Koryo Books. Photo: Jutharat Pinyodoonyachet
Of all the ways to spend a day in New York City, there’s none quite like getting lost in a bookstore. The City’s selection of literary havens, including libraries, bookshops and stationery stores, is as diverse as its residents.
For the local Asian community, finding a safe space to feel seen and heard has never been more vital than during the pandemic, especially with the rise in anti-Asian sentiment and attacks. That’s where these bookstores have stepped up, offering inclusive spaces, connecting members of the community and promoting stories not frequently found at general-interest bookshops.
Read on for Asian-owned bookshops to visit and support throughout the City:
147-22 Northern Blvd., Flushing, Queens
Whether you’re coming for the books or the K-pop merchandise, a trip to this Flushing store will be worth your while. They primarily stock Korean language books, but if you’re looking to learn the language yourself, don’t hesitate to explore Bandi Books’ two floors for inspiration and educational texts. BTS and Blackpink fans, take note: a selection of merchandise includes their latest albums, posters, sticker packs and photo cards.
13-17 Elizabeth St., 2nd fl., Chinatown, Manhattan
A neighborhood staple for over 40 years, Eastern Bookstore is both a book supplier and cultural hub. Aside from its extensive selection of Chinese books (including children’s stories and cookbooks), it offers translated copies of popular English titles, language books and fine calligraphy tools. Prior to the pandemic, the store hosted calligraphy workshops, which assistant manager Henry Chon hopes to bring back. Like many small businesses in the area, the store’s sales took a hit the past two years, and some of those struggles persist. But for Chon, the best part of the job is seeing how excited customers become when they enter. “They don’t expect a store like ours to still exist in New York, and often tell us how much they appreciate us,” he says. “It gives us motivation during a difficult time.”
1073 Sixth Ave., Midtown, Manhattan
Located across from Bryant Park, this Japanese emporium houses three levels of literature, including manga, magazines and brand-new bestsellers. Since its debut in Japan in 1927, Kinokuniya has become a go-to for book lovers and Japanese-culture seekers around the world. In addition to browsing a vast selection of reads in both English and Japanese, you can shop an array of stationery and home goods on the lower level. For a sugar or caffeine break, visit the café on the top floor to enjoy tea, sweets and onigiri (rice wrapped in seaweed).
Koryo Books. Photo: Jutharat Pinyodoonyachet
35 W. 32nd St., Koreatown, Manhattan
Koryo Books, one of Koreatown’s first businesses (it opened in the late 1970s), is a fun destination where one could easily lose track of time. Browse shelf upon shelf of Korean-only titles, translations from English and language books, or comb through racks of stationery, whimsical knickknacks, gifts and home decor. Don’t forget to scope out their robust collection of K-pop band paraphernalia.
40-15 Broadway, Astoria, Queens; 136-77 Roosevelt Ave., Flushing, Queens
For stationery junkies keen on the cute factor, Morning Glory is the place to visit. While several of the aisles are dedicated to kitchenware and fashion accessories, others hold Sanrio-studded notepads, pencils and desk supplies. Treat yourself to boba-shaped erasers, pastel-colored planners and anything else that could liven up a workstation.
Courtesy, Niconeco Zakkaya
263 E. 10th St., East Village, Manhattan
Peer into this sun-drenched boutique and you’ll think you’ve discovered a little corner of magic. Since 2015, Niconeco Zakkaya has delighted scrapbookers and snail-mail lovers with its array of stamps, stickers and washi (traditional Japanese paper). The shop, which opened its physical location in 2019, was born out of founder Siming Vautin’s dream to have a place where one could “stop to enjoy the little things in such a fast-paced city.” The store name is inspired by the Japanese word zakka, a belief that everyday things could bring you meaning and joy. To emphasize that, Vautin stocks her shelves with intention, hand-picking items sourced from Japan—decorative paper seals, illustrated postcards, a ceramic jar in the shape of a bird—and hoping each visitor finds something that elicits a smile.
Courtesy, Word Up Community Bookshop
2113 Amsterdam Ave., Washington Heights, Manhattan (main location)
Veronica Santiago Liu opened this nonprofit bookstore with the intention of making books accessible to all. She and her neighbors launched Word Up as a pop-up shop in 2011, and locals fell in love with the concept. The team raised enough money to open up a permanent storefront, which is run by a collective of over 60 local residents and powered by dozens of volunteers. They carry general-interest titles and host regular community events, all with a focus on multilingual and multicultural authors and stories. They also partner with local afterschool programs and community fridges. “I wanted to work with others to [create] a place that could help connect people to books, writers to readers and performers to audiences,” says Santiago Liu.
Courtesy, Yoseka Stationery
63 West St., Greenpoint, Brooklyn
Ask the husband-and-wife co-owners at Yoseka Stationery about any of their products and they’ll have a story to share. After all, Neil Ni grew up with a soft spot for one-of-a-kind writing tools, spending his childhood playing in his parents’ stationery store in Taiwan. He and his wife, Daisy, a Queens native, now run their own charming shop by the waterfront in Brooklyn’s Greenpoint neighborhood. Here, visitors are encouraged to test out as many fountain pens and Midliner markers as they wish. “We’re often asked which pen is best,” says Daisy, “but we want to give you the confidence to trust your gut and find what feels best to you.”
Courtesy, Yu & Me Books
44 Mulberry St., Chinatown, Manhattan
Even before opening its doors in late 2021, Yu & Me Books was already gaining attention from bibliophiles as the City’s first Asian American woman–owned bookstore. “It’s always been my dream to see stories like mine, my mom’s and my grandmother’s on the walls,” says owner Lucy Yu. That’s why she’s dedicated to showcasing writers from immigrant and Asian communities. And it’s not just books telling these stories; the cozy shop and café has brought in full houses for author talks, readings and more.