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|Jessica Lollino • 3/07/18|
The Short Version: More than 90 years old, four floors high, and boasting over 18 miles of books, The Strand in New York City is one of the most famous bookstores in the world. The only remaining bookstore from Book Row, The Strand is a beacon to bibliophiles everywhere with its curated selection, thought-provoking events, and key partnerships with literary and social justice organizations. If you’re looking to bond with other avid readers, this is one of the best places to do so. More than just a bookseller, The Strand is always trying new things to improve literary and social discussions as well as finding new ways to delight book lovers.
Attraction is an individual thing. Everyone is attracted to something different. Some have a thing for redheads with beards, and others are stopped in their tracks by the allure of a musician.
Further still, for some people, intelligence is what they find most attractive. They’re drawn to those who spend their days reading and who can recite an E.E. Cummings poem from memory and then talk about the Qin Dynasty in the next breath.
Finding such a match doesn’t have to be difficult if you look in the right places, and one of the best is logical enough: a bookstore. If you’re in New York City, The Strand, which is visited by hundreds of people every day, is where you want to go.
From its inception, The Strand was fueled by a personal passion for books. Leigh Altshuler, Director of Marketing and Communications, said its unique founding story could easily rival any of the stories it sells on its shelves.
“The Strand is a family-owned bookstore, which was started in 1927 by Benjamin Bass. He opened the store on what was 4th Avenue, which was Book Row, which had 48 bookstores. He started the store with just $300 and his personal book collection. He just loved books,” she said.
As time went on, Benjamin’s son, Fred, learned more about the business and eventually took over. Reflecting on Fred’s love of books, Leigh told us he used to run around New York and even across the country looking for something new to read.
“Fred said it was often like a treasure hunt for him,” she said. He also moved The Strand from 4th Avenue to its current location and then expanded it to the four levels that it is today.
Fred eventually groomed his daughter, Nancy, to be the next Bass to run The Strand. She now manages the bookstore, which is the only remaining shop from Book Row.
When asked why The Strand continues to thrive and excite the book-loving population, Leigh told us, “We’re also a bookstore that likes doing new things. We offer different things like our merchandise or our events. We do things to set ourselves apart from just being a bookstore.”
Not only is The Strand a place where people can find books, but they can also come here to talk about current events. The Pen America series is a partnership between the famous bookstore and PEN America, which “stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide.”
These monthly to multi-monthly events feature panels on specific themes. In March, the discussion will be about the classic book “A Wrinkle in Time,” and the author’s family and biographer will be in attendance.
At Pen Out Loud: The Opposite of Hate @ Subculture, you can explore how hate and hate rhetoric are making this one of the most contentious periods of history. Attendees, including respected journalists, will learn about the roots of hate and then talk about how society can overcome it.
The Strand is chock-full of events every day. Leigh said, “We program nearly seven nights per week. One day we will have 200 people here to see an up-and-coming poet, and the next day we’ll have 150 people here for something completely different.”
While some events are more serious, others are for simply for having a laugh with a group of people. Leigh said, “We had a Galentine’s Day event on Feb. 13. There was wine, food, chocolate, and drawing. It was a really great time.”
Of course, a bookstore of this magnitude has an impressive array of book readings and signings regularly. In March alone, the team will host Andrew Lloyd Webber, Sarah McBride, Duane Michaels, and Mike Epps, among others. You can also attend puzzle parties and Dungeons and Dragons meetups — as well as National Book Critics Circle Finalist Readings and a panel on urban planning in the modern age.
One of the cool regular event series The Strand hosts is Think Olio. Leigh said, “Olios happens every Friday at 7 p.m. The concept is really interesting. Think Olio partners with New York professors to teach classes on whatever the teacher wants to teach on. So it can be anything from Mysticism Happy Hour to The History of Tech & The Future of Sex to The Muse That Screams: Shostakovich’s String Quartet No. 8. It’s fun, there’s beer, and it’s really exciting.”
The Strand is not only home to romance novels and poems but actual romance as well. Leigh said, “It definitely is a place where people will come for proposals. People write us all the time saying they met their partner at The Strand. There are all these crazy love stories, and it’s really interesting to be a part of those stories.”
She added, “We have weddings here almost every Saturday night. We’ve had writers as well as book lovers rent out our book room to get married in. It’s really cool.” The Rare Book Room is where you can say your vows surrounded by your friends, both human and hardcover. Marvel at the antique and rare books and fun bookish décor as you enjoy a wedding that truly reflects your personal style and passion.
Whether searching out that hard-to-find first edition or heading to an event, The Strand is an ideal place to come together with like-minded people. With over 18 miles of books on site, you’re sure to bump into someone looking for the same thing as you.