Tom Vanderbilt is the author of Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do and, most recently, You May Also Like: Taste in An Age of Endless Choice. He lives in Brooklyn. (January 2018)

Follow Tom Vanderbilt on Twitter: @tomvanderbilt.


Fred Bass, Maestro of the Strand

Max Ferguson: Strand Book Store, 2009 (oil painting); click to expand

The news this week of the death, at age eighty-nine, of Fred Bass, the legendary bookseller who made the Strand into the cultural landmark it is, put me in mind of an afternoon I spent with him more than a decade ago. I had gone to the Strand to learn something about the store’s highly-trafficked used-book buying counter, and the people who worked there. Like any number of young literary-minded New Yorkers with more ambition than money (or storage space), I had long made the trek to 12th Street and Broadway, my satchel laden with review copies. There was something ignoble in this, but it was an authentic part of a hoary, if not frequently discussed, literary tradition.