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A Comprehensive Look at the Bookstores of Paris

October 18, 2021
by Sophia Adams
Selfie in front of Gibert Joseph

I love to read. More importantly, I love to buy books. If you’re like me, you may be interested in visiting bookstores while studying abroad in Paris. There are many throughout the city, due largely to the 1981 law that requires that all booksellers (including online retailers - that includes Amazon.fr) sell any given book at the same price. This is because books were ruled culturally important and therefore exempt from the whims of supply and demand. Fixed prices make it easier for independent bookshops to stay in business. So where should you start? It depends what you are looking for. I’ve compiled a list of 13 bookstores in Paris and why you might choose that one. Happy reading!

Librairie de Paris (17th arrondissement)

I found this massive bookstore by Place de Clichy on a walk one day. I walked in and felt transported to a French Barnes and Noble - in the best way. This store has a massive selection; it has two floors that hold books of all subjects. Despite the modern appearance, the Librairie de Paris is actually an independent bookstore, not a chain. Additionally, the staff are very knowledgeable about new releases and happy to lead you to a selection.

Les Cahiers de Colette (3rd arr.)

CEA students, rejoice! This shop is just a few minutes away from the CEA Study Center. Feel free to wander over and browse before or after class. They have a selection that fills about two large rooms. Keep in mind that they do not stock books in English here; I was only able to find English literature translated into French (better for learning anyway!).

Hannah and Taryn at Les Cahiers de Colette
 Hannah and Taryn at Les Cahiers de Colette

 

Le Monte en l’Air (20th arr.)

Another potential hit for CEA readers is this charming bookstore next to L’Église de Paris in the 20th, where the student studio housing is. It’s apparently fairly well-known, because even my homestay mom (who has lived in the 9th arrondissement her whole life) knew of it. They also had stickers to take at checkout, and I love free stickers!

View of leglise de Paris from Le Monte en lAir
 View of l'Église de Paris from Le Monte en l'Air

 

The Red Wheelbarrow (6th arr.)

This is the first of two completely English-language bookstores on my list. I understand - it’s exhausting to read everything in French while you’re here. When you want to relax and check out some anglophone books for a change, you can go to the Red Wheelbarrow, which is right across the street from the Jardin de Luxembourg. Buy a book and head over to the park where you can read in the sun by one of the fountains.

The Abbey Bookshop (5th arr.)

This store is like walking into Diagon Alley. Books are stacked and stored and stashed every which way in this cozy setting. It’s straight out of the 18th century. If you’re looking for a specific read, maybe skip this one, but if you’re okay just browsing for a long time there’s no better spot than the Abbey Bookshop.

Violette and Co. (11th arr.)

I loved Violette and Co., a feminist bookshop that has everything you could possibly need on women’s literature, feminism, sexual orientation, and gender identity. They sell a variety of books, bandes dessinées (graphic novels), movies, postcards, and more that promote a feminist worldview. Debout les femmes !

Taryn and I at Violette and Co.
 Taryn and me at Violette and Co.

 

Merci (3rd arr.)

Have you ever been shopping for a book and thought, "I could really go for a sweater, a vinyl record, and a coffee right now?" If so, you should definitely head to Merci, a store so large it has multiple sections. There’s the main entrance, which leads to clothes, home decor, skincare, and tchotchkes. To the side you’ll find the cafe/bookstore, so you can enjoy a warm beverage while reading a new novel. If nothing else, go to see the little red car wearing a sweater in the front of the shop!

Shakespeare & Co. (5th arr.)

Chances are, if you’re an English speaker interested in studying abroad in Paris, you’ve heard of this bookstore before. It is certainly the most famous English language bookstore in Paris (I’m partial to Librairie Galignani, but I wrote about that one in my last blog post so it’s beside the point). Shakespeare & Co. is definitely charming, and the cafe attached to it is delicious. The main drawback? It has evolved from a bookstore to a tourist destination. There was a line of 20 people to enter when I visited. If you do want to check it out, try to go on a weekday morning.

Gibert Joseph (multiple arr.)

Multiple locations? Yes, Gibert Joseph is a chain and can be found not only in multiple neighborhoods in Paris but also in cities all over France. However, I recommend it because it has not only books, but DVDs, CDs, school supplies, and other media. If you’re going to support a chain, I believe this one is more deserving of your patronage than Fnac - it’s the difference between buying books at Barnes and Noble versus at Best Buy. (Pictured at the top of this blog post – my selfie in front of Gilbert Joseph!)

Librairie des Abbesses (18th arr.)

I love a bookstore right next to a carousel! Librairie des Abbesses, which is right by the metro stop of the same name, is a gem in Montmartre. Walk up and see all sorts of books displayed out front, then enter to browse their whole selection. You can swing by here while visiting the Basilique de Sacre-Cœur.

Libraire Kogan (7th arr.)

This bookstore, which is just a block or two away from the Musée d’Orsay, was the best for art books. If you’re studying art or art history, this is the best place for books on artists or art movements. There’s also a decent collection of children’s books if you’re interested in illustration!

L’Attrape-Coeurs (18th arr.)

The name of this bookstore translates to “The Heart Catcher,” and that’s what it will certainly do. It’s on the other side of the 18th arrondissement from Librairie des Abbesses, and its main draw is the extensive collection of bande dessinées. Don’t be put off by the faded awning; it has a nice selection and good vibes inside.

Assouline (6th arr.)

For the last bookshop on this list, I selected Assouline. They sell almost exclusively huge coffee table books with gorgeous covers and fantastic photos inside. While the variety here is limited, the books would make an excellent gift if you’re looking for something to buy for a family member or friend.


Honorable mentions: L’Atelier 9, Comme un Roman, Traits d'Esprits, Librairie Vendredi, Librairie Gallimard


Sophia Adams is the Fall 2021 CEA MOJO Blogger in Paris, France, and is currently studying at University Of California-Los Angeles.
 
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