828 Broadway, New York, NY
The idea of writing a review of Strand feels almost silly, as its reputation precedes itself quite well. And telling New York City bookworms about Strand is like telling Michael Jordan about basketball, but it’s an absolute pleasure to bring out-of-town book lovers into Strand and watch their eyes pop as they stare agog at the multi-floor beauty waiting for them within, or at the racks and racks of dollar books lining the sidewalk outside. This is my favorite place to browse for books. You can kill half a day here if you wanted to and never get bored, and I can’t remember a time when I didn’t leave the shop without a purchase.
Believe it or not, I know a few Strand detractors—it feels more corporate than it used to be, or they don’t pay their workers enough, it’s too crowded, etc. Okay, you’re welcome to those opinions, and you may have some points, but I still call Strand “Mecca” for a reason—miles and literal miles of excellent new, discounted, used, and tough-to-find literary gems. They have damn near everything and anything you could imagine, and the majority of them are cheaper than you’ll find elsewhere, from just a dollar or two off to almost half off the original price.
The three main floors are where you’ll probably spend most of your time, and each brings something unique to the experience. There are gobs of children’s and YA on the third floor, where I like to browse and reminisce about all the books I read as a child, and there are scores of art books and art nonfiction covering all varieties and styles up there as well. And if you descend into the massive basement you’ll find a flood of philosophy, military history, science, sports, memoirs, literary nonfiction, finance, vinyl records, staff picks, mass market paperbacks, and loads more.
The main action is on the ground floor, where you’ll also find many of their best deals. Fiction and nonfiction (mostly history) both new and old, used and pristine, discounted and full price, rarities and the essentials, cards and gifts, a plethora of t-shirts, cooking, travel, local interest, plus an area where you can sell books back. They have a section dedicated to translations, an impressive poetry section along a side wall, and in the very back I found a well-stocked section of crime, sci-fi, and horror, where I picked up a paperback anthology of stories written about or taking place on Halloween for just $8. I’m not surprised by such a random find. It’s indicative of the far-reaching specialties you’ll find in the Strand’s stacks.
The store has everything, and I haven't event mentioned the fifth floor's antique and signed book collection. It's worth a browse almost for the museum-like quality of the books. All in all, Strand is a landmark for a reason and any local or visitor would do very well by stopping in and experiencing the biggest indie around. Top marks.
Atmosphere — A big bustling shop that is almost always filled with locals and tourists alike, with plenty of areas to explore. Get ready to spend an afternoon there.
Quality — From new to old, all the books are in excellent shape and from both famous and lesser-known authors.
Quantity — Literal miles of books. No kidding. There’s no shortage here.
Diversity — As big as it is, you won’t be surprised by the vast diversity of genres, topics, styles, and authors.
Affordability — Excellent affordability. While many new titles are full price (or near it) there are so many books marked half off that it will be hard to leave empty handed.
Amenities — No food or drinks or places to sit, but it almost feels like there would be with how bustling the store is. A wide variety of gifts and the ability to sell books back are notable features. And you're close to plenty of cafes, coffee shops, bars, restaurants, etc.
Location — Just two blocks from Union Square near multiple coffee shops, cafes, and eateries.
Customer Service — The staff are everywhere but are often busy, so if you need help you need to ask, otherwise they’ll just keep swirling about you restocking as you browse.
Overall — This is a monument to bookselling and it’s as much a tourist stop as Radio City Music Hall, Rock Center, The Met, or any other in NYC. Even so, it's full of excellent deals, an incredible array of books, it’s an absolute must for any book lover.