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.


Where’d you go?


I’ve resisted reading Where’d you go Bernadette because of its popularity. Everyone knows popular books can’t be good. But I was on a beach holiday this week and the book is available in paperback (rare for literary fiction) so I picked it up, knowing that none of my travel companions was bookish enough to judge me for my choice.

Why didn’t you make me read this book ages ago you jerks?

Here is a list of reasons Red Brick Readers should have told me I was missing out on a good thing and a list of reasons you should read Semple’s best selling book if you are exactly like me.
1. The titular character is constantly making digs against Canadians. As a Canadian, I feel validated when mentioned in American publications.
2. The book is set in Seattle, where I visited earlier this summer. Reading books or watching films where I am familiar with the location makes me feel smug and worldly.
3. The main character is a high strung, slightly crazy, female genius. Sound like anyone you know? [me, obviously]
4. Physical comedy! There’s a bit with a mudslide knocking out a PTAish event. Gold.
5. The novel is (sort of) written in the epistolary style meaning I got to feel like I was creeping someone’s private correspondence which is a feeling I enjoy almost as much as smugness.
6. Humour at the expense of tech firm employees. Microsoft inferiority complex humour.

If I were using my serious voice today I would tell you how refreshed I was by Semple’s style or how much I enjoyed the mother-daughter relationship but I’m still on holiday so I’ll just tell you to get this book for the Canada jokes and stay for the PTA passive-aggression.

Read this book immediately: The Other Language

indexI have a friend, an ex-coworker, with whom I occasionally email back and forth about what we’re reading. In an email to her yesterday, I stated that she had to go out and get The Other Language by Francesca Marciano immediately, and start reading it. In the same email I also wrote that she must immediately download Bad News off of the classic Kanye West album 808 and Heartbreak and listen to it on repeat. Before hitting send, it dawned on me how bossy I sounded so I erased the word ‘immediately’. But then I undid the change and sent it as-is because a life well-lived requires beautiful things, and telling my book buddy that she should immediately get her hands on Marciano’s beautiful book and Kanye’s splendid use of a flight of violins only makes me a better, if bossy, friend.

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