The City of Light’s Most Famous Bookstore

a-moveable-feastA recent vacation took me to Paris, France for the first time and knowing this I had a mission in mind and it wasn’t to visit the Eiffel Tower or Notre Dame Cathedral.  It wasn’t even to visit the Louvre, although I did all of those things.  My mission was to pay a visit to one of the most famous bookstores in the world.  Shakespeare and Company was opened in 1951 on Paris’s Left Bank near Notre Dame Cathedral.  The original bookstore opened in 1919 and was frequented by Ernest Hemingway, Ezra Pound, and many other famous writers.  The bookstore has also been featured in some major motion pictures, most notable Woody Allen’s movie, Midnight in Paris.  It truly was a thrill to walk in the door of this shop and it was definitely one of the highlights of my recent trip to Europe.

Being a booklover, it would have been easy to spend the better part of a day browsing the shelves and taking a long leisurely look at everything in the shop.  Since I was with a tour group however, my time was limited and I had to choose a book fairly quickly and get that coveted stamp in the front cover of the book.  It was to be the perfect souvenir of my trip!  If you make it to Paris and Shakespeare and Company, you will probably be overwhelmed with choices and little time to decide which can spell disaster.  The worst case scenario is that you run out of time while trying to choose and leave with no souvenir of your visit to what many booklovers consider Paris’ most important landmark.  In order to prevent disaster on your vacation, you may want to consider a paperback copy of Ernest Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast.  This book is a memoir by Ernest Hemingway about his years in Paris as part of the expatriate writers in the 1920s. The book describes Hemingway’s apprenticeship as a young writer in Europe (especially in Paris) while married to his first wife. Some of the people featured in the book include Aleister Crowley, Ezra Pound, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ford Madox Ford, Hilaire Belloc, Pascin, John Dos Passos, Wyndham Lewis, James Joyce and Gertrude Stein.  Another excellent choice would be Down and Out in Paris and London.  This memoir by George Orwell (a particular favorite of The Booklover) was published in 1933.  The first part of Orwell’s account tells about living on the breadline in Paris and the experience of casual labour in restaurant kitchens. The second part is a travelogue of life on the road in and around London from the tramp’s perspective, with descriptions of the types of accommodation available and some of the characters to be found living on the margins of city life.

If you have your heart set on a book about Paris, there is a section of books just inside the front door about the wonderfully romantic city of light.  My purchase from this section was a copy of Forever Paris: 25 Walks in the Footsteps of Chanel, Hemingway, Picasso, and More.  I plan to use it to help plan my next visit to Paris and Shakespeare and Company.