The most popular books New Yorkers are reading now, according to 9 indie booksellers

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By Dan Sears

If you’re looking for some holiday gifts, or just trying to figure out your next good read, we’ve got the list for you.

Few people know books better than local booksellers, and the nine interviewed for this story said right now, New Yorkers are drawn to a diverse list of titles: from classics by James Baldwin, to “Killers of the Flower Moon” to “The Woman in Me” by Britney Spears.

And, despite the much-heralded decline of independent brick-and-mortar booksellers – there are many new places to buy books, too. The number of indie shops across the country is actually growing, with the total of independent bookstores outpacing those closing.

Below is a list of books that are popular among New Yorkers right now, according to nine book experts.

Sister’s Uptown in Harlem

Photo by Precious Fondren / Gothamist

Octavia Butler’s “Parable of the Sower”

Sister’s Uptown in Harlem is one of 149 Black owned bookstores in the United States.

The owner, Janifer Wilson said readers are coming to the store to buy a range of titles that includes memoirs like Malcom X’s autobiography, any James Baldwin book, Octavia Butler’s “Parable of the Sower,” and “Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI” by David Grann.

“I think there’s an energy that’s going on in the universe in terms of how to heal,” said Wilson. “A lot of folk are trying to heal through literacy.”

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Courtesy of Janklow & Nesbit

“The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone” by Olivia Laing

Over at Strand Book Store, communications director Paul Colarusso said they get tons of foot traffic from teenaged tourists, to native New Yorkers who’ve been shopping there for decades.

Colarusso said the store has a table display that showcases what’s called the “Strand 90,” a section of 90 books that are selling.

This list includes evergreen hits and new titles, including Rick Rubin’s “The Creative Act: A Way of Being,” “The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone” by Olivia Laing, and “The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma” by Bessel van der Kolk.

Courtesy of Vintage Books

“Killers of the Flower Moon” by David Grann

Books Are Magic has two locations in Brooklyn: in Boerum Hill and Brooklyn Heights.

Jules Rivera, the marketing coordinator, said across both locations, literary fiction and romance tend to sell very well, while non-fiction does better at the Brooklyn Heights location and translated books do best at its flagship.

The top selling works at either Books Are Magic include “All About Love,” “Killers of the Flower Moon,” “This Time Tomorrow: A Novel” by Emma Straub, “Yellowface” by R. F. Kuang, and “Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow” by Gabrielle Zevin.

Courtesy of Michelle Zauner

Michelle Zauner’s “Crying in H Mart”

Book Culture LIC is one of a handful of bookstores in Queens. Madison Doyle, who works there, said self-help books are selling just as well as fiction books.

Doyle said customers have been rushing in to buy copies of titles including “Unwinding Anxiety: New Science Shows How to Break the Cycles of Worry and Fear to Heal Your Mind” by Judson A. Brewer, and “Crying in H Mart” by Michelle Zauner.

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She said Rebecca Yarros’ “Fourth Wing” is very popular, so it wasn’t a surprise that the follow-up “Iron Flame” had been in-demand weeks before its release on Nov. 7.

“Our romance section doesn’t usually sell like crazy, but that book specifically we get asked about all the time,” she said.

Every Thing Goes bookstore in Staten Island

Courtesy of Katie McCarthy

George Orwell’s “1984”

The owner of Every Thing Goes in Staten Island, Katie McCarthy, said since they sell used books, people shouldn’t expect to find the newest reads at her store.

Instead, she said people regularly come in looking for classics like “1984” by George Orwell, Ray Bradbury’s dystopian novel “Fahrenheit 451” and “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

If people aren’t looking for fiction books, McCarthy said they’re often buying up books about the Big Apple.

“Whenever we get a copy of “The Power Broker” they usually sell very well,” she said. “That’s always in demand.”

“Trust” by Hernan Diaz

Community Bookstore in Park Slope bills itself as “Brooklyn’s oldest independent bookstore” as it’s been around since 1971.

Store co-owner Stephanie Valdez describes her customers as “serious readers.”

“Our audience is often very savvy about what they’re reading,” she said.

Valdez said top sellers at Community Bookstore include the novel “Trust” by Hernan Diaz, the Pulitzer Prize winning memoir “Stay True” by Hua Hsu, and a slew of books from 2022’s Nobel Prize winner in Literature Annie Ernaux.

“It feels like every day we’re selling one of her books,” said Valdez.

“All About Love: New Visions” by bell hooks

Julianne Hing, general manager at McNally Jackson in Soho, said the store’s top sellers include Patti Smith’s “Just Kids,” “All About Love: New Visions” by bell hooks, and “The Fraud: A Novel” by Zadie Smith.

“We sell a lot of books, both fiction and nonfiction, about how to deal with multiple and converging global crises and all kinds of upheaval – personal, political, social,” she said. “People really want help making sense of the world and their place in it.”

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“Hallowe’en Party” by Agatha Christie

Since 1979, The Mysterious Bookshop in Tribeca has specialized in suspenseful, thrilling, and crime focused books.

“It’s all about restoring some kind of order,” said Ryan Gilbert, the store’s manager. “Somebody’s been wronged. Somebody’s dead. Somebody’s had something stolen from them. So a lot of these books follow a mystery, which is a pretty satisfying reading experience.”

Gilbert said that in the last couple of weeks, the best sellers have been any Agatha Christie books, notably “Hallowe’en Party.” Other big sellers include “The Last Devil to Die: A Thursday Murder Club Mystery” by Richard Osman, and “The Enchanters: A Novel” by James Ellroy.

“The Woman in Me” by Britney Spears

Lexi Beach, who owns Astoria Bookshop in Queens, said that because the store’s in the heart of a neighborhood that’s so diverse, she tries to fill the shop with titles across various genres.

“People are just as likely on any given day to be looking for a gift for their kid’s friend’s birthday party or a self help or a small press poetry or something that’s on book talk,” she said. “It’s really kind of across the board.”

A big seller right now is Britney Spears’ “The Woman in Me.” Over the last year though, Beach said the best selling books have been “The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo” by Taylor Jenkins Reid, “This Is How You Lose the Time War” by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone, and “Crying in H Mart” by Michelle Zauner.

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