After you’ve visited the iconic New York landmarks and eaten as much thin-crust pizza and as many Coney Island dogs as your stomach can handle, you should always make time to curl up in the park with an amazing book, like a true New Yorker. There’s only one place to pick out the perfect reading material, but be warned: once you start browsing the Strand Book Store, you might “lose” your whole afternoon. There’s a reason bookworms the world over call this the city’s best bookstore, and it’s the more than “18 miles of books” crammed inside this 86-year-old Union Square classic.
Start outside at the store’s famed one-dollar racks, where with a little luck and patience, you might just unearth a hidden gem. Once you find a keeper, head inside—and do whatever you can to keep from keep from hyperventilating. There are just so…many…books! Where to start? If you have an exact title in mind, head to one of the many help desks. These guys really know their stuff, and they’ll walk you straight to that obscure science philosophy book in the basement or that rare comic collection on the second floor.
But you’ll want to take it all in, so work your way from the ground up. The basement is packed with plenty of nonfiction—business, science, memoirs, you name it—as well as bargain finds. (Who knew hard copies could still be cheaper than eBooks?) Then it’s up to the first floor, where most of the fiction lives. Keep an eye out for the celebrity-curated tables, where your favorite stars share titles from their own bookshelves.
By now you’ve already searched out some winners, but don’t miss sauntering around on the second floor among beautiful, huge volumes on art and photography. Lastly, walk up to the third floor—the story that really sets the Strand apart—to view a truly impressive collection of rare, collectible, and signed book editions.
Your canvas bag is now packed, and you’re losing daylight—and valuable reading time. So make a final stop in front of the store’s modern classics tables, right by the front door. This, you’ll suddenly realize, might be your favorite section of all. Somehow, each title pings you. From Melville to McCarthy, it’s your reading list in the flesh. The Strand Book Store, over 80 years in, still keeps pace with the city around it. And with your picks in hand, set out to carve a spot in Union Square Park, throw down a blanket, and take a reprieve from the city’s famous bustle.