18 Miles… and a Lifetime of Reading
Has it ever happened to you that you go a store to buy something… even before you enter the store, your attention is caught by the wares on display outside and you return with your hands full, delighted with your purchases, without even entering the store? No, it is not a riddle… that is what happens to me lots of times at the Strand Bookstore!
Strand Bookstore is one of the world’s largest bookstores. An independent bookstore in Manhattan, it is located at the corner of Broadway and 12th Street. Founded in 1927, on the no-more-existing Book Row (Fourth Avenue below Union Square), it sells all varieties and categories of books – new as well as used. ‘18 Miles of Books’ is their slogan, but I can’t believe it is only 18 miles…
Strand Bookstore has these rows of book stands out on the sidewalk, piled up with books on sale at heavily discounted prices. And the surprise factor runs sky high… you have no idea what or who you will find there. So as soon as I get to the store, I make a beeline for these stands. It hasn’t happened yet that I have walked away from there empty handed, most often picking up as many as I can carry! And the actual book I came to buy gets postponed to the next visit.
Have you noticed perfectly matched sets of books in professional offices, television and movie sets, etc? Most likely, they came from Strand. They will put together collections according to your specifications; all you have to do is, say how many feet of books you want. Yes, it is called ‘books by the foot’! And you can either buy them or if your need is temporary, Strand will lend them to you. You can also choose from a variety of subjects including art, biography, reference, law, music, theatre and classic literature.
If you needed a particular book – doesn’t matter whether best seller or out of print – Strand would be THE place to go looking for it. If they do not have it, the likelihood is that they will be able to get it for you. And a more friendly and helpful set of people I haven’t met. Most impressive is the way the staff knows about what is and is not on the shelves, despite the huge, humungous collection in the store. When I asked whether I could take pictures in the store, I mostly expected to hear ‘No way’, but was pleasantly surprised to be told, ‘Of course’.
I used to think that the best place to work, that is if you are not a writer of some kind, 🙂 would be a library. But after many many visits to Strand Bookstore, I think I would love working there!
When you sell a man a book, you don’t sell him 12 ounces of paper and ink and glue – you sell him a whole new life.