18 miles of books = countless hours of bookworm fun at The Strand

October 27, 2011

NEW YORK, US – New York City is nothing if not a literary city–and we’re not just judging that by the number of aspiring writers packed into our favorite coffee shops. There are the hundreds of high profile publishing houses, the prestigious literary magazines, the astounding number of creative writing classes and writers groups, and, of course, some of the finest bookstores in the whole wide world. (And as travel writers, we feel like we really know what we’re talking about with that last one.)

Top of our list? The Strand, only survivor of New York’s once well populated Book Row. Strand fan and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist George Will once quipped: “The eight miles worth saving in this city are at the corner of Broadway and 12th Street. They are the crammed shelves of the Strand Book Store.” There are lots of things we love about New York, but, nerdy bookworms that we are, we have to agree with George here–not much can top an afternoon spent browsing the stacks at The Strand.

These days the store packs in a whopping 18 miles books (a 10 mile increase over George Will’s time). As ever, whatever your tastes, be it the latest and greatest bestseller or a first edition of a rare classic, you can probably find what you’re looking for on the charmingly cluttered selves. The Stand, quite literally (and literarily), has everything.

Our visits to this octogenarian spot generally start with a browse through the outdoor carts of books-for-a-dollar–we’ve made some nifty unexpected finds here over the years. Stepping inside can be a bit overwhelming (seriously, there are a LOT of books here, including entire aisles devoted to obscure topics we wouldn’t have expect had even been commonly written about), but fortunately the staff is extremely helpful and knowledgeable. (Word on the street’s that the employees have to pass a literature test to score a job here.)  And make sure to ask for help if you need something from the upper shelves, too–this place is so packed, it will probably require a ladder to get it down.

Photo courtesy of luisvilla on Flickr CC

Not that into browsing the stacks? Frankly, this probably isn’t the place (nor, perhaps, the town) for you, but there’s a selection of used DVDs (ranging from PBS documentaries to blockbuster movies) in the basement, and  hipster-cool journals, writing supplies, and a collection of Strand souvenirs (graphic tees, tote bags, and the like) on the main floor. Plus, there’s a busy schedule of readings, book talks, and signings, in case you’re looking for something a bit more dynamic.

And, this being New York, even if you can’t (or can’t be bothered to) make it to The Strand in person, The Strand can come to you.  You can catch it on screen (it makes appearances in Julie and Julia and Remember Me, and Gossip Girl cast members have been known to sport a Strand tee), or more practically, at its comprehensive online store. You definitely know you’re in a literary town when one of the city’s finest bookshops can make 18 miles of books available at your fingertips at any hour…

Read more about The Strand in Our New York Guide.

The Strand
828 Broadway
New York, NY

Post by Megan Freeman

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