Union Square, as described by a friend of mine, is “the place for hippies and hipsters”. True to his word, the place was full of young adults milling around, listening to music, reading books, playing chess, and whatnot. As interesting as the area was, I didn’t stop here long, as I was more interested in something else.
Known to people as “The Strand”, the Strand Bookstore is a huge bookstore with the slogan “18 Miles of Books”. With 55,000 square feet of space, it’s holds the title of the world’s second largest used-books store. And while it is most famously known for its ridiculously large collection of rare, used, or out-of-print books, they also have new publications as well, most of them as discounted prices.
Once you enter, you immediately get the claustrophobic sensation of being stuck in a shrinking room…that’s probably because of the tight maze of floor-to-ceiling bookshelves that occupy all three-stories of the building. Everything is super crowded and super chaotic-looking, but do not fear…there is a method to this madness! Apparently everything is computerized, so all you have to do is ask one of the friendly and very knowledgeable people who work there, and they will gladly point you on your way.
If you really can’t take the stifling atmosphere indoors, you can always head outside where they have dozens of carts of used books. The ones you want to look out for are the carts marked with $1.00 and $2.00…I’ve never seen used books sold this cheaply ever! And they aren’t all cruddy supermarket novels or whatever; I actually managed to find some gems of academic texts and poetry compilations of some of my favourite poets.
Once you’re done perusing books to your heart’s content, walk on over to the nearby street of St. Mark’s Place. A sort of “counter-culture” neighbourhood, you might at first glance find it populated solely with stores that sell glass bongs and goth/punk clothing. But there are a couple of very nice artisan tea and dessert stores nestled between the madness, where you can purchase hand-made tea by the pot and settle down with your newly bought books.
The rest of the area kind of looks like this though. Very grungy and quite frankly, not my thing. But the tea was delicious, and the lady very nice.
Tune in next time for Museum Mile Madness…where I walked the entire LENGTH of Central Park along 5th Avenue! An insane amount of walking was had!