Readers and Booksellers Remember Strand Owner Fred Bass

The bookstore legend passed away this week at the age of 89

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Fred Bass, for decades the owner of The Strand—the legendary New York bookstore that boasts 18 miles of used, rare, and new books—passed away on January 3, 2018. Bass, who inherited the store from his father and later co-owned it with his daughter, spent his entire life surrounded by books and considered his job to be like treasure hunting. He was a world-builder of sorts, creating a little literary city within the larger city of New York. Readers, writers, and book enthusiasts are familiar with this kind of love, and many of them took to social media this week to remember a giant of the bookselling trade.

If you have your own memories of Fred Bass, you can share them with us at editors@electricliterature.com, and we’ll add them to the list.

“Fred Bass gave me my first job in books. I probably picked up more useful information during the summer of 1990, when I worked at the Strand between my first and second years at Columbia, than I did in any other three-month stretch of my life. Watching him sort thousands of books every day, barely pausing to accept his deli order, made those books real to me in a new way: as mysterious but knowable artifacts, with secret histories and reputations beyond their texts.

‘This is good. This is bad. This is good.’ ‘Is this good?’ ‘No.’

I didn’t know Fred well, but his death is certainly the end of something for me, just as the Strand was the beginning.” —Heather O’Donnell, owner of Honey & Wax Booksellers, in an email

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