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As readers, we all adore our local and independent bookstores. These incredible places usually promise customers many literary treats including rare editions, cool community events, hilarious coffee mugs, and so much more.
As for me, independent bookstores are among my favorite places to turn off my brain and explore new titles that I don’t often see on the front page of Amazon. Heck, to be totally honest with all of you, I’m reaching a point where I only want to support public libraries and independent bookstores, haha.
The Strand Bookstore in Manhattan is one of the most famous independent bookstores in all of the United States. Perhaps only second to Powell’s Books in Portland. And so the Strand needs to belong on each and every literature lover’s New York City itinerary.
Now, believe it or not, I never had the chance to patronize this magical bookstore on my many visits to New York City. Don’t ask me why. Time constraints, no money, blah blah blah excuses excuses.
However, on my first trip to the Strand Bookstore this June, I immediately fell in love with the place’s atmosphere, and I truly believe this store is a “must see” for anyone who adores the written word.
Honestly, the Strand took my breath away in the same way the Morgan Library did back in March. Let me tell you why.
What is so Special About the Strand Bookstore?
Oh, man. Shall I count the ways? My eyes lit up upon entering the Strand and for many good reasons. Buckle in, friends, because you’re in for a long ride.
I have a strong fondness for historical buildings. After all, history was one of my favorite subjects in high school. And boy, does the Strand have a lot of cool history standing behind it.
First of all, the Strand Bookstore was founded in 1927, which is pretty old by American standards. The founder, Ben Bass, named the Strand after a famous literary street located in London. The original store was not a huge commercial success especially with the arrival of the Great Depression.
However, better days loomed on the horizon. The original owner’s son, eventually moved the Strand to its current location and expanded it to three floors by the 1970s. Literary types of many shapes and sizes gathered in the Strand to discuss their latest works. Nancy, Ben Bass’s granddaughter, is the current manager of the store.
At the time of its construction, the Strand was located in an area called “Book Row,” which covered six city blocks and consisted of forty-eight bookstores. Currently, the Strand is the only survivor of these original forty-eight stores. Pretty cool, huh?
It’s Still a Family Owned Business
Unlike big corporations, such as Amazon and Barnes and Noble, the Strand Bookstore is family owned and run. This family legacy has been going on for ninety (!!) years. I’m curious to see which of Nancy’s children take the reigns as the next manager! I’m a little jealous of them.
Not only is the Strand a family business, but it employs many people in the New York City community. Currently, the Strand has over 200 employees who are fully unionized. Not exactly your tiny independent store, huh?
Earn Money and Sell Your Books
Do you have a ton of extra books lying around your home? Bring them to the Strand! You can earn a buck for more books and more travels.
You can sell your old books at the Strand to ensure they find a lovely new home. You’ll feel as if you’re giving back to the literary community, which is always a good thing.
There are some requirements, however, if you wish to sell your books. For example, all paperbacks must be in good condition with no markings or highlights in the pages. The Strand also doesn’t really deal with university textbooks either. Sorry college students.
2.5 Million Books. Woooow.
Yes, you see the logo “18 Miles of Books” scribed everywhere on the store’s merchandise, but did you know that the Strand has over 2.5 million books in its inventory? How incredible is that number? The Strand contains more books than the average person can read in his/her lifetime.
My heart dances just thinking about it.
Don’t have time to shop during the day because you want to see all of New York’s museums? Not a problem. The Strand is open until 10:30 every single night of the week! Buy your books after dinner if you want!
A Popular Culture Icon
The Strand Bookstore is iconic among Greenwich Village authors. Not to mention, this bookstore has appeared in many feature films, television shows, and plays. It even appears in one of Joyce Carol Oates’s short stories! Impressive.
Traveling alone? Here are my solo travel New York tips!
Where is the Strand Bookstore Located?
This gem is located in the East Village neighborhood of Manhattan. The precise address is 828 Broadway and 12th Street. Seriously, you can’t miss it.
If you’re staying in Manhattan, you’ll have no problem reaching the Strand. Brooklyn and New Jersey are further away, but, depending on your location, the trip is not impossible using public transportation.
Once you’re in Manhattan itself, you can easily reach The Strand Bookstore when you use New York City’s extensive subway system. For example, the bookshop isn’t too far away from 14 Street – Union Square Station, a metro stop served by the 4, 5, 6, L, N, Q, R and W trains, being only a two to three minute walk in total.
Additionally, the Strand Bookstore has kiosks all over New York City. You can find them in Times Square and Central Park. However, I encourage to go to the main store if you’re passionate about books. I promise.
Can You Find Books on Sale?
Uh, yes, yes absolutely you can!
Budget readers, you will fall in love with this place, and possibly spend too much money even with the discounts. I loved exploring the basement, which was filled to the brim with used books.
But the basement isn’t the only place to discover deals. Not by a long shot.
Go outside to find rows and rows of discounted books. You will discover some incredible prices even as low as $2 a pop!
The Strand Bookstore’s Rare Edition Floor is Epic.
Even if you don’t buy anything, you must visit the Strand’s rare book room on the third floor. Especially if you’re nerdy about super old books and rare editions of classics. If I had more time, I would’ve sat in one of the comfy chairs and savored the many volumes around me.
A lot of books are available for you to touch and flip through the pages, too, which is extra cool.
Some of the most unique and fascinating books I saw on my own visit to the rare book room include:
- A custom edition of Curious George Goes to the Hospital retailing for $4500.
- A first edition copy of A Separate Peace. Forget me not liking the actual book for a second. This cover was gorgeous and made me want to buy it. It retails for $1250.
- A first edition copy of A Good Man is Hard to Find. I teach this story to my honors class so it holds a special place in my heart. This edition retails for $600.
- A gorgeous red covered collection of the works of William Shakespeare. You can buy all seven volumes for $2500.
The rare book room is located on the third floor. Stairs are available, as well as an elevator if you’re tired from walking all over the city. Score!
A word of warning. The rare book room’s hours are different than the main store. Plan your visit for Monday – Saturday between the hours of 9:30 am. and 6:15. The rare book room is also open on Sundays, but not until 11:00 am. Time your visit so you avoid disappointment.
Tell Me All About the Author Events.
Want something a bit more … oh … interactive? You’ve come to the right place!
Like other independent bookstores, the Strand organizes many events throughout the year, which are hosted by famous and local authors. A few of the more “famous” panelists include Salman Rushdie, Carrie Fisher, Senator Bernie Sanders, Patti Smith, and David Sedaris.
A lot of these events occur on week nights, so they are perfect for solo travelers who are staying in New York City. Go, learn, and meet other book lovers!
On a budget? Don’t worry. Some of the events are free and open to the public! Simply check out the Strand’s calendar for more details.
Tell me some of your favorite independent bookstores! Why do you love them so much? Which ones should I visit in the near future? As always, thanks for your support!