My new discovery for today was the behemoth of NYC bookstores, Strand Bookstore, located on Broadway a couple of blocks south of Union Square. At four floors, the mammoth store boasts to have 18 miles of books. Browsing this place is almost like looking through an attic. Gone are wide aisles and carpet of Barnes & Noble or Borders. Here it is replaced by wood and cement floors and the basement level even has peeling ceiling paint. There’s no cafe, no chairs for sitting and reading, and forget about it being easy to find things! But this place is wonderful!
Strand, which is the self-proclaimed largest bookstore in NYC, carries both new & used books at incredible prices! The same book I would have paid $15 for a Barnes & Noble cost me $11 there. Another I was eyeing was $16 at B&N and a mere $7.50 here! Numerous $1 carts line the sidewalk outside the store carrying all sorts of oddities. The even have a floor dedicated to rare books, which I didn’t get to see because it closes at 6:30pm.
Strand is also an important piece of the New York culture. Having been founded 80 years ago, it is an important part of the city’s fabric and legendary at that. It’s legendary among New Yorkers, and best of all, not a huge tourist destination. As myhandy Not-For-Tourist guide to the practical things in New York describes Strand, it is “the world’s messiest and best bookstore.” I have to agree.
I’d like to end with another quick installment of “As Spotted on the Subway.” First off, one of the cool things about the busier, larger stations is the performers who set up shop there. While waiting for the train at Union Square (home to 3 different lines…well 7 actually, just 3 platforms) I heard from one ear the beat of a steal drum and in the other, bagpipes!
Also, earlier I was on a different train which was one of the newer one that has automated announcements and will periodically announce reminders about Subway rules or tips. On that train there were a couple of teenagers with acoustic guitars who were singing rock songs and were actually really good! In a particularly well timed and entertaining twist, just as they were exiting into the next car, one of the random automated announcements came on reminding everyone that asking for money on the Subway was illegal and that we shouldn’t encourage them by giving them any! Several people on the train chuckled at just how perfectly it was timed!