Making a booklover’s heart throb, that’s what Shakespeare and Company manages to achieve. This independent bookshop in the city centre of Paris is a must see for readers around the world. I’m guiding you through this wonderful piece of magical wonder!
It’s Not About the Size
It’s easy to miss, Shakespeare and Company. There are no grand neon signs and it’s not a twenty story building. And thank God it has none of those features as the bookshop is perfect in its own simplicity. It’s a tiny store near the Notre Dame that has a local bookshop’s charm.
Once you are outside and in front of the store, you immediately get a sense of what it’s going to be on the inside: crowded, tiny and marvellous. Once you step inside, it’s even better. I’m ramping up the expectations here, but I really think this is the best bookstore I have ever visited. Why? Because once you cross the threshold you are immersed into a different world. Booklovers Land, if you will. It’s Harry Potteresque, Narnia-like and Alice in Wonderlandish.
Shakespeare and Company most certainly makes use of the space it has. Books are stacked right up to the ceiling. There really are books everywhere. It creates this wonderful vibe as you literally walk underneath books and have to zigzag your way through a maze of paper.
The books in Shakespeare and Company are English. It’s an English bookshop after all. The great thing about the bookstore is that they don’t just sell new books. They sell second-hand and antiquarian books as well and they even have a library.
The Upper Floor
As much as I liked the ground floor of Shakespeare and Company, the upper floor really surprised me as I expected much of the same. You walk up to the upper floor via a worn staircase that has a sentence painted on it: “I Wish I Could Show You When You Are Lonely or in Darkness the Astonishing Light of Your Own Being”, a quote from the Persian poet Hafiz of Shiraz.
Once I reached the landing, I found the reading library. There were these old leather-bound books that you could read at tables and in cosy corners. Moreover, there was a cat sleeping on a chair near a piano and a large bookcase! That’s the image of a promotional campaign for a bookstore. Well, guess what? Shakespeare and Company lives up to that image.
What I Bought
It’s hard to enter Shakespeare and Company and not buy something. I ended up buying two books. One for my man back home and one for myself. I was browsing through the cookbooks and spotted a copy of the first volume of Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child. If I hadn’t watched the film Julie & Julia, I would have known little of it, but as it happened I did watch the film and was thrilled to have found a copy! My boyfriend is big on cooking these days (which I don’t mind at all!) and I couldn’t help myself and bought him a copy. When I handed the gift to him, I gave a slight hint towards the Boeuf Bourguignon I happened to eat the day I visited Shakespeare and Company (heavenly!).
But I had to get something for me as well. There were so many great books and it was hard to pick, staying true to my budget. I ended up buying Animal Farm by George Orwell and was rewarded with the Shakespeare and Company stamp I was eager on getting.
Did you visit Shakespeare and Company? What did you think of the store?