Paris Prose in NYC...

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Paris Prose in NYC...

Books on Paris galore...

When I’m in New York, I love visiting the Strand.  Between the Christmas market at Union Square and my old stomping grounds in the Village, this bookstore from the 1920s is my favorite place to spend the precious few moments I have in the city.  Far from a pretentious hipster or some literature lover, I browse the books, soaking up the often-cheap prices and the diversity of English prose unavailable in Paris. 

Sure, we have Shakespeare & Co. by Notre Dame, and yes, Amazon delivers globally.  Still, there’s something unique and reassuring about browsing shelf after shelf of titles.  The selection reminds you that the written word lives on through secondhand copies of classic works or obscure titles that you can’t find elsewhere.  Plus the tote bags are excellent.  I digress.

While browsing bookstores this year in New York City, there was a rampant theme in many of the sections that I never really noticed before.  Paris.  I know, this isn't new, but, just, wow.  Now a hyper-sensitive expat, I was struck by how many genres feature the City of Lights, from cooking to memoirs  from fiction to history, and from parenting to tourism.  Every shelf, every display, every section seemingly was pushing Paris as this year (century’s?) most popular character.

A familiar name!
Even in the travel section, unsurprisingly, but nevertheless astonishingly, nearly a quarter of the entire European collection is devoted to Paris.  Forget the rest of France, Paris is it.  Vampires, zombies, and halflings all take a backseat to the town I call home.

Hemingway’s novels aren't far from books about his wife, authors that I've met are on the staff’s recommendation list, and journey’s through Paris’ history mingle with a travel guide featuring my name on the last page.  It’s an incredulous mix of styles, perspectives, and voices that few other cities have managed to bring together over the last 100 years.

I want to read them all, and I’m working on it.  A copy of La Seduction made it into my suitcase as a gift, and the visually-indulgent Paris vs. New York will make a great coffee table book, once I get a coffee table.  I’m already waiting for next year’s list of Paris-inspired works to make their debut.  The problem now is seeing how many books I can fit in my suitcase...


  1. I know what you mean; I used to live near the Strand when I lived in New York and it quickly became a weekly stop for me! I wish we had something like this in Paris as well. Potential new business idea, perhaps? :)

    Joyeux Noël !



  2. When my daughter moved to NYC 3 years ago The Strand was the first place I dragged her to when I came to visit. Now it is one of HER favorite places to show off to visitors. We visited Paris the summer before her big move to NYC, and both adore Shakespeare and Co. She has the best pictures from our visit. Ahhhh the memories....

    So what books did you end up purchasing?

  3. Thank goodness for Skakespeare and Co. for English books in Paris, but also I love browsing Gibert Jeune for the same(ish) experience as the Strand!

    I didn't end up getting any "fun" books at the Strand this year, just a dozen or so books on journalism and Web studies that I'll use for school -- things that no Sorbonne library carries! I guess they'll be fun to read compared to French academic books...