Throughout New Jersey, locally-run and independent businesses serve as social hubs for our communities. Over the past year, local storefronts have been doing everything they can to adjust to our new way of life and to accommodate the communities they work so hard to uplift. Unfortunately, between the difficulties of owning a business in the midst of COVID-19 and competing with nationwide bookstore chains, independent bookstores in particular are facing an uphill battle to remain open and to serve their loyal New Jersey customers. That’s why we’ve created this list of 30 independent bookstores to support in New Jersey right now.
1. Bookends Bookstore – Ridgewood, NJ
Although it might look like any other bookstore from the outside, Bookends is well-known for its prestige among other independent shops. Bookends has earned a reputation for hosting many celebrity authors and authors-turned celebrities. People flock to the shop for signings and, of course, to browse their book collection.
2. The Curious Reader – Glen Rock, NJ
With vibrant colors on the walls, model trains chugging through the air, and stuffed animals strewn about, The Curious Reader is a wonderland for child readers. As a children’s bookstore, there is a strong focus on selecting quality books for all levels of readers. As kids grow they can start browsing more advanced sections of the shop and keep challenging themselves with new titles.
3. Here’s the Story – Union, NJ
After spending about eight years working for another shop, owner Joe Leo decided to open his own independent bookstore, Here’s the Story, in Union. With over 30 years under his belt, Leo has made the shop an institution within the local community. Here’s the Story also provides support with recommended summer reading for grades two to 12 in an effort to increase childhood literacy.
4. The Little Boho Bookshop – Bayonne, NJ
At the core of this local shop in Bergen Point is owner Sandra Dear’s goal of literacy for all children and teens. In a candid conversation with New Jersey Digest’s own Gianna Valdez, Dear discusses what it took to make The Little Boho Bookshop a successful independent bookstore and a cozy community space for patrons to browse millions of titles. As a black-owned and female-owned business, this bookstore creates representation through the voices and experiences of all its carried authors.
5. Montclair Book Center – Montclair, NJ
With over 9,000 square feet of well-stocked shelves, the Montclair Book Center is brimming with books. The shop has been around since 1984, and its selection of both new and used titles offers affordable prices as well as variety. The staff are friendly and knowledgeable, and they’re eager to help visitors find their way around the shop. In addition to their massive book collection, the MBC also sells CDs, records, tarot cards, and more.
6. Symposia Bookstore – Hoboken, NJ
Education and charitable works are at the core of Symposia in Hoboken. The store is a fluid space that serves as a used bookstore, a community center, and an educational space. As a nonprofit, Symposia also aims to raise money for charitable programs and local artists in Hoboken. The used bookstore has an overall mission of developing the community, creating accessibility to books, and making reading exciting for all.
7. The Town Book Store – Westfield, NJ
The Town Book Store in Westfield was opened in 1934 at the end of the Great Depression, and it has enjoyed 85 years of serving the local community. The shop is known for its service-with-a-smile and quality selection of literature. With the needs of Westfield locals’ at heart, The Town Book Store hopes to remain open for another eight decades.
8. Watchung Booksellers – Montclair, NJ
Through promoting the work of Essex County authors and allowing the locals to influence their selection of books, Watchung Booksellers is an active part of the Montclair community. The store hosts book clubs based on a range of popular subjects, as well as frequent author readings. Watchung is also known for its whimsical children’s section and its young adult area, which gives all age groups a space to come back to reading.
9. Word Bookstores – Jersey City, NJ
Word Bookstores is a trendy spot in Jersey City with a sister store in Brooklyn. The staff at Word provides book recommendations for all ages and reading levels, and has a vast range of expertise. Word’s virtual book clubs revolve around fun themes like Space Truckers, Show Me Women, Well-Read Black Girl, and Gilmore Girls. The shop also offers customized mystery boxes as an exciting option to get readers out of their comfort zone.
10. [words] Bookstore – Maplewood, NJ
This Maplewood-based bookstore looks to engage all levels of readers and to provide a space for a wide assortment of voices. [words] Bookstore displays a focus on Jewish authors and literature in coordination with JCC Metrowest. The store also hosts a vocational program in which they hire young adults with Autism. [words] is happy to announce that they have hired over 100 employees through this program.
11. Act 2 Books – Flemington, NJ
Act 2 Books specializes in books that are difficult for the average person to find. Whether a customer is looking for a rare book or a publication that’s been out of print for a decade, Act 2 Books can help. Though their niche may seem limited, the shop’s inventory spans over 100 categories. These include African history, cookbooks, military fiction, and much more.
12. Asbury Book Cooperative – Asbury Park, NJ
The vibrancy and energy of Asbury Book Cooperative is evident from the moment passerbys see the bright blue storefront. This co-op has a lot going on within its walls. It serves as a new and used bookstore and as a venue for local writers to host readings, workshops, and signings. Avid readers can join one of five book clubs, including the Racial Justice Reading Group, The Queer Book Club, and the Feminist Book Club.
13. The Book Garden – Cream Ridge, NJ
With over 10,000 titles, 4,500 square feet of space, and over 37 years in business, The Book Garden is a remarkable independent bookstore. Over the years this local shop has amassed tons of incredible books. They mainly deal in used novels, which give a second life to fantastic stories. Whether visitors are looking for children’s books, New Jersey history, or anything in between, The Book Garden has it all.
14. BookTowne Bookstore – Manasquan, NJ
BookTowne Bookstore strives to be a place where “Good Friends Meet Good Books.” Their slogan tells patrons everything they need to know about the importance of the local community and its intersection with great reads. The shop is inviting and the staff does all they can to make visitors feel like they’re part of a literary family. With the central aim of encouraging all people to become readers, BookTowne welcomes all and handles shoppers with care.
15. Booktrader of Hamilton – Hamilton, NJ
Buy, sell, or trade-in for something new at the Booktrader of Hamilton. This bookstore is a revolving door of fiction and fantasy, where patrons can trade in books for store credit. BoH gives shoppers the option of going on a “Blind Date with Books” where they sell five unknown titles for $1. BoH also organizes readings from contemporary authors, and virtual events will continue into 2021.
16. The Bookworm – Bernardsville, NJ
Independent bookstores in New Jersey understand the struggle of competing against chains, so it only makes sense that The Bookworm also praises independently published books at their store. As in any other shop, visitors can find plenty of bestsellers and new releases, but The Bookworm also makes sure to highlight indie presses in their recommendations for all readers.
17. Califon Book Shop – Califon, NJ
This cozy little bookstore in Califon is absolutely adorable. Califon Book Shop is small enough to feel warm and comfortable, but big enough to house classics, bestsellers, and children’s books. There’s a window-lined nook on the side of the store where shoppers can stop to try out the first few pages of a novel. There are also plenty of kid-tailored items in stock that make going to the bookstore a fun experience for all.
18. Labyrinth Books – Princeton, NJ
As the Ivy League gem of the Garden State, it’s no surprise that Princeton’s independent bookstore is one of the best in New Jersey. Labyrinth Books is full of academic works and cutting edge literature. Stroll the aisles and pretend to understand the sophisticated titles that fill the shelves, or stop in for an easy read. The content of the store is always changing, and, fortunately, shoppers don’t need 1600 on their SATs to enter.
19. Paperback Exchange – Belmar, NJ
Used bookstores do the important work of making sure that otherwise abandoned stories never go to waste. Paperback Exchange is a used bookstore that has been passing books forward since 1977. The staff is happy to reclaim your gently used books for their collection. In return, patrons can earn store credit to use toward a new title. Since their selections are constantly changing, returning time and time again will always yield a new experience.
20. River Road Books – Fair Haven, NJ
The fresh and whimsical storefront is just one reason why all New Jersians should visit River Road Books. The books at every display are chosen meticulously for a loyal clientele. The children’s section boasts colorful classics and new releases, which the RRB staff hope will foster a love of reading in young children. River Road Books always has a great recommendation for a quality read, and their book club selections are full of compelling novels.
21. Barrier Island Books and Art – Stone Harbor, NJ
Packed wall to wall with quality content, Barrier Island Books and Art is one-stop shopping for used books and unique art. Among its shelves, this used bookstore holds a wide variety of genres including birding, popular fiction, local history, and classics. Barrier Island Books also carries a selection of local art and fun totes with adorable cat designs.
22. Bogart’s Bookstore and Cafe in Millville, NJ
A satisfying book and a hot coffee go hand in hand, and Bogart’s Bookstore and Cafe knows this very well. As one of the only independent bookstores in South Jersey with an adjoined cafe, Bogart’s endeavors to create a space where a community of artists, readers, students, and writers can all come together. While the shop maintains a collection of rare and antique titles, they also offer many trade-in discounts to make reading more affordable.
23. Bookateria Two – Ocean City, NJ
Everyone needs a book for the beach, and Bookateria Two is in Ocean City to make sure that vacationers and locals alike get their hands on a good read. The used bookstore has amassed more than 25,000 paperback titles during its time in OC. Better yet, shoppers can trade in their own used books for store credit toward a new title.
24. Hooked On Books – Wildwood, NJ
Hooked on Books has just celebrated its 30th anniversary, but this used bookstore has much more to celebrate. Over the years, the shop has earned many accolades from Best Bookstore on the Jersey Shore to Best Bookstore in Cape May County. The only catch? Hooked on Books is only open between May and September. Its limited season makes it the perfect Wildwood summer vacation tradition.
25. Inkwood Books – Haddonfield, NJ
After the only bookstore in Julie Beddingfield’s town closed down, she decided to open Inkwood Books. The female-owned independent bookstore typically hosts readings and signings with authors throughout the year, and the Inkwood Book Club, Teen Book Club, and Tween Book Club are all available to locals. The Inkwood Books website also contains a virtual book fair for young children and families to choose from a whimsical selection of kid-friendly stories.
26. LBI Book Swap – Beach Haven, NJ
This petite bookstore in Beach Haven has LBI charm around every corner. LBI Book Swap’s collection spans New York Times Best Sellers, teen and children’s books, used books, and even audiobooks. Customers are encouraged to trade in their used titles for a discount on new purchases. The tiny bookstore has also welcomed authors like Megyn Kelly, Douglas Brunt, and David Baldacci into the shop for book signings.
27. Nelson Rare Books – Haddonfield, NJ
Whether shopping online or looking to browse a storefront, Nelson Rare Books has readers covered. This independent bookstore buys and sells all manners of books from its location in Haddonfield, New Jersey. Their specialty lies in antique, rare, or out-of-print titles. Within their literary arsenal, Nelson possesses a wide array of subject matter. From 19th and 20th century American literature to Gothic literature to Shakespeare, there are many hidden gems to find.
28. Princeton Antiques and Book Service – Atlantic City, NJ
The open-air shelves of books lining the sidewalk in front of Princeton Antique and Book Service makes walking past this bookshop a difficult task. For anyone looking to buy or sell an antique book in Atlantic City, PABS is the perfect venue. Their staff is incredibly helpful and willing to assist with any book-related matters, and their online browsing tools make finding titles incredibly easy.
29. Second Time Books – Mount Laurel, NJ
The folks at Second Time Books truly care about every title they have in stock. Over its past 17 years of business, this independent bookstore has collected over 60,000 books. Every novel gets special attention as the staff hand-cleans and covers each one. While their specialty is in history, fantasy, and science fiction, there is a broad range of genres to choose from at Second Time Books.
30. Sun Rose Words and Music – Ocean City, NJ
Set in the gorgeous and retro Ocean City, Sun Rose Words and Music blends in perfectly with its surroundings. After spending over 40 years in business and passing through the hands of four different owners, SRWM is still standing tall. The shop offers books, office supplies, art supplies, and more. Whether patrons are searching for New Jersey-related novels or children’s books, it’s easy to find the perfect title with Sun Rose’s customer-centered service.
Let us know in the comments below which of these independent bookstores in New Jersey you’ve visited.