You can never get bored in the City, yet I think New York is at its best when the tulips and the cherry trees are blooming in the spring and people finally take off the scarves and the heavy jackets and enjoy the outdoors. Everything seems wonderful also in the summer and in the fall. Until the rain starts.
Don’t get me wrong: the Big Apple offers loads to do also on a rainy day (museums, shows, endless dining options…just to name a few) but sometimes, if you are local, you just feel like saving some bucks and get away from the hustle and bustle of the crowded areas.
When the first rainy days are joined by the fog and gray skies, that’s just about the right time to get into a large bookstore, like the Strand, and buy some quality reading material.
The problem with the Strand bookstore, located in the old Greenwich Village, is not to get in but how to get out. Its logo boasts that it offers ‘over 18 miles of books’ which translates to about 29 kilometers of books if you are on the metric system.
The Strand also holds the title of being the largest bookstore of rarities in the world and that is noticeable before entering: there are several shelves where you can find first edition Agatha Christie's novels or curious photobooks from the seventies for instance.
There is also a section with one-dollar books hand-picked by the staff that are one more interesting than the next.
It is hard to leave the one-dollar shelves (without buying something that is!) and move to the other floors of the bookshop. But once inside the circles, leaving is almost impossible.
The Strand has just turned 90 years old last year. The iconic bookshop used to be located only a few blocks from its current location, on a street known as the block of books because it was home to several bookstores, but over time these shops were replaced by banks and by some chain stores. Today, the only one that remains is the Strand, a family business run since the beginning by its owners, the Bass family. The Strand stands as the only bookshop in the neighborhood and (Alas!) as the only ‘mom and pop store’ in the area (if you can call so a shop which occupies the entire block!).
A journalist from the New Yorker has recently interviewed Nancy, the daughter of the Bass family, who is currently running the bookstore and she told him that one of the most valuable pieces on the premises is a 50,000-dollar copy of the Ulysses, signed by Joyce and Matisse, who illustrated it.
The Store has three floors and a basement where to browse books and more books on: art, photography, history, cooking, science fiction, mathematics and anything you may wish to know more about.
Books are classified per genre and also arranged by author, although there are some special sections such as the bestsellers’ table, the local authors’ corner, the gift ideas and the one-dollar section I mentioned earlier.
There are some special shelves with new books recommended by the staff and it’s worth mentioning that the Store gives work to more than 200 employees, all voracious readers.
In the basement they sell music, movies and some gadgets, but the independent shop tries to steer clear of the format of other chain bookshops that nowadays sell almost anything but books.
The Strand aims at being a bookstore for book lovers and connoisseurs and its personnel is well informed on the latest books as well as on the classics. The retail store also disposes of computers that the customers can use to find what they search or get ideas on what to buy according to their personal preferences. More than a companion on a rainy day, I say!