, and detective fiction in the nation. It’s easy to lose yourself for hours in their masterfully organized stacks organized by sub-genre, period, and region. Over in Greenwich Village, Three Lives & Company has curated an exquisite general interest selection within their charming 19th century storefront. Then there’s BOOKHAMPTON for East Hamptonites in search of that idyllic beach read.

Follow the Yellow Brick Road…Through Oz

I’ll never forget the first time I set foot in the All Things Oz Museum located in the unassumingly named town of Chittenango. It was like stumbling into the most magnificent themed Disney attraction devoted to L. Frank Baum’s classic world of Oz – minus the obnoxiously long lines. Original props, resplendent costumes, rare memorabilia, and more “Wizard of Oz” treasures filled every nook and cranny within the museum’s hallowed halls.

The real showstopper? An original pair of Ruby Slippers from the 1939 film displayed under dramatic lighting. I swear those iconic sequined heels started glowing like they were imbued with actual magic as I gazed upon them. It was utterly spellbinding…or perhaps I had indulged in too many Oz-themed snacks from the on-site cafe prior. A girl can dream, can’t she?

Bookstore Bar Shenanigans

What could possibly make cracking open a new novel even better? Downing a perfectly poured pint or sultry glass of merlot as you dive between the covers, obviously. That’s why NYC’s new breed of bookstore bars have become some of my favorite hideaways for wining, dining, and unwinding with great literature.

Spotty Dog Books & Ale in the quaint town of Hudson offers the quintessential bookshop meets gastropub experience. I love camping out for hours at their handsome wooden bar working my way through a new sci-fi paperback and a few pints of their latest craft brew while making my way through a smorgasbord of mouthwatering grub.

Over in Kingston, Rough Draft Bar & Books has mastered the art of coziness, from antique furnishings sourced by local pickers to snug reading nooks tucked between overstuffed shelves. Get me a draft cider, one of their warm gooey cookies, and a crackling fireplace and I’m in my own personal book nirvana.

When the Library Becomes the Main Attraction

I’ll admit, I’m one of those nerds who loves libraries for the architectural eye candy as much as the books themselves. That’s why I’ll never tire of making pilgrimages to the majestic New York Public Library flagship on Fifth Avenue anchored by its iconic marble lion guardians Patience and Fortitude. The Rose Reading Room is an absolute cathedral of knowledge and beauty that instantly transports me back to my book-devouring college days (without the soul-crushing academic stress).

But we’ve got plenty of other showstopping libraries throughout the state that deserve a spot on your biblio-tourism bucket list. Like the celestial Morgan Library & Museum that houses J.P. Morgan’s private collection within an ornate Renaissance-inspired setting. Or the half-haunted, half-historical Cazenovia Public Library housing millennia-spanning artifacts from Egyptian mummies to extinct bird specimens alongside the books.

Encounters with the Hauntingly Good

What self-respecting book nerd doesn’t get a secret thrill from all things slightly spooky and supernatural when it comes to literature? I know I can’t resist a good fright now and then – especially when it involves iconic tales and settings that spring right from the written page into deliciously eerie reality.

Take the ominously named Sleepy Hollow for instance. This historic Hudson Valley village served as the real-life backdrop for Washington Irving’s legendary ghost story “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.” Wandering past the 17th-century Old Dutch Church and its ancient burying grounds easily conjures up visions of the Headless Horseman galloping through the shadows as you half expect him to come riding out of the gloomy thickets at any second.

Then there’s the Mark Twain Study on the campus of Elmira College where they actually offer nighttime tours of the octagonal writer’s den where Twain penned classics like The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. I can only imagine the delightfully cheesy haunted house-style theatrics they employ to achieve the intended goosebumps.

So Many Bookish Overnights, So Little Time

Of course, no true literary-themed getaway would be complete without an equally themed place to rest your book-loving head at night. Luckily, New York has that covered in spades with some absolutely enchanting bookish bolt-holes scattered across the state.

Take the Library Hotel nestled in midtown Manhattan. The delightfully nerdy decorators here didn’t hold back when it came to Dewey Decimal System kitsch, devoting each floor and guest room to a category like Literature or the Arts.

.I kid you not, during my stay on the Literature floor, I was surrounded by book artwork, sculptures, and enough tomes to make even the most hardcore bibliophile weak in the knees. They really committed to the theme!

Then there’s the legendarily opulent Plaza Hotel – forever immortalized by those delightfully mischievous Eloise children’s books. I can’t help but giggle remembering the youthful joy of curling up with one of those iconic illustrated tales before drifting off surrounded by Plaza’s unparalleled old-world glamour.

For a more rustic literary escape, The Roxbury in the Catskills will fully immerse you into storybook fantasies with their whimsically themed cottages and suites. The “Wizard’s Eden” is a gloriously over-the-top homage to The Wizard of Oz rendered in vivid emerald hues with “ruby” accents galore. I felt like a veritable VIP in the Kansas quarters with its miniature Yellow Brick Road foyer and tornado-themed bathroom complete with swirling cloud wallpaper. Trust me, you haven’t lived until you’ve taken a twister in their loo!

Handle with Scare: VERY Haunted Reading Allowed

I’d be remiss if I didn’t share my personal paranormal tome tales from my, ahem, potentially haunted book acquisitions. Remember that vintage copy of Dracula I mentioned picking up in Hobart? Well, let’s just say there have been some rather…unusual occurrences since I brought that dusty old paperback home with me.

It started with errant cold chills and strange noises emanating from the bookshelf where it now resides – things that made the hair on the back of my neck stand on end. I tried to chalk it up to an overactive imagination or my radiator being weird. But then objects started mysteriously moving around my apartment when my back was turned! And the other night, I could have sworn I saw a shadowy figure lurking in the hallway out of the corner of my eye before vanishing into thin air.

There’s just no other explanation – this thing has to be haunted by Vlad the Impaler himself! I’m now too terrified to crack it open, lest I unleash the count’s ancient curse upon my humble NYC book nook. But…that’s also what keeps me coming back to peer at its ominous burgundy cover, daring the supernatural forces contained within to make another eerie move.

Broadway wizardry & So Much More!

If holing up with a spooky novel night after night isn’t quite enough literary thrill for your tastes, fret not – the Big Apple has plenty more mind-bending, magical bookish experiences in store.


Harry Potter fans can go full wizard mode with a visit to the Harry Potter Store in the Flatiron District, where they’ll be surrounded by wands, robes, games, sweets, and more enchanting merch stocked floor to ceiling. Then it’s off to the adjacent Butterbeer Bar for a delightfully frothy mug of that famous wizarding beverage. Continue living out your Hogwarts fantasies at the wildly immersive Harry Potter: The Exhibition filled with uncanny recreations of iconic movie sets and displays of thousands of real props and costumes from the films.

And let’s not forget Broadway’s own spellbinding offering – Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. This critically acclaimed stage production pulls out all the magic trick stops to conjure up actual sorcery before your very eyes. Expect frequent bouts of “How did they do that?!?” whiplash from start to finish.

Curtain Call: A Final Friendly Farewell

Well, folks, I could regale you with literary NYC tales until my typing fingers fall off – but then I’d miss out on actually living them! From hidden book village gems to big city book worship and all the fantastical, scary, and quaint stops in between, the bookish wonders of New York State are truly without end.

So get out there and craft your own bookish adventures, my friends! Pay tribute to your personal literary heroes by wandering their old haunts, discover cozy new reading nooks, and keep building up that home library with local treasures. Most importantly, never lose your unbridled sense of curiosity and imagination – after all, that’s what the magic of books is all about.

NEXT READ: Welcome to New York’s Haunted Hotel Hotspots

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