Stranded in New York City: My Literary Adventure

This week I had the opportunity to visit New York City and explore one of its biggest and best bookstores.  The Strand, on 12th Street and Broadway, which has been in business for 86 years,  boasts 18 miles of books on three floors.  Browsing the massive collection of books is a bibliophile’s dream come true.  One of the things that impressed me the most is the abundance of what blogger Times Flow recently called “alt-lit”—which to me means literature in translation from around the world, books from small presses, and reissued classics.  Not only do they have a plethora of such interesting literature, but these types of books are displayed prominently on easy-to-browse tables on the first floor of The Strand.


I recently acquired a copy of Anne Carson’s translation of Sappho and became intrigued with her writing and translating so I was excited to find two Carson books (well, more like pamphlets) at The Strand.  Her poetry collection entitled Float comes in a clear plastic box and contains a series of chapbooks with poems, reflections, lists, and thoughtful observations.  They are meant to be read separately or as one continuous, connected work; I would like to set aside enough time to read them all at once.



I also found another  chapbook from Anne Carson that she wrote for part of the New Directions poetry pamphlet series.  I read The Albertine Workout on the train ride home and found it interesting, clever, humorous and erudite.   It’s ironic and thrilling that she penned such a small, thoughtful pamphlet on Proust!


I also came across a rather inexpensive copy of Samuel Beckett’s Echo’s Bones.  One aspect of The Strand that is also helpful is their abundance of new books on sale as well as inexpensive used book selection.


I also couldn’t resist this new, pristine copy of Fagle’s translation of the Aeneid to replace my badly worn out copy.  The introduction by Bernard Knox is a fantastic piece of writing that makes this translation worth owning just for his essay alone.


It was particularly exciting for me to walk into The Strand and immediately find books from many of my favorite small presses.  I browsed through books from Deep Vellum, New Vessel Press, Archipelago Books, Seagull Books and New Directions.  I found three books to add to my ever-growing collection from the New York Review of Books: The Selected Poems of Osip Mandelstam, The Other by Thomas Tryon and The Ten Thousand Things by Maria Dermout.


I also found this copy of The Expedition to the Baobab Tree by Wilma Stockenstrom published by Archipelago Books.


Finally, I had the thrill of a lifetime when, as I was browsing this fabulous selection of books, I opened a copy of Recitation by Bae Suah from Deep Vellum which I recently reviewed.  Inside the front cover was a blurb from my review of her previous book, A Greater Music, that I wrote for World Literature Today.



I also highly recommend The Strand Kiosk which is located outside of Central Park on E. 60th St. and 5th Ave.  It is only opened seasonally and I had the opportunity to browse the Kiosk during my visit last June and also came home with an assortment of great books.  And a final thing worth mentioning about The Strand is the third floor of the main shop on Broadway which is full of rare and collectable first edition books.  Their selection of rare books is also listed for sale on their website.  I am hoping that someday my copy of Bottom’s Dream from Dalkey Archive will be worthy of sitting among the rare books in their collection.  Although I doubt that I would ever be able to part with my copy!

I always find New York exciting and exhilarating and The Strand is a unique destination in the city that adds to the thrill of visiting.  I could have spent at least a few more hours there, I didn’t even make it to the second floor of books!  I am contemplating a day trip next month just to go back and visit this magical, literary place.  What are your favorite bookshops from around the world?


Filed under Classics, Literary Fiction, Literature in Translation, Literature/Fiction, New York Review of Books, New York Review of Books Poetry, Nonfiction, Osip Mandelstam, Poetry, Russian Literature

24 responses to “Stranded in New York City: My Literary Adventure

  1. That is one luscious book haul.

    You and Carson are a reader-writer match made in heaven. Two literary classicists. I hope you’ll write about her. It would be interesting to hear your thoughts on her liberal but deeply poetic translations. (Her Euripides is my favorite Euripides.)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. A rather nice haul, Melissa, from a favourite bookshop, On my last visit, I found a couple of Hubert Selby novels. Does anyone read him anymore, I wonder? It is like all of London’s Cecil Court rolled into one shop.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Visiting Cecil Court and the Persephone Bookshop in London are high up on my to do list. I don’t think Selby is read much but it is just the type of alt-lit we are fond of! Glad you discovered him at The Strand!


  3. The Strand is one of my favorite New York destinations – Powell’s in Portland would be its main rival for me. In Seattle I also love the not so ginormous but excellent Elliott Bay Book Company and University Book Store, also the Half Price Books chain is great for used books and bargains.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ve heard about this bookstore via a close friend who visits New York every now and again. Sometimes she buys a few books for me, usually the NYRB Classics editions that are harder to source over here in the UK. It sounds like a wonderful pace – glad you enjoyed your visit.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. What a wonderful account of a bookstore visit! I spent an afternoon in El Ateneno, which is in Buenos Aires, in a former theater – a stunning setting for books, although most were in Spanish of course. I love Powell’s in Portland and really, really enjoy Elliott Bay Books in Seattle. I have never been there, but a delightful bookstore in Brooklyn is Greenlight Books – can’t wait to visit one of these days, but in the meantime I order a surprise book now and then for my son to pick up – he lives in Brooklyn – and the staff there are always so wonderful and thrilled to wrap the book with a personal card. When I was in London, I spent a couple of hours in Daunt Books – lovely. Browsers Bookshop in Olympia is excellent. I do love to wander into whatever bookstores I can find when I visit a city or small town.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. you got me going with that post title – i thought you were stuck in the city! sounds like a lovely trip


  7. Delighted to hear that you enjoyed your visit to The Strand. I’ve only been once and have to confess to being a little overwhelmed but that may have been the jet lag. I’d echo Valorie’s enjoyment of Daunts and also give a little shout out to my local independent here in Bath, Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights. The name’s a little twee for me but it’s a wonderful shop.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Wonderful! I’m so jealous! If I could travel to overseas bookshops it would be this one and Powells!


  9. The Strand Kiosk at Central Park was open when I went to New York at the end of December. I guess it remains open all winter.

    I love visiting bookstores when I travel, even if the books are in a language I don’t speak.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I’d love to go to the Strand someday. Even though I grew up on the East Coast, I’ve only ever been to NYC one day in my life!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t think that’s uncommon! The city is a very intimidating place and when I lived in Buffalo, NY I knew lots of people that had not visited and had no desire to go there. It’s really an acquired taste.


  11. What fun! Thanks for sharing your NY adventure! And congrats on finding your quote inside the book – how exciting! Although, I am not surprised. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Nice haul Melissa. I have Expedition to the Baobab Tree too, bought when I came across a number of Archipelago titles on sale and bought one of each title! I am fortunate that we have two really good (and different) independent bookshops here (plus a third which is, to my taste a little more conventional). My favourite shop is also three floors (though smaller by far) and the basement is all sale and second hand. I love that they have a corner devoted to small indie presses (including a small flock of Seagulls due to my bad influence) and nearly a complete collection of NYRB titles.

    Strange how, outside of these stores, I rarely meet anyone who reads the type of literature I do.


  13. I love the Strand but sometimes it is a little crowded and chaotic — hard to find a quiet spot. McNally Jackson in NYC is definitely worth a visit. In my hometown (Chicago), I love Myopic Books, which is a used bookstore where I can (and have) spent hours. Since I work in an independent bookstore, you’d think I’d get tired of visiting bookstores, but I never do — have to check them out in every city I visit!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Here in England it’s relatively rare to find a really good one-off bookshop, as the chain Waterstones has pretty much taken over the market (not that they are bad shops, in fact the Piccadilly branch in Manchester is marvellous). But a few years ago I was in Ely – small market town near Cambridge – and came across Toppings. I spent ages browsing and buying: they had so many books I’d not come across. And I was stunned to be asked if I wanted tea, and tea (proper, leaf tea in a pot) was brought, freshly made, on a tray for me to enjoy as I browsed. A little bit of heaven – for this book-lover!

    Liked by 2 people

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