Get lost in the stacks…. The slogan on a tote bag at New York City’s Strand Bookstore means it. During a recent day away to New York City, one of our objectives was this gigantic bookstore filled with the newest bestsellers and some gorgeous old leather-bound tomes.
It is said the bookstore just down the street from Union Square has 18 miles of books to peruse. It would have taken me more than a day to get through them all. There’s just so much to see, leaf through, read, desire, and buy. Want that new Amy Poehler book? Or a leatherbound copy of Charles Dickens’ Nicholas Nickleby? Or a picture book or a child’s book? Maybe you want something used? A bargain? Or a rare book? Something written in Spanish — or Latin?
I found all of those here on three floors of stacks. The Strand came highly recommended. It was the reason one of my book-loving daughters was on the trip. The Strand, she said, was considered one of the best bookstores in the world — up there with book cathedrals in Italy, Portugal and Detroit. So it wasn’t hard convincing the librarian, the teacher, the college student and the other bibliophiles among us. Off we went.
I lost track of time. I lost track of my traveling companions (and they, me!) I didn’t need a book. I wanted one. A special one to remind me of my visit to New York and to this bookstore. I wanted something I wasn’t going to find on Amazon. Or maybe I could have — but I wanted to look through the pages, feel the binding and admire the typography. You need to be inside a real bookstore to do that. That’s especially true if you’re looking for something special. I scanned the shelves of new books, used books, art books, photography coffee table books.
I found myself in the upper stratosphere of book collecting on the third floor where the rare books are kept. Some are on shelves, others are kept behind glass. Some looked well-loved. Some looked well-kept. I recognized classic titles and authors and saw others so beautifully bound I never even noticed the title or the author.
This is where everybody in my group ended up, all clutching a few books, one of the store’s clever tote bags or some other literary treasure.
How long had we been lost in the stacks? That’s something else we lost track of. This is clearly a place you visit twice. I had seen only a fraction of the titles and hardly anything on the first floor. We’d had only a second to browse through the totes, toys, office stuff with all their literary themes. Outside, the sun had set.
Still we had time to take pictures of ourselves at the store and on the way out to shoot a picture of the shop’s literaryNew Year’s resolutions posted on a sandwich sign outside on the bustling New York City sidewalk. Something more to consider as we left one of the world’s greatest book shops. I think we were convinced.
© Text and photos Mary K. Tilghman