Be Still, My Bookish Heart

The Strand Bookstore, New York, New York

Bookstores are places where my heart can breathe. My feet tread quietly between their aisles.  My eyes come into focus, scanning each title.  A library unfolds in my brain, and it is quiet.  You know that feeling?

Some bookstores do this better than others, and The Strand, where I took this photo yesterday, while visiting NYC for a whirlwind 23.5-hours, is among the best.  Perhaps because it’s huge, boasting “18-miles of books,” or deals in titles of all kinds, including the rare, used, and signature-smelling ones.  It could also be the contrast of a spacious, quiet place in the midst of a chaotic, concrete, jungle.  Or, maybe, it’s the fact that this bookstore is located between two of the city’s most treasured yoga studios, Om Yoga and Jivamukti.  The studios emit high levels of meditation mojo, which collects and settles at the Strand.  Hey, it’s possible.

With so many books from which to choose and a colossally overstuffed overnight bag (overpacked again: shocker), I had to make smart purchasing choices.  Nothing big.  Nothing heavy.  Nothing ho-hum.  I wanted something special, so I opted for a little book of spiritual aphorisms recommended to me by om gal and Olympian Kim Vandenberg.  She found her copy by happenstance in a tiny shop in Europe, and travels with it for inspiration wherever she competes.

Here’s line 1:

Everything today has a point, but the art of making yourself count for something the greatest: more is demanded to produce one wise man today, than seven formerly; and more is needed to deal with a single individual in our times, than with a whole people in the past.

-17th century writer Baltasar Gracian, “The Art of Worldly Wisdom”

Safe to say it was the best $5 I’ve spent in a long time . . .

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  • Rachel Keller

    How do I find a list of your book club titles? Mucho Gracias!!

  • John Robson

    Great Blog!

  • P.J. Bottoms

    The Strand and Pageant Book Shops (Pageant is close by): they have that great odor – a patina of dusty attic and just a little basement mustiness. J.L. Borges said (to paraphrase) that we purchase books with the subconscious hope that we have also purchased the time to read them. I prefer spending that time browsing in the aisles. I was in the Theology aisle one time – a younger fellow was on his sit bones reading below me. I pulled out a book on Buddhism and another slipped out and hit him on the head. That’s all I have to say about that. There was a bookstore in Nazareth Pennsylvania with a corpulent cat that had hair as rich and brown as chocolate cake; green eyes gazing out the old store window at everything and nothing. The old man would open tins of tuna for her. I once heard the floorboard creak as she approached the desk. She would jump up a terracing of books until she was atop the desk where the tin waited. He would pick out a piece of tuna for himself every now and then – she never objected. We need more old bookstores. I miss McIntyre and Moore’s in Davis Square.