by Fiona McMurrey


Image courtesy of the Librairie Galignani website.

I lied to you, this one is my favorite and it just so happens to be first, (the rest are in no particular order). Founded in 1801, Librarie Galignani was the first anglophone bookshop to open on continental Europe, though it has an extensive collection of francophone literature and rare editions. The original shop contained an elaborate reading room in addition to serving as a bookshop though this literary salon was forcibly shut down and liquidated during the occupation in World War II. At present, the bookshop is an exquisite bastion of literary culture, and a lovely mélange of mid-century and Belle Époque architectural fixtures and styles, lending the space a timeless elegance and the sensation of feeling like a fantasy library, for me at least. Whether you’re searching for the latest novel in English or want to try your hand at reading a classic French text in the neighboring Jardin des Tuileries, Librairie Galignani is teeming with litanies of genres, authors, and titles!

224 Rue de Rivoli
75001, Paris


Image courtesy of the Shakespeare and Company website.

A stark contrast to the refined, meticulously organized, and primed shelves of Librairie Galignani, Shakespeare and Company leans into its more Bohemian roots and charm. The shelves upstairs are cluttered, slightly makeshift, and old world but charismatic to any dedicated bibliophile. In the words of the store’s founder George Whitman, “I created this bookstore like a man would write a novel, building each room like a chapter, and I like people to open the door the way they open a book, a book that leads into a magic world in their imaginations.” The building itself was first constructed in the 17th century for the purpose of being a monastery, which provides its present occupation as a bookstore with an incredible irony as it was Scholastic monks during the Medieval period who preserved and copied literature, inventing many of the written forms that led to the first novels, some of which are sold in the current store, such as “Pantagruel,” by François Rabelais, or “Don Quixote,” by Miguel de Cervantes, both of which vie for the title of first modern novel.

Shakespeare and Company opened in 1951 on the Parisian left bank scarcely blocks away from its predecessor, the original Shakespeare and Company owned, stocked, and marshaled by Sylvia Beach. It was a prominent center for expat gatherings and exchanges of writing, hosting some of the greatest writers of the 20th century including James Joyce, Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, T.S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, and many of the leading French writers of the time. George Whitman’s variation of the store also attracted the burgeoning great writers of the 50s, entertaining venerable writers such as Allen Binsberg, Anaïs Nin, Richard Wright, William Styron, Julio Cortázar, Henry Miller, and James Baldwin. What distinguished Whitman’s iteration of Shakespeare and Company was that he permitted many young, frequently itinerant, homeless and penniless, artists and writers to spend the night at the bookshop prompting him to claim his shop was a“socialist utopia masquerading as a bookshop”

I could go on for pages about the cultural significance of this legendary bookstore but suffice it to say, it is well worth your time to wait in line for fifteen minutes and to buy a text from one of the aforementioned authors who once haunted the space.

37 Rue de la Bûcherie
75005, Paris


Image courtesy of the San Francisco Book Company website.

Located in the heart of the Latin quarter, on a quiet street leading away from the incessant commotion of Odéon and ascending towards the Pantheon, La Sorbonne, and Jardin du Luxembourg, San Francisco Book Company, is another booklovers paradise. Behind the scarlet façade with gleaming copies of rare books and first editions of Walter Benjamin, Samuel Beckett and many others through the double hung, red trim windows, there is a veritable haven of books brimming over in stacks, on shelves, and every available surface. The books are organized by genre, and alphabet and the selection changes frequently, as the store acquires the collections of many estates, and offers its customers the opportunity to resell their books as well. This store is a goldmine for book collectors as rare editions and rare books often populate the labyrinthine shelves. The bookstore does exclusively sell preloved books however, so if you’re in the market for the latest and greatest, it might not be available yet. But if you want the best literature at the best price and in an irreplaceable edition, you’ve come to the right place.

17 Rue Monsieur le Prince
75006, Paris


The bookstore formerly known as WH Smith & Son first opened its doors in 1903, at 248 Rue Rivoli, and was so immediately successful that it was expanded five years later in 1908. The bookstore was visited by a plethora of expats and writers until its closing during the occupation. Upon its reopening in 1944, the store added an English tearoom to accommodate patrons of the bookshop and accentuate the British heritage of the store itself. The store contains an exceptional collection of contemporary and classic literature as well as a variety of international newspapers including the New York Times so (my fellow American expats) if you’re feeling a bit homesick and prefer a paper copy of the news, Smith & Son is a must visit.

248 Rue de Rivoli
75001, Paris

5. GIBERT JOSEPH (or any of the Gibert Bookstores)

Librairie Gibert Joseph in 1935.

Even though Gibert Joseph does not specialize in Anglophone literature, but rather, is composed of six stories of almost exclusively Francophone literature, this literary hub and rough-around-the-edges star of the Latin quarter and largest bookstore in Paris, dedicates one fourth of the third floor to books in English, new releases, old classics, and English translations of French literature. Count on innumerable copies of the iconic authors such as Susan Sontag, Vladimir Nabokov, Hunter S. Thompson, Toni Morrison and many more in pristine editions as well as cheaper, preloved options that your wallet will thank you for, until, if you’re like me, you buy as many books as you can carry.

30 Boulevard Saint-Michel
75006, Paris