Just Browsing

I like books.

I mean, I like reading. But I also like books. The two kinda go hand-in-hand for me, someone who’s considered getting an e-reader, but decided not to because he likes writing in his books too much. The pandemic has given me a deal of time to read, which is really fortunate since one of the last things I did before the initial lockdown was visit The Strand.

The Strand Bookstore is nothing short of a New York institution. It’s in the Village, near where I went to University, and home to so many books they’re measured in miles (23 of them, apparently). It’s the sort of place that I’ve popped in for a bit and ended up buying three more books than the none I’d planned on. It’s easy to get lost in there, perusing the stacks of books and shelves that reach far over my head. They also have cool socks.

I last went to The Strand in March, as Ken Liu was doing a talk there with his new short story collection. The talk was great, I bought his book, said hi, and, on my way out, proceeded to buy another five books because, well, it’s The Strand, man.

Covid hit, I read ’em all, reread The Lord of The Rings, and needed new books. I knew that bookstores were having a hard go of it in these Trying Times® so I forwent Amazon’s quick shipping for bookshop.org to get more. Because books, man, books.

I like having bookshelves, I like being able to grab one off the shelf and flip to something I want to double-check, or at least being able to take one down and hand to a friend. Maybe it’s because I have that dream in the back of my mind of being able to have a house with a library (fireplace and big comfy chair are optional) and I want to start the collection now. Also, look, I don’t have to justify my love of books to you! I know what I’m about!

I do miss going to bookstores like The Strand too. As convenient as it is to click a button or two and have the book on my doorstep in a couple days, browsing stacks is its own kind of bliss. The Strand has books out on tables, grouped by theme (banned books, books about political movements, odd histories, etc) and sometimes with fun blurbs attached to them. It’s a great way to just look at books and make notes of stuff I want to read. More like a library, and less like Amazon’s storefront. As much as I like getting my book recommendations from other writers and folks online, there is something special to finding something out of the blue and taking a chance. And adding that chance to your bookshelf.

All this to say, support your local bookstore. Buy your books from their websites or bookshop.org. And maybe after this is all over, we’ll be able to get lost in those shelves again.

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