I recently announced with regrets that Brentano’s Paris bookstore was closing as a collateral damage to the recession. Everyone agrees that it’s a shame to see indie bookstores disappear, often leaving only bland chains who only stock the ubiquitous bestsellers (and sell books as they would sell soup cans – I still bear a grudge for unhelpful salespeople at the so-called helpdesk who just glare at me when I try to locate Sei Shonagon’s Pillowbook, obviously can’t spell it, and maintain that the book doesn’t exist – gasp!)
I thought about it a bit longer and I came up with the idea of a new series of posts, featuring bookshops that I visited in my part of the world and loved. Maybe if some readers of my blog happen to visit these towns, you’ll at least have my warmest recommendations to stop by in these indie bookshops and support them by buying a few books to add to your TBR pile.
The first address that sprung to my mind is a lovely bookshop we found in Brittany, Quimper this spring: Le Bistro à Lire. They are located in the central shopping and tourism district, a few steps away from the central square with the Cathedral. As much of the central area of Quimper, it’s in a cobbled street with old half-timbering houses, some tracing back to the Middle Ages.
The address is 18 Rue des Boucheries (Butcher’s shop street), and maybe this was inspiring for the managers, as they offer a irresistible combination of mysteries (not all bloody one may hope!) and light homemade food. It’s a tiny bookshop cum tearoom, so if you don’t yield to the temptation of a delicious cake, you’ll probably end up buying a book! (the lesser of two evils? 😉 )
But you also can do both at the same time! You can browse through their rich collection of thrillers, cozy mysteries, police procedurals, historical mysteries and so on, while having some of their delicious food: quiches, vegetarian lasagne, cheesecakes, crumbles… There aren’t that many tables (although there is a terrace at the back) and the day we visited, they quickly filled up at lunchtime, no wonder! I hear they also offer some activities like philosophy meetings, book discussions with wine, children programs around food and literature. The 2 women who run the place are very friendly and will discuss your choice of food and mystery at length, provided this is not peak hour. Although they have a good choice of mysteries (mostly in French), they also have a children’s literature corner and a shelf with cookbooks.
In addition to a delicious meal, we bought a Swedish mystery, Roseanna, by Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö, warmly recommended by our hosts, and later I discovered by Kate as well! Roseanna still sits on my TBR pile but Mr. Smithereens read it and loved it, comparing it to Simenon (I hope I don’t distort his view 😉 !)
If you feel inspired by this series and want to celebrate indie bookshops of your own neighbourhood (or elsewhere), send me a link to your post in the comments.