As you may have noticed (but probably not), I’ve been gone for a while. Not really gone, just too busy reading to bother writing. But I’m here now and I’ll get you up to speed.
I’ve been on a short trip to New York. While it’s not a holiday destination I’d necessarily recommend, I will tell you a bit about the bookstores I visited.
Whenever I go on vacation, the first thing I do is scout out the best bookstores to hit. My current obsession with Scandinavian literature (which I read in Danish) made me a little less excited about the Manhattan bookstores than I would normally have been. But I did go to a few, and of course I bought a little.
The first place I went to was the huge Barnes & Noble on 5th Avenue. Sure, it’s big and has several floors and all that, but the measly selection of books is infuriating. They have more crappy pencil cases and overpriced stationery than they do books. I was so annoyed that I refused to buy the one book, I might have wanted to buy (The Long Walk by King/Bachman). I guess I shouldn’t have been so surprised. The big chains back home stock mostly paper stuff, cookbooks, crime fiction bestsellers and a handful of classics. Sad times.
Next stop was The Strand – a huge and very famous bookstore in the East Village. No one could complain about the selection here! For an independent bookstore, it was absolutely massive. Rows and rows of books, and tables piled high with books divided into genres or categories. The tables were pretty useful if you want to find something new in classics, award-winners, books with female protagonists or something like that. If you know what books you want beforehand, the employees are very helpful (or you can try and find it yourself, if you’re not too claustrophobic, or have poor sense of direction). If you just want to browse… well, you’d better have plenty of time and you should probably avoid carrying a lot of other shopping with you, as it will make your arms tired, and make it harder to move around in the narrow paths between the huge bookcases. I had two books I really wanted to get, but I only found one (Between Here and the Yellow Sea), and sadly I had to settle for a larger edition of The Long Walk than the one I refused to buy at B&N. That’s what I get for punishing them, I suppose. I also got a really cool Edgar Allan Poe mug, a nice The Strang bookmark, and a few other books. Oh, and they have so much store merchandise, it’s nuts. But the place stressed me out a bit. It was just too big and too confusing. It made my head spin. Still worth a visit, though.
The last bookstore was McNally Jackson Books. Hands down the best independent bookstore I’ve never visited. The place isn’t huge but the selection is choice! You won’t find shelves and shelves of bestselling fiction or YA fantasy crap here. The decor was so nice and it was just such a relaxting and cool place. I asked about the one book I hadn’t been able to find anywhere else. They didn’t have it either, but the helpful guy at the info desk seemed genuinely sorry they couldn’t help me. He offered to order it for me, of course, but that wouldn’t work. So I found something else. If only I had gone here first, I could have spent ages browsing the place.
So if you do have to go to New York, go to McNally Jackson Books. If you want books, I mean.