This is part one of a three-part essay featuring Parisian book activities by Christina Hamlett.
There’s much to be said about walking in the Paris rain with the one you love. When those April showers are suddenly accompanied by high winds and chilly temperatures, what better place to seek shelter from an afternoon storm than behind the doors of a beckoning bookstore? The City of Light certainly has no shortage of them, each with their own unique “stories” to tell.
Here’s a sampler to get you started:
Shakespeare & Company
37 Rue de la Bûcherie
This iconic Parisian bookstore in the Left Bank’s Latin Quarter is the stuff of legends. As you troll the shelves and rub elbows with fellow literature lovers, you can almost feel the presence of Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fizgerald, James Joyce and Gertrude Stein hovering over your shoulder. Workshops, weekly readings and performances are an added bonus.
Abbey Bookshop – La Librairie Canadienne
29 Rue de la Parcheminerie
This true browser’s delight is housed in an 18th century townhouse that’s packed to the gills with over 24,000 titles. Lest you feel overwhelmed by this glorious sight, the shop’s enthusiastic management will help you hunt down whatever you’re seeking, including ordering books that are out of print.
Berkeley Books of Paris
Launched by a trio of Californians whose love of books is matched only by their collective passion for Paris, this venue carries a broad spectrum of used editions and is also a good place to sell books from your own collection. Online purchases can be made as well if your carry-aboard simply can’t accommodate one more title to take home.
224 Rue de Rivoli
When the printing press was invented, the 16th century Galignani family was among the first to put it to stellar use as a way to distribute reading materials to a broader audience. Almost three centuries later, these Venetian entrepreneurs relocated to Paris (via London) and not only expanded the family publishing business to a bookstore but also added a reading room where visitors could chat about titles of the day. The shop (still owned by Galignani descendents) excels in literature, fine art, history and popular culture books.
10 Place St-Michel
Gibert Jeune is a family enterprise that was founded in the 1880’s and today sells over three million books annually, a third of which are second-hand.
Tea and Tattered Pages
24 Rue Mayet
Time truly stands still at this second-hand bookstore and charming English tearoom that has the cozy feel of a private home. Should you doze off past closing, one can’t help but wonder if the owners wouldn’t simply tuck you in with a crocheted afghan and come back to awaken you in the morning.
FNAC – Montparnasse
136 Rue de Rennes
FNAC – Champs-Elysées/Galerie du Claridge
74 Avenue des Champs-Elysées
If you’re accustomed to book browsing at American mega-stores that also carry music, greeting cards, games, movies and multi-media electronic devices, you’ll feel right at home at these two FNAC addresses. Their travel guide sections are outstanding and the stores frequently host guest speakers and book-signings.
Last – but definitely not least – was our fortuitous discovery of the sizable book department at The Louvre as well as The Tuileries Gardens bookstore (which specializes in all things flora) located near the Place de la Concorde.
Former actress/director Christina Hamlett is an award winning author whose credits to date include 28 books, 145 stage plays, 5 optioned feature films and squillions of articles and interviews. She is also a professional ghostwriter and script consultant for stage and screen. Visit her website at www.authorhamlett.com.