18 Miles of Books

Wherever Emily and I travel together, we are sure to hit the major bookstores. In Paris, this meant that we went to Shakespeare and Company. In England, we went to Blackwell’s. In Washington DC, we went to Capitol Books. All of these bookstores were like heaven to two book lovers such as ourselves, but one of the best bookstores Emily and I ever went to was The Strand in New York City.

I was lucky enough to go to college in New York City, and Emily, attending the University of Maryland, was able to come visit me quite often. On almost all of her visits, we trekked down to Union Square to peruse the 18 miles of books that is The Strand Bookstore.

The Strand is one of the most famous bookstores in New York. It sells everything from new releases to old classics to rare (like, $5000 rare) first editions and signed copies. With four stories of books, you can find everything from fiction to nonfiction, children’s books to art books, Shakespeare coffee mugs to Jane Austen tote bags. It truly is a book lover’s heaven. Emily and I loved finding cheap copies of new books and beautiful old copies of our favorite classics.

Whenever we would go to The Strand, Emily and I would break off, knowing that we would both eventually end up in the Young Adult section on the second floor. But I had a routine that I always followed. I passed by the classic section to look at beautifully bound copies of Oliver Twist and The Praise of Folly. Then I would meander down the aisles of books to the science fiction section to look for new copies of Lord of the Rings. Because I have a problem buying copies of Lord of the Rings. I have 6 copies of The Lord of the Rings and 5 copies of The Hobbit.

After checking the Tolkien section, I would make my way to the poetry shelf to look for pretty copies of my favorite poets—Elizabeth Barrett Browning, W.B. Yeats, and Sylvia Plath. Next it was downstairs to the nonfiction section to look for more books on Tolkien, because clearly I don’t have enough. Then it was up to the second story to look at their wonderful young adult and children’s section. This is where Emily and I would usually meet up and then we would go up to the third floor to check out the rare and antique books that were well beyond our budgets.

The Strand is one of the biggest bookstores you’ll go to that is not a Barnes and Noble. The books are great prices and you can find fantastic scores—from copies with pretty bindings to books for only $1. Emily and I never went in without coming out with at least one book. Usually more. But even if you’re not buying anything, The Strand is a wonderful place to go and just soak up the aura of books.

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