Did lunch at the famous Paris café Les Deux Magots fill you with a longing to read Jean Paul Sartre or Simon de Beauvoir, but unfortunately you only brought along the latest Danielle Steel? Or maybe you left your book on the airplane and the weather report calls for five straight days of rain and all you want to do is cozy up with the latest Joyce Carol Oates and glass of cognac in local brasserie?
Alas what can you do in this literary city full of great French texts you can’t read? No need to worry, Paris is full of fantastic and friendly English bookshops, with a helpful staff and current selections. See below:
If smaller run, independent bookstores are your thing, stop by the at the Red Wheelbarrow 22, rue Saint-Paul in the 4th Arrondissement, or the Village Voice Bookshop, a long-time Paris institution located on the snug little rue Princesse (number 6), in the 6th Arrondissement.
1. The Red Wheelbarrow
The Red Wheelbarrow is owned by the Canadian Pénélope Le Masson, and has been in business since 2001. It’s a tiny space piled high with books in all genres. Though it makes for difficult navigation particularly with large shopping bags in tow, you can ask the friendly staff for assistance and they will gladly find whatever you are looking for.
2. The Village Voice
The Village Voice was opened more than twenty years ago by Odile Hellier, a Frenchwoman with a real passion for American literature and culture. In addition to all the latest novels, current affairs, etc., they have frequent readings by prominent writers, a selection of literary reviews and current New Yorker magazines.
3. Shakespeare & Co
The 5th Arrondissement of Paris boasts a large area of bookshops, thanks in part to the Sorbonne University.
First on the list in this area is the famous Shakespeare & Co, 37, rue de la Bücherie, a Paris institution since 1951. It is set right near the Seine, across from Notre Dame and housed in a very old house that almost seems to tilt. Old built-in bookshelves line the store and are sometimes two layers deep with books. Shakespeare & Co. sells new and used books as well as a separate space for rare books and first editions.
4. San Francisco Book Company
Walking deeper into the 5th Arrondissement leads you to the San Francisco Book Company, 17, rue Monsieur le Prince, another tiny space, piled high with books (if you sense a theme, you’re right). They sell second-hand books but in good condition, with everything from poetry to History to current affairs.
5. WH Smith
If you prefer the bigger, boxier style bookshop, you best bet is to head straight for WH Smith, the largest (so it claims) English bookstore in Paris at 248, rue de Rivoli in the 2nd Arrondissement.
Just down the way is the elegant Galignani at 224, rue de Rivoli, which has a smaller selection but sells both French and English books. And finally, there is Brentano’s at 37, rue de l’Opera, which covers all your needs including stationary and kids books. In addition they have events and book clubs, should your stay be longer. One plus-they are now open on Sundays.
Two Paris hotels for book and literature lovers:
Hotel Quartier Latin : Ideally located in the heart of the Latin Quarter, within walking distance of the Pantheon and the River Seine, this beautiful Paris hotel offers accommodations close to Saint-Germain-des-Prés. Designed to recreate the atmosphere of the old Parisian literary life, this city hotel boasts a large bilingual library.
Hotel du Cadran : Situated in Paris’ 7th Arrondissement, a few steps from the Musée d’Orsay, the Invalides and the Eiffer Tower, this boutique hotel boasts comfortable rooms, a bar, a lounge with fireplace and piano, as well as a library featuring French, English and American literature.