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Shakespeare & Company Bookstore

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by Julie Mundy (subscribe)
Julie is the author of a number of guidebooks, including 'Melbourne's Best Bush Bay and City Walks' & 'Melbourne for Dogs' (with RSPCA). Read more of her adventures at her walks blog:
Published January 7th 2013
Paris' Iconic Bookstore
Shakespeare and Co Bookstore, Paris (c) JP Mundy 2012
Shakespeare and Co Bookstore, Paris

Shakespeare and Co is Paris's iconic and delightfully bohemian English language bookstore. Walking into it's tiny rooms is like venturing into Aladdin's cave - around every corner and crevice there are more and more books, both second hand and new.

Shakespeare and Co Bookstore, Paris, (c) JP Mundybooks
Bookstore or Aladdin's Cave ... or both?

Established in 1951 by George Whitman, this is actually the 'second' Shakespeare and Co bookstore. The first one was established by an American expatriate, Sylvia Beach in 1919, also on the Left Bank, and soon became a gathering place for many American expatriate writers, including Ernst Hemingway and James Joyce. It closed during the German occupation of Paris during WWII - reputedly because Sylvia refused to sell her last copy of James Joyce's, 'Finnegans Wake' to a German Officer. It was never reopened.

The original Shakespeare and Co interior (source: Wikicommons)
Inside the original Shakespeara and Co

Today's Shakespeare and Co bookstore, which is just steps from Notre Dame on the Left Bank, became home to the 'Beat generation' of writers, such as William Burroughs. It's original owner, George Whitman, died in late 2011 at the age of 98, and is now run by his daughter Sylvia. There is a vibrant and active program of activities and readings scheduled every week, and sitting down on the hodge-podge of comfy chairs and sofas and actually reading the books, is not only welcomed but encouraged. On the top floor, there is a tiny writers nook, with typewriter and notes of homage to the store and people's favourite writers.

Shakespeare and Co Bookstore, Writers Nook (c) JP Mundy
The Writers Nook at Shakespeare and Co - bring your own paper and pen!

Quite apart from being a quirky place to visit in Paris, the bookstore has genuinely interesting and lovely books to browse and buy. Their collection of children's books, for example, is small but perfectly formed, with beautiful editions of children's classics, current Young Adult series and unique special books. My daughter couldn't go past their street art-based colouring-in book. They also sell rare and antiquarian books. If you love books - real books (thankfully, there isn't a kindle in sight, though their website is a work of art in itself!), make a few hours in your schedule to hang out here - you'll feel right at home.

Shakespeare and Co, 37 rue de la Bucherie, Paris (c) JP Mundy 2012
Shakespeare and Co, 37 rue de la Bucherie, Paris
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Why? So you can remember why bookstores are so special
When: Mon-Fri: 10am-11pm, Sat-Sun: 11am-11pm
Phone: 33 (0) 1 43 25 40 93
Where: 37 rue de la Bucherie, Paris (Left Bank, just opposite Notre Dame)
Cost: Free for a browse and read, but take some money to buy some of the beautiful books
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