(note: this post also appears on Paris Cheapskate's partner site, Untapped Paris)
You know I’m obsessed with Shakespeare and Company, the English bookstore situated across the Seine from Notre Dame. But did you know there’s another, tinier, equally charming English-language bookstore just a couple of blocks away? I recently stumbled upon The Abbey Bookshop and was delighted to stock up on some new reads while trying to avoid making every book around me tumble onto the floor.
I spoke with Métissa André, a translator and one of the lovely young people who run the store. She told me the shop originally began as the “little sister” of The Abbey Bookshop in Toronto, owned by Francophile and book lover Brian Spence. The Canadian shop has since shut down but the Paris extension continues to thrive today.
On any given day you can browse the extensive collection of both new and used books in the tiny space filled with words and jazz music. The warm atmosphere makes every day feel like a rainy day, perfect to cozy up with a good book, no matter the weather outside. “We want everyone to be able to find their own treasures, whether they are looking for collectibles, cheap paperbacks, highbrow essays, life-changing masterpieces or good reads for the train,” Métissa says. “We like to have different kinds of people coming in, just like we have to have all sorts of books! In spite of the lack of space, we are also trying to make the people feel at home, offer them some help when they need it and revive the human dimension of purchasing books, which is missing from the Internet or big bookstores.”
The Abbey Bookshop hangs flyers around the neighborhood, relies on word-of-mouth and random passers-by to bring business in. It struck me that perhaps the store has some tough competition with the world-renowned Shakespeare & Co. just steps away. On the contrary, says Métissa, “It has its benefits: since we get on well together, we send each other customers when they need something that only the other has.” The Abbey Bookshop also organizes book launches, hikes and parties to draw customers in and to celebrate Parisian life and the love of books.
I spent about an hour digging into their selection and walked away with two books: Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep (7€) and Plum Sykes’ Bergdorf Blondes (4€). I am thoroughly loving the Chandler book. The other one didn’t make it past my train ride home (though I do have a beach trip approaching so maybe it’s better for senseless, sun-soaked beach brain).
Métro: M4 to Saint-Michel or M10 to Cluny-La Sorbonne