RBR in Paris

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Final sale: a bookstore eulogy in blurry iPhone photos

photo 4Last Friday, the giant downtown Toronto location of Chapters Indigo closed its doors. The store was best known for being attached to a multiplex and in decidedly non-21st century behavior, for attracting moviegoers who would entertain themselves before their shows by browsing the stacks. What a world.

This post is  different from most of the bookstore tributes we offer here at Red Brick Reads because the bookstore in question is a big box retailer not a charming independent. I have no anecdotes about quick-witted bookshop staff at this location for you. In fact, I’ve always thought the Chapters Indigo at John and Richmond looked remarkably similar to the big bad Fox Books location that puts Meg Ryan’s poor Shop Around the Corner out of business in You’ve Got Mail. A sinister comparison.

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Patrick McGahern Books

images“I’m never going into the book business,” a young Liam McGahern insisted to his father Patrick on one of many book-scouting sessions disguised as family vacations. What a liar that Liam proved to be. Not only is he now running the Ottawa rare book store that his father started in 1969, his doing so has established one of the first book store “dynasties” in Canada; at least according to David Mason, a noted Toronto rare book seller. The small store is a destination for business travellers and Ottawa residents alike. The visitors are those who have purchased from a Patrick McGahern catalogue, and are eager to experience the tall stacks of printed treasures in person.

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The Strand Bookstore

imagesIf we want to talk about independent bookstores, we should probably start with the North American grande dame of them.

A bookstore with a unionized work force of over 200 people?

A bookstore with an entire floor devoted to the arts?

A bookstore that still utilizes the $1 cart by the front door?

The Strand has you covered. The catch, if you consider it one, is that these are used books. The Strand’s buyers are careful about condition and I don’t mind someone else’s inscription of my frontispiece if it means paying half of the cover price for a recent release. The place is huge and crowded but well organized and staffed by an army so the shopping experience is more Indigo and less used-book charity shop. Continue reading

Type Books

imagesIf you’re the type of person to read a blog about books and bookstores, you’ve probably already heard of Type Books. The Joy of Books, the stop motion film by the fine people at Type, was a book-world viral smash a couple of years ago. What you may not know about Type is that their Queen Street location is the closest book store to my house, making them the most important bookstore in North America.

 

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