RBR in Paris

We’re taking a break from our regularly scheduled programming to talk book shopping en Paris. Paris is where writers come to write, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t bring a stack of blank notebooks, but even more so it’s where readers come to read. In between wine and macaron stops I’ve been hitting bookstores and scouring second-hand stalls.


Shakespeare and Company is a must-visit but also a really annoying place to shop. There’s a line outside, the store is packed, the antiquarian side of the bookshop is only open 10 hours a week and there are just so many people. But it’s dazzling and I’d go back everyday. The reading room and writer’s library upstairs reeked of wisdom and history and the fiction selection was a carefully selected mix of new literary fiction and classics by Shakespeare and Company alums.

From there I headed to the banks of the Seine where there are scores of booksellers who have set up kiosks for rare books and posters. Prices aren’t marked so if you’re patient and willing to bargain you can get a great deal. Alternatively, if your French isn’t great, you may wind up overpaying for a volume just because it’s old, even though it has no real value.

The day ended at Delmain on rue Saint-Honore. They had a lovely mix of antiquarian French classics (these guys really love Balzac and Hugo, huh?), limited edition pressings of poetry, and Paris-centric fiction. No English-language collection that I saw but I did pick up a 1922 French language edition of Rudyard Kipling’s Kim that I’m excited to torture my nephews with when they get a bit older.

A bientot and happy new year from Red Brick Reads.


Ali Smith’s ‘How to be Both’ Says What it Means

When I was twenty-two, I moved from the Toronto suburb where I had grown up to the city of London. I was embarrassed that I hadn’t immediately bee offered a job upon graduation, couldn’t imagine telling people that I had my degree but was still a waitress and had to find something concrete I could say I was doing. So, London. They spoke English, I could legally work there, and to everyone else it would look like an adventure.

I quickly found a job as a temp and when I went in every morning my boss Ben would say “are you alright?”

To my North American ears and twenty-two year old emotions it seemed like he could tell something was wrong so I would respond honestly.

“Quite homesick actually. I can’t afford the Internet at my flat yet and I don’t know anyone here so I haven’t spoken to another human since leaving work Friday.”

“I’m just so lonely and feel very disconnected from everyone I know.”

“A bit sad today. It’s my graduation day and I’m missing it and to be honest I’ve been wondering if this whole thing is a mistake.”

It was a year later, back in Toronto, when I learned that “are you alright” is just the young Londoner’s version of “how’s it going?” Ben hadn’t been asking me if anything was wrong and he definitely had not been looking for an honest response about my loneliness. The guy was just being polite on the way to his desk and probably thought I was a nut. Because it is nuts, honesty. No one ever really wants to know the thing you’re thinking.

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A Sense of Dread in The Book of Strange New Things

indexIf you were a writer of books, and your world was ending, what kind of book would you write?

In 2012 Michel Faber gave an interview with the Telegraph in which he talked about losing his ability to immerse himself in the world of his work, since his wife had been diagnosed with cancer. He says that his art requires a head space that shuts other people out, but he couldn’t do that when he was focused on taking care of his wife. In that interview, Faber says his wife is in remission so he is hoping he will be able to disappear back into the world of his novel, to complete the book that he had been trying to write for years. That book is 2014 The Book of Strange New Things. Faber’s wife, Eva, died while he was completing his final revisions.

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A non-exhaustive list of RBR’s most anticipated books of 2015

Cover of Making Nice by Matt Summell. Via Summell’s Facebook page.

Yesterday’s announcement of the publication date for Judy Blume’s new novel got me wondering what else was in store for 2015. I did some digging and put together a list of the books I’m most excited to read in 2015. It was only after I put together the list that I noticed some themes.

1) Bad-ass-bitches

2) Perspectives other than those offered by white dudes who went to the Iowa Writer’s Workshop (not that those aren’t good too sometimes).

I wasn’t sniffing around for an “alternative” books like, I just chose titles, mostly from mainstream publishers, that sounded exciting. Pretty great that what you see below is the list I ended up with.

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Judy Blume shares details about her new novel

Image via People.com

Maybe it’s because I was already having a great day but Judy Blume’s announcement today (via People Magazine, of all places) of her new novel’s release date almost made me happy cry. The work will be her first adult book since my beloved Summer Sisters and centres around a series of plane crashes that Blume remembers from her childhood in New Jersey.

The book, titled In the Unlikely Event, is due out in June from Alfred A. Knopf. Listen guys, we talk about Serious Works of Literature here at Red Brick Reads all the time but I’m not in a position to tell you whether or not Blume should be included in that cannon. I can tell you though, that she wrote some of the most important books of my life.