Breathing in Books in Paris

November 3, 2011 § Leave a comment

Rue Saint Maur, Paris, 75011

Have you ever walked by an antiquarian or used book store and been able to smell that distinctive – musty, paper, ink, old, worn, read, loved book smell – wafting onto the street outside of the store? Much as I love that smell, and as many such bookstores as I have visited over my reading life, I do not know if I have ever followed, nose in the air and breathing in deeply, that smell into a store, as though it was some delicious and irresistible food, which in a sense, books definitely are.

The used book store I discovered in this way turned out to be one of those small, crowded, sort of organized sort of total book pile chaos, treasure chests. I did not buy anything because my budget is so tight and I did not see anything that I HAD to have, though I saw about twenty things I would really, very much, like to have.

Off Rue Belgrande, Paris, 75020

The number of bookstores still all over Paris is encouraging, especially coming from New York City where the number of independent and especially great used bookstores always seemed depressingly disproportionately small for such a populous, cultural, intellectual city. And yes, of course I know about Strand Books but I never loved that store.

Paris is crowded with ways to buy books-new books at independent bookstores, used books in shops and from the bouquinistes lining the Seine, incredibly rare and beautiful books from antiquarian booksellers. This is in addition to FNAC, which is the closest store to a Borders though it sells many more products, and to the many Gibert Jeune stores at Place Saint Michel. There are stores specializing in the bande dessinée (graphic novel more or less but there is really no translation for this very specific and very popular French genre. There are shops for different languages, religions, topics, and genres, including my favorite, cookbooks and other food-related texts.

Rue du Faubourg Saint Antoine, Paris, 75011

Some neighborhoods are particularly book heavy, but book shops can be found everywhere around the city. On my long wandering walks, especially when I am feeling uninspired about my own work, wandering around a bookstore is one of the most inspiring and restorative activties I can think of. I might just have to find a new one today…

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