One of my favorite places to browse while in Manhattan is the Strand Book Store, Broadway and 12th St.

The Strand touts itself as "8 Miles of Books", but this assertion is difficult to gauge. Books are piled on books, frequently on squat bins more in keeping with a closeout store than a library. People scramble about in a mad beehive dance, skipping past chess books to theological texts, arguing over authors, fighting their way to the cashier. It's a madhouse, an updated Forum of the ever so slightly anxious.

Books are roughly organized by rarity, binding type, and subject. The upper floor contains mostly non-fiction and some more expensive items; the lower level holds children's books, textbooks, and fiction including oddities such as publisher advance release copies. The store feels like a gigantic maze, winding rows of shelves thrown up wherever convenient. It's easy to follow a row of shelves only to find a dead end or, worse yet, pipes and ducting. Add to the fact that the employees are constantly renewing the stock, and one has the makings of a huge traffic jam.

I wouldn't say that the Strand has the best bargains in books. Those addicted to getting the best price would do better to go to a thrift store. But for hard to find books, this store is very handy. Those who need books for academic research may do well to visit; especially those in disciplines like classical languages where it is not easy to find certain authors needed for coursework.

Yet, there is no website.