Literary City Guide | ROCHESTER, NEW YORK

"Sitting on our hill, looking out at our city—its modest skyline, someone was always smoking, someone else just flicking the lighter’s wheel. We were there in every season—watching the birders, the butterflies, the lovers; the kids sledding, the women walking, the men running by, listening to their headphones. We sat and talked; sometimes, we kissed. This was all I needed for a while: a hill, a view."

Sejal Shah, from “The Half King” 



Katie is a teaching artist, writer, and an ardent lover of learning. Her favorite things to learn about include: the cosmos, human anatomy, and natural history. You can check out her website, or find her on Instagram. (Photos by Katie Duane)



Relationship to the Rochester: I came here to go to college (RIT), and returned five years later to teach in the city schools. Ten years total!

Writer you’d like to invite to dinner: Mary Oliver—I have so many questions about the nature of things. I’m sure she wouldn’t give me any answers, but I like to imagine she’d inspire me to keep asking.

Chef you’d like to prepare the meal: Dana Shultz from Minimalist Baker!

Writing soundtrack: Silence. OR! A single song, on repeat...for hours.

Pen or Pencil: Pen, blue

Coffee or Tea? Coffee

Paperback or Hardback? Paperback


Good Reads


Rick’s Recycled Books. This place is a bit intimidating for its sheer volume and stacks of books everywhere, but there are always gems to be found.

Mood Makers Books. This bookstore features African American authors, themes, history, and art. I quite enjoy their poetry section—every time I visit I walk away with something new.

Greenwood Books. A curated collection of old and rare books, offering a personal and intimate experience for all of its patrons. Located footsteps away from coffee shops where you can wander to with your new (used) books.


Central Library of Rochester and Monroe County. Located in downtown Rochester, this is the most expansive library in the city, occupying two buildings—the historic Rundel Memorial building, as well as a newer location across the street. They’re connected underground!

Charlotte Branch Library. If you want to head to the lake, this is a nice quiet, library to make a stop at. They host regular children’s events as well as occasional classes and lectures for adults.

Irondequoit Public Library. Right over the city limits in Irondequoit, this branch of the Monroe County Library is very family friendly. They host a regular Story Time, book and genre discussions, events for teens, as well as tutoring, knitting circles, and even yoga classes.


Genesee Reading Series at Writers & Books. On the second Tuesday of every month, featuring both well known and emerging writers from the region, across all genres. Stay afterword to speak to the writers, and enjoy a little snack!

Plutzik Reading Series at the University of Rochester. This is one of the longest running reading series in the country. They host a variety of poets and fiction writers throughout the academic year. Free and open to the public.

The Writers Forum at SUNY Brockport. Featuring writers across all genres each month of the academic year, this is one of the best known series in the area. They also have a video archive of readings.

Words on the Verge. Another Brockport-based reading series showcasing writers from a variety of backgrounds, both published and emerging, and across all genres.

Poetry & Pie Night. A monthly reading series in Rochester presenting poetry, prose, and… pie! You have to contact them for the location, but anyone can go.

Rochester Spoken Word. One of Rochester’s newest monthly reading series, it’s currently invite only—so be sure to send an email in advance! Listen to established and emerging writers share their words, and enjoy a cocktail--it’s hosted at a local speakeasy!


Writers and Books. Rochester’s own literary center, offering a wide variety of classes for children, teens, and adults, as well as reading series, and visiting authors. On the ground floor there is a bookstore and a lounge. We’re lucky to have this place!

ROC Bottom Slam Team. Rochester’s only adult Slam Poetry group, they have shows/slams that are held the second Saturday of each month and as of September, they've started coaching a youth slam team through Writers & Books.

Nox. A bar/restaurant with menu items and drinks named for well-known books, movies, and their characters! They also host occasional readings.

The Spirit Room Cocktails and Readings. A craft cocktail and literary lounge with poetry readings, book releases, and micro-theatre in a turn-of-the-century environment.

Good Eats


Java’s (downtown). I consider this place a Rochester staple—lots of comfortable seating, tables, and walls plastered in art, it is an ideal place place to sit and write, read, or people-watch. They're known for many specialty coffee and espresso drinks, loose-leaf teas, and I’m personally a little obsessed with their hot chocolate. They also have a location at the Public Market and at RIT.

Cafe Sasso. Small and intimate, this coffee shop features lots of couches, artwork to look at, delicious latte varieties, and yummy cocktails. They also have a cafe menu.

Glen Edith Coffee Roasters. The Somerton Street cafe has delicious breakfast options, but both locations feature a quiet, minimalist aesthetic and delicious pour-over coffees, baked goods, and specialty lattes (my personal favorite involves lavender).

Maker’s Gallery & Cafe. This cute spot features a rotating gallery of work by regional artists, and scrumptious locally-crafted donuts.

Those are my personal favorites, but Rochester has so many coffee shops! Other local favorites are: Joe Bean, Starry Nights, Fuego, Ugly Duck, Coffee Connections, & Boulder.