Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Travels with Kitten: A visit to The Strand

Finally, a night to kick back, relax, and chat with my darling kittens! How is everyone out there in the blogosphere? I've missed you guys!

There really isn't much going on right now, except to report that I've never been busier professionally. And never more satisfied with my job. The honeymoon continues, and I hope it lasts for as long as possible.

I must tell you, though, that I went to the city (that's NYC for those of you who don't live locally) over Labor Day weekend and made a booklover's pilgrimage to Mecca...in other words, I went to the Strand Bookstore, more commonly known as "The Strand".

Now for those of you who have no idea what I'm talking about, the Strand is the oldest and largest independent bookstore in the city, specializing in old and rare books. They also sell new books at roughly 10% cheaper than cover prices. (I'm not entirely sure about the discount; I don't speak math). Yes, it is a used bookstore, but when they say they have 18 miles of books, they're not kidding.

I couldn't decide, truthfully, about going to the city. Then, that Friday, I saw Julie and Julia with a friend of mine. There is a scene where Julie Powell and her best friend are searching through the carts of $1.00 books in front of the Strand. I took it as a sign.

Anyhoo, there are several carts of books in front of the store that have books that sell for $1.00. They were mostly travel guides from the 70s, locally published poetry books, and other various slim paperbacks. However, it was a lot of fun to dig through these carts and see what you could find. There were old, outdated dictionaries in languages ranging from Polish to Gaelic. There were lots of children's books. You never know what treasures you'll find in those carts.

After searching through the $1.00 bargains, I stepped into the store. Oh. My. God. It was three floors of heaven. When I die, I hope that my heaven is very much like the Strand. There were shelves of books everywhere. There were tables and tables of bestsellers and staff favorites. I found a copy of The DaVinci Code for $4.95, hardcover, first edition, prime condition. I bought it immediately.

I kept browsing and discovered a huge wall of cookbooks of every genre you could imagine. Every type of cuisine was represented there. Of course, there was a huge display of Julia Child cookbooks, given the Strand's brief appearance in Julie and Julia. The store was running a special where, if you purchased the two books that the movie was based on, you got a free Strand apron. I already owned both books, so I did not need to do this.

The main floor housed the fiction section, as well as biographies of film and television personalities, world history, and more. The ceilings were so tall, and the shelves so immense, that in many cases, you had to ask an employee to climb a ladder to get the book for you. (I would have taken pictures, but A), I wasn't sure if they were allowed, and B), I was having camera problems). But I digress.

I ventured down into the basement. This is where they house their technology and foreign language collections. But the best part of all is--ok, brace yourselves, kittens--there is a very, very, very extensive collection of advance review copies of books--hardcover ones--that are sold for 50% off the cover price. There were many recent bestsellers there--I think I saw the latest Sophie Kinsella--and other past favorites. Oftentimes authors will visit the Strand to promote their latest work, and whatever leftover copies there are, get shipped to the basement where their price gets cut in half. If I had a bigger budget, I would have delved into some of treasures.

The second floor houses a rather impressive, extensive collection of children's books. I didn't allow myself enough time to thoroughly browse this floor, but I did go to the third floor--the one which the Strand is most famous for.

The third floor houses the rare books. I'm talking first-edition, leather-bound rarities that can sell for thousands of dollars. Books so rare, you need to be escorted to the cash register to pay for them. Again, I didn't take much time to browse through this section, but the atmosphere itself was worth the visit. It reminded me of the quietest of college libraries, with that wonderful old book smell. I can't quite describe the scent, for words won't do it justice, but it was a heavenly aroma.

I must have spent about an hour at the Strand, and even though I budgeted for my purchases, I still spent slightly more than I wanted to. Still, it's a place I plan to return to again, this time with some fellow bibliophiles. I want to spend more time on the children's floor and on the rare books floor. Hell, I want to spend more time in that store, period. If I lived in Manhattan, I'd try and get to the Strand as often as I could!

But enough of me babbling about this glory of a store. Click here to visit the Strand's official website. And if you're in Manhattan, and you're a book lover, make sure you pay a visit. Take the subway to Union Square (the 4, 5, or 6 lines will get you there). Then cross Broadway and proceed on East 12th Street; the Strand is not that far down. You won't regret this, ever! I'm already planning my next trip there!

7 comments:

Kathie @ my net finds said...

WOW, it sounds amazing!!! I would love to go there :-)

Yaya said...

My Heaven equivalent would be a store of orange.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Only an hour? I could spend all day in a store like that!
You know, for all their massive size, chains like B&N and Borders just don't compare to large, independent stores in terms of diversity and personality.

L. Diane Wolfe “Spunk On A Stick”
www.circleoffriendsbooks.blogspot.com

Jenners said...

Next time I'm in NYC, I'm going ... no excuses from the Little One and Mr. Jenners. They can go suck an egg or something while I glory in what seems like paradise on earth!!!!!!

Missy said...

My next trip up to see my dad, I am definitely hitting The Strand. It sounds wonderful!

septembermom said...

I could get lost in there for hours! What a place for a book lover:)

Marie said...

I LOVE The Strand. LOVE. Every time I'm in NYC, even for the day, I try to get down there. It's book heaven!