26 April 2008

Meet The Strand!

Last weekend I had a friend visiting and when I found out she had never been to the Strand, I threw caution and the Great Unbookening to the winds and agreed to accompany her to what I think is New York's largest bookstore. Trumpeting its 18 miles of books over three locations (two stores and a Central Park kiosk), the Strand is the kind of place I believe I have left once empty-handed. That's why, even though it's a short subway ride away, I don't go that often -- my will is not yet strong enough.

Temptations hit before you even enter the main location, two blocks south of Union Square. In good weather, the dollar carts roll out:

Packed with paperbacks and hardcovers and arranged in no particular order, the carts are a great place to look for hidden treasure. And there are so many of them:

Dreamy! I pulled six books right away and spent the rest of the time contemplating what needed to be purchased now and what wasn't necessarily own-worthy. Some people take advantage of the $1 stacks to collect '70s paperback series or finding the elusive first edition; the real game for me is finding new books which for whatever reason have gotten the major markdown, so I walked away with two 2007 books, Taylor Antrim's THE HEADMASTER RITUAL and Steve Geng's THICK AS THIEVES.

Now it's time to go into the basement, home of many social-science sections, but also the review copies. After New York-based publishers have sent books to critics and press people and the books have come out, they send the leftover copies here to be sold off at half their cover price. The publisher and author don't benefit as much as when you buy a new hardcover in a bookstore, but it's a really good place to buy gifts or for that new book you just have to have.

I barely scratched the surface of this section, in part because of the way the books are stacked and how narrow the aisles are (making prolonged browsing difficult) but I picked out two books for my folks in honor of my dad's birthday and Mother's Day. Sorry, guys, you're getting books again... (Just kidding, they are huge readers too.)

Okay, out of the cool basement and into the sweaty confines of the ground floor, which holds the major fiction section and the new-releases tables. If you like your books to look good, you can check out the tooled-leather collections:

They offer a books-by-the-foot service for decorators and set dressers... Or, how about dreaming of a vacation?

It's difficult to describe the size of the Strand; while it may not have more square feet than a suburban Borders, the floor is so jammed with books there's almost no room to sit down or even stand in place for that long. We went on a sunny day, but I can't imagine how much more crowded it would be in there on a rainy day:

I didn't even grab a picture of the famous Strand gear which is required uniform for independent bookstore lovers. They offer tote bags, T-shirts and -- new for 2008 -- these argyle reusable shopping bags which you can use to carry your books or your groceries. (Should have picked one of those up. Darn!) We bypassed these and stumbled towards the sunlight, books in hand. I ended up with five -- two gifts, two dollar books and the paperback edition of SACRED GAMES for summer; my partner in crime picked up Malcolm Gladwell's THE TIPPING POINT which she found in the basement.

Now go home and read!


LJ said...

Wow, you've inspired me. I loooove perusing bookstores, especially ones like this. How is it that I have yet to visit the Strand? Will have to rectify after reading this, for sure.

heidikins said...

I am actualy drooling on my laptop...seriously.