France has a great reading culture with a lot of ‘high’ literature being available in regular bookshops. This makes Paris a real heaven for bibliophiles. In this article I will be mostly focussing on bookshops that provide books in English, and a few stores with mainly French books. I got a lot of my inspiration for the bookstores from this awesome blog, so make sure to check it out!
Berkeley Books of Paris – 8 Rue Casimir Delavigne
Although this bookstore might look a bit boring, they really have a great collection. They feature mostly English books, have a nice amount of translations from French literature and a very up-to-date collection of literature translated from other languages. Most books are second hand so the collection varies a lot, but the person who helped us was really friendly and knew her story really well. So if the book you’re looking for isn’t available, they might have something else you might like.
Shakespeare and Company – 37 Rue de la Bûcherie
The last few weeks I saw a lot of bookbloggers visit Paris, so I wasn’t really sure what to do with this bookstore. As the most famous bookstore in Paris (and maybe even in the world), so many people have already written about how cool, and edgy, and cosy it is. I agree, but I also think it’s not really news how cool, and edgy, and cosy it is. So I had two option: or be a total hipster and not even acknowledge this bookstore because too many people already wrote about it. Or, acknowledge how great and influential Shakespeare and Company has been and do some decent research. So I went to work on that, and you can find a decent blog post about Shakespeare and Company here, where I’m not just telling you about how cosy it is (it really is), but I will be telling you why it’s so cool and edgy.
San Francisco Book Company – 17 Rue Monsieur le Prince
This store looks great from the outside, but for me, that was all there was. It had all the great features of a nice second hand bookshop, but it was too much! They have a lot of books, albeit more pulp than classics. They also put two rows of books in front of each other, which might save room, but also makes it impossible to decently browse through the second row of books.
Album – 84 Boulevard Saint-Germain
This is a two floor comic book shop and it’s amazing! The French have such a love for graphic novels and you can really feel this if you browse through them. The quality is really good! And it’s not just superheroes: it’s artsy, and literary and all other kinds of good stuff. The English collection is way too small (and really superhero-y), but what better way to improve your French than with a graphic novel?
The Abbey Book Shop – 29 Rue de la Parcheminerie
I heard so many amazing things about this store, but I was kind of disappointed. Just as in the San Francisco Book Company, the collection was too much pulp, but most of all, it was a fire hazard. I like my books piled up (you should see my house), but this store had so many piles of books in the way that I had to walk through it sideways. And I’m a skinny gal. A bit of chaos makes a store cosy, but I like to feel like I’ll be able to get out alive too.
Gilbert Joseph – 26 Boulevard Saint-Michel
You can find this chain of bookstores all over Paris, but the one I visited (address mentioned above) is a really big one with a lot of literature. I feel like this store kind of represents how the French feel towards literature: the collection is amazing. In the Netherlands, I wouldn’t find this much ‘high’ literature in a chain store. A lot of the literature has been translated to French but they have a small collection of English books as well (that is: small for a store with about five floors). As a former classics student, I can really recommend to check out their classical text editions: a wall of Loeb booklets always makes me smile.