Since the days of Hemingway’s “Lost Generation,” Paris’ English-language bookstores have been vibrant gathering spots for the city’s Anglophone community. To this day, they all keep a ready supply of ex-pat classic A Moveable Feast on hand, and it’s no secret that the legacy of literati past continues to inspire Paris’ contemporary writers.
Whether you’re a reader, a writer, or just a literary lurker (yeah, we can see you hiding behind the stacks), you’ll want to check out our list of the top five English-language bookstores in Paris. Most hold regular readings, which provide the perfect opportunity to mix and mingle with like-minded literary folk.
1. Shakespeare & Co. Founded in 1919 (in another location) by Sylvia Beach, Shakespeare & Co. has long been the grande dame of English bookstores in Paris. It was a regular hangout for the likes of Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein and James Joyce, and over the years, nearly every major writer of the 20th century has passed through its doors. Nowadays, regular readings and workshops make this colorful spot a necessary pilgrimage for readers and writers the world over. Young “tumbleweeds” (aspiring writers on the go) still blow through to read, write and camp out in the shop’s upstairs room. For a calendar of upcoming events, click here. 37 Rue de la Bûcherie, 5eme. Tel: 01 43 25 40 93.
2. WH Smith. Centrally located on the Rue de Rivoli, this is Paris’ largest English-language bookstore with over 70,000 books in stock. In addition, the store boasts a variety of DVDs, greeting cards, notebooks, children’s games and international magazines (for when you simply must have the latest Vogue or New Yorker from the States). Both Paris-based and international authors regularly swing through to give readings and mingle with fans. 248 Rue de Rivoli, 1er. Tel: 01 44 77 88 99.
3. Village Voice. Founded in 1982, this cozy shop pays homage to the literary history of both Paris and New York (its name reflects the NY publication founded by Norman Mailer). With 18,000 English books to choose from, the shop is located in the heart of St. Germain, and regular reading and events keep the book-loving community coming back. For upcoming events, click here. 6 Rue Princesse, 6eme. Tel: 01 46 33 25 34.
4. Tea and Tattered Pages. One of Paris’ most adorable spots, this cluttered hideaway is stacked floor-to-ceiling with books (mostly secondhand) of all genres and conditions. Everything from retro self-help books to kitschy romance novels can be found on the upper and lower levels, and there’s a tiny tea salon where weary bookworms can sit, read and refuel. Those who come here should be prepared to sift—and to be charmed by the store’s welcoming owner. 24 Rue Mayet, 6eme. Tel: 01 40 65 94 35.
5. The Red Wheelbarrow. It’s impossible to walk by this shop’s bright red facade without wanting to take a peek inside, and as it’s located in the heart of the Marais, you’re likely passing by anyway. Open everyday (including Sunday from 2-6pm), it’s a worthwhile stop on your literary tour of Paris. 22 Rue St. Paul, 4eme. Tel: 01 48 04 75 08.
Rumor has it that much-loved bookstore Brentano’s (which closed its doors last summer after 113 years in business), may be making a comeback soon. Our fingers are crossed and our reading glasses are on!