Great Bookstores: The Strand, New York City

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsManhattan used to be a book-shopping mecca for me, with independent and used bookstores every other block. Alas, that is no longer the case, as I learned to my regret a few years ago when my husband and I tried to track down a few beloved stores. Said husband had printed out a list of Manhattan bookstores from the Internet, failing to note that the list was published ten years earlier. We walked from the West Side to the East Side and back again, discovering either that stores no longer existed or were mere shadows of their former selves. All that walking! And it was sleeting on top of it. As you might imagine, I suggested gently (!) that my husband check the date on any list next time.

One great Manhattan bookstore that survives is Strand Book Store. Like Powell’s (which we visited in a previous Great Bookstores column), it sells new and used books together — though not on the same shelf, side by side, as Powell’s does. My favorite part of “The Strand” is its section of review copies: new books intended for the eyes of reviewers that somehow became “extra.” The markdown in price is substantial for these new books. It isn’t unusual for me to find a book I’ve only read about and never seen in a store. I push a shopping cart up and down these narrow, somewhat disorganized aisles in the basement, happily picking up book after book. The Strand isn’t as inviting as Powell’s, with no café, out-of-reach shelves, unhelpful staff and tons of books seemingly shelved at random, but it’s nonetheless a booklover’s paradise.

If you want to get lost in a bookstore, The Strand and Powell’s are among the few really great bookstores remaining in the United States. I may be enamored of Portland’s geography and New York’s culture, but even without those side benefits, these stores are worth the trip all by themselves.

Readers, please let us know about your favorite bookstores! Send Kat a photo of the SFF section, the name and address of the bookstore, and a short explanation about why you love that store.

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TERRY WEYNA, on our staff since December 2010, would rather be reading than doing almost anything else. She reads all day long as an insurance coverage attorney, and in all her spare time as a reviewer, critic and writer. Terry lives in Northern California with her husband, professor emeritus and writer Fred White, two rambunctious cats, and an enormous library.

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  1. Gods, the Strand. I used to live in NYC, and I’d literally get lost in that store. It’s a chaos in there, but it’s so much fun – like a treasure hunt. I always liked the one on Broadway and 13th (?) much more than the one down in the Financial District – that one was just too clean and too organized compared to the chaos of the B’way one :)

  2. I too, enjoy The Strand. It’s easy to spend hours in the store and only scratch the surface of their collection. However, another bookstore in NYC you might consider is Westsider Books on Broadway between 80th & 81st streets. It’s not nearly as mammoth as The Strand, but it has a more independent and old bookish feel about it. They have a small fantasy section, but their outside $1 selection is even better. I’ve found tons of great fantasy/sci-fi there and only paid in singles.

  3. Jacob, thanks for the lead on Westsider Books. We’ll have to check it out next time we fly across the country for a theater fix.

  4. I’m glad to see The Strand getting some “loving” here. I’ve never been to the one Stefan mentions, but yeah the one near Brodway is great!! An interesting fact…my audio publisher’s studio is 10 floors above The Strand and I’ve recently made a few trips to New York to do some introduction recordings there – what a great surprise to find it’s location provides me the one-stop convience of hitting both places at the same time.

  5. Splicer /

    Ah, yes, The Strand. I frequented this place back when there was also a Virgin Megastore two blocks away and Forbidden Planet was across the street.

    I found some great books there and the browsing was always hours of fun. The surly and dismissive staff were part of the experience.

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