A Wonderful Paradox of Choice at The Strand Book Store
When we walked into the Strand and saw the spines of multi-colored books aligned into the distance like the vertabrae of a Jurrasic fossil, I felt the regret of having traveled to New York with only carry-on bags: There would be no way to fit in the books we were about to buy. Luckily the Strand is well prepared and offers, for a nominal sum, handy tote bags emblazoned with cats and the store’s mantra: “Where Books Are Loved.” We now had our carry-on personal item.
I had mistakenly been led to believe that the Strand was a clearinghouse for books and had expected to find in it books piled on tables like clothes in a discount bin. What I found instead was a bright, well-arranged, multi-leveled store filled with a mix of new and old books and teeming with attendants in horn-rimmed glasses to help guide you to whichever book you desire. My problem was less one of search and more one of decision: I literally* did not know where to begin, the fortuitous paradox of so many good choices. I settled into the the well-stocked fiction aisles and made my way down into the basement to try my hand at enlightenment, picking up along the way a two volume out of print, library-ready, hardcover of The Complete Short Stories of W. Somerset Maugham.
In the age of convenient online retail shops that promise delivery within two business days there is something that cannot be matched in the experience of walking out of a great bookshop with an armful of ready to satisfy books.
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If you still like the feel of actually holding a book when you read then you can virtually spend days discovering the paper-bound treasures at the Strand bookstore. Started over 85 years ago, this family-run business today has more than 2.5 million used, new and rare books covering a wide range of topics. Photography lovers should head to the second floor where they’ll find a large choice of photo books to make them happy.
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New York City’s favorite independent bookstore boasts 18 miles of new, used, and rare books, which take up wall-to-wall and nearly floor-to-ceiling shelves spread out across several floors. But in addition to more than 2.5 million books, Strand also sells tote bags, coffee mugs, t-shirts, and other goods emblazoned with its logo and references to literary and New York history.
If you can’t make it to the mothership on Broadway, there are a couple other locations, including an open-air kiosk on the southeastern side of Central Park.