I used to work in a smallish independent bookstore and it was truly one of the best jobs I ever had. To be surrounded by endless glorious volumes, to enter every morning into this multicolored world of words and pictures was truly a pleasure.
I loved rearranging shelves (endlessly), lining up the books this way and that. One of my favorite things, though, was ordering books for the store (it almost completely fulfilled my shopping urges, mind you, I would always overdo it with the order :), and then anticipating eagerly their arrival. Books on photography, design, fashion, art... it would take me hours and hours to find their right spot in the bookstore, to display them properly, to sneak careful peeks through the pages. It was one of life's great pleasures.
There are plenty of bookstore gems in the world and I do hope they will persevere (one of them is City Lights, which I am happy to be able to call my neighborhood bookstore), but the most charming one is Shakespeare & Co.Antiquarian bookstore in Paris.
Located in the heart of Paris on the Left Bank opposite Notre-Dame, the bookstore was founded by George Whitman, a contemporary of such Beat poets as Jack Kerouac and Allan Ginsberg. He sometimes poses as a grandson or grand-nephew of American poet Walt Whitman.
It must be one of the most photographed bookstores in the world, sneaking its way into movies and litterature. The inside of the store is where the reuniting scene between Julie Delpy’s and Ethan Hawke’s characters happens in the movie Before Sunset. The bookstore was also written about in a memoir of a homeless man who was allowed to sleep overnight in Shakespeare & Co by the store’s communist-leaning owner and then refused to vacate when times turned more capitalist. His bed is still there.
But, I've also heard that if you go backpacking to Paris to seek a little adventure, and you happen to be an aspiring writer, you could even sleep in the store for free. The bed is located between the books on the 2nd floor. All you have to do is help around the store a little bit and read a book a day.
The place is completely quirky and charming, packed from floor to ceiling with books. There is also the writer’s room, which has a working piano for patrons to play. Poets regularly read their works in one of the back rooms.
How absolutely thrilling. Hopefully, next time when in Paris. (Can we go tomorrow?)