Finding a bookstore in New York City isn’t hard, but finding one with an exciting and affordable Philosophy section definitely is. This list is for both those who are new to philosophy but don’t quite know where to start, and for those who find themselves constantly muttering, “That’s it?!” under their breath at the sight of a stark selection that only ever contains Plato’s Republic and Machiavelli’s The Prince.
Great for: …Everything!
Strand’s huge collection of material on just about any topic imaginable is a booklover’s paradise, and their philosophy collection is no exception. Four huge shelves house both old and new books that are anywhere between $15 to $25. But it doesn’t just stop at the shelves: a whole table dedicated to the subject right in front of the shelves boasts titles like The Philosophy of Walking and Descartes in 90 Minutes, and with some luck, readers can also find some cheap editions of Aristotle or St. Augustine in the Classic Literature section on the ground floor for just $6.
Great for: Existentialism
A small, clean, and well-organized store, Mast Books carries mostly literary fiction and art books, but hidden throughout the shelves are collectible and affordable philosophical gems. A vintage hardcover of Jean-Paul Sartre’s Literary and Philosophical Essays in great used condition goes for just $12, while a wonderful vintage copy of Albert Camus’ Resistance, Rebellion, and Death sells for not much more. Readers can find titles by Soren Kierkegaard, Karl Jaspers, Emil Cioran, and, of course, Plato.
Great for: Nietzsche
Don’t let East Village Books’ small storefront fool you: inside the seemingly small shop are thousands of books on an array of different subjects, along with stocks of art prints and LPs. The store’s philosophy shelf is well-stocked and affordable, but the real magic lies in the huge shelf just opposite it that is dedicated entirely to the work of Friedrich Nietzsche. A carved white bust of the philosopher sits alongside endless rows and stacks of out-of-print copies of Thus Spake Zarathustra, and Beyond Good and Evil, along with CDs of Nietzsche’s musical compositions. A beautiful vintage out-of-print copy of The Genealogy of Morals will only cost $4, and a CD of his piano music is sold for about $8. Unfortunately, the bust was just a display item!
Anyone who doesn’t mind a little wear-and-tear should check out the store’s bargain shelf, where a well-read and marked-up copy of the Portable Nietzsche goes for only $2. This spot is essential for those who want to stock up on stimulating reads for cheap.
Great for: 17th Century European Philosophy
For anyone who has ever wanted to climb a rolling book ladder in an old-fashioned used bookshop, Alabaster Bookshop is the place to go! Its charmingly cluttered and cozy atmosphere makes staring at their wall of philosophical literature feel like looking through a friend’s collection. Shelves packed to near-capacity with Thomas Hobbes and Immanuel Kant offer a great place to start for anyone who wants to brush up on the classics.
Great for: Uncommon Titles
Although its philosophy section is small compared to its others, Mercer Street Books and Records’ collection is notable for its less common titles. While it does hold a few stray copies of Bertrand Russell, the collection is made up mostly of interesting books that even a serious philosophy junkie probably won’t recognize. This stop is ideal for readers who want to explore the philosophical road less-traveled by.