English language bookshops in Paris

Find quality English titles at some of the best literary hubs in town

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In the last few years there have been some sad casualties on the English bookshop scene in Paris, with much-loved outlets Tea and Tattered Pages, Village Voice and Red Wheelbarrow all closing their doors for the last time. But the city that nurtured Hemingway and Fitzgerald, Orwell and Beckett remains a major hub and an inspiration for English writers and readers, and there are still glossy emporiums, delightful second-hand treasure troves and plenty of mixed-language outlets to explore. They're also great places to find out about literary readings and events (particularly Shakespeare & Company), and invariably have a message board with postings for language classes, book exchanges, clubs and accommodation notices. Expats, tourists, language learners, lovers of English literature in Paris, read on...

The Abbey Bookshop

Celebrating 20 years in business, the tiny Abbey Bookshop is the domain of Canadian renaissance man Brian Spence, who organises weekend hikes as well as dressing up in doublet and hose for a spot of 17th-century dancing.The tiny, narrow shop stocks old and new works, a specialised Canadian section, and highbrow subjects down the rickety staircase. Several thousand more books are in storage, and he can normally order titles for collection within two days.

  1. 29 rue de la Parcheminerie, 5th, Paris, France
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Berkeley Books

An offshoot of San Francisco Books in the next street over, Berkeley opened in 2006 and as well as the shop runs a well-organised website with an online catalogue and calls to buy, sell and exchange. In store, the range of literature, criticism, history, philosophy, religion, poetry, literary journals (including a shelf devoted to back issues of the Paris Review), cookbooks and children's books is arranged by genre and studded with treasures, though the space lacks some of the haphazard charm of other similar outlets. But the easy-going welcome and palpable love of reading makes this another charming...

  1. 8 rue Casimir-Delavigne, 6e
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Galignani

A long, gleaming space lined with dark wood and crowned with a mezzanine overlooking an intimate reading area, Galignani on the Rue de Rivoli is as chic as its location. It claims to be the first English language bookshop on the continent, but that’s not really important – though pricey, Galignani probably has the best overall selection of fiction, non-fiction, fine arts books, guides and gift titles in English in the city. Browsing the broad tables and tall shelves lined with venerable names and exciting new writers is as inspiring as in some of the best independent bookshops in London...

  1. 224 rue de Rivoli, 1e
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I Love My Blender

You might well expect a former ad man to name his dream shop something catchy and offbeat, though you probably wouldn’t anticipate it being full of dinky keyrings, Penguin Classics mugs and an intelligent selection of literature. But on the fringes of the Marais, ‘I Love My Blender’ is a delightful mish-mash of a few of Christophe Persouyre’s favourite things: board games, treats for kids, avant-garde oil paintings, postcards and assorted knick-knackery, all jostling for space on the narrow little shop’s crowded shelves and tables. Charming as all this is, those in the know will head here for the book selection...

  1. 36 rue du Temple, 3rd
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San Francisco Books

A delightful little rabbit warren of a second hand bookshop, San Francisco Books was founded by a group of ex-pats in 1997 and seems to have grown organically out of the conversations of book lovers. Tweedy gents hang around the front desk discussing politics and poetry, while browsers squeeze politely past each other in the narrow spaces between the stacks, ferreting out fiction, guides, DVDs, biographies, pamphlets and much more. But while a faint aura of dusty dottiness pervades, these guys are hugely passionate, knowledgeable and well connected. Just visit their website to get an idea of their stock...

  1. 17 rue Monsieur le Prince, 6e
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Shakespeare & Company

The original Shakespeare & Co, run by Sylvia Beach and beloved of Hemingway and his ilk, closed in the 1940s during the occupation of Paris (the site at 12 Rue de l’Odéon bears a plaque). In 1951, wandering spirit George Whitman opened Le Mistral at 37 Rue de la Bûcherie, re-naming it in 1964 in homage to Beach’s legacy (he also named his daughter after her). But the back history hardly matters now – George, who passed away in 2011 aged 98, turned the shop into something entirely unique and magical. A gathering place, source of inspiration and often a bed for beat generation bohemians...

  1. 37 rue de la Bûcherie, 5e
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WHSmith

It’s not the most beautiful space inside, despite its vaulted Rue de Rivoli windows. Still, while at home the UK newsagent WHSmith mostly sells romances and thrillers in airports and train stations, its outlet in Paris remains one of the best-stocked English language bookshops in the city. A healthy amount of literary fiction, serious nonfiction and contemporary novels supplement the staples, and the range of magazines (at the back, next to the vending machines) is mind-boggling. Just be warned – like its almost-neighbour Galignani, Smith’s riches don’t come cheap – expect to pay upwards of €25 for a mass-market paperback...

  1. 248 rue de Rivoli, 1e
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The American Library in Paris

The biggest English-language lending library on the continent and proud of it, the American Library in Paris has gone from strength to strength over the course of its colourful history. Founded in 1920 as a repository for the books sent by the US government to its soldiers in the trenches during the Great War, it has always centred on the best of American literature and culture, its remit widening with the times to take in DVDs and other audiovisual materials. As a private organization, the library is dependent on membership fees for survival. You’ll have to shell out €110 a year (€82 concessions; day passes also available from €10); but you get a lot for your greenbacks...

  1. 10 Rue du Général Camou, 7e, 75007
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Attica

It’s not the most atmospheric space or location, but Attica offers a seriously impressive range of educational and specialist books in numerous languages. As well as shelves and shelves of titles on business English, how to perfect your CV or register your business (and their equivalents in everything from French to Russian), there’s a selection of classic fiction (often with reading notes), guidebooks and modern fiction. French materials can be found in translation (Tintin in Chinese, anyone?), and for those making their own way, there are language guides and dictionaries in everything from Arabic to Réunion Creole...

  1. 106 blvd Richard Lenoir, 11e
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Bibliothèque Publique d'Information

  • Free

The name says it all: this vast reference library (no loans), located inside the Centre Pompidou, was opened in 1977 with a strong remit to disseminate information to the public. There’s no charge or fussy registration process – anyone can waltz in during open hours, with only special services such as desk reservations requiring staff attention. While you’ll often find a queue of university students waiting outside at opening time, the library is by no means theirs; the BPI is a truly democratic space, its 430,000-strong collection encompassing novels, maps, e-books, magazines, sheet music, film and CDs (as well as the requisite academic texts). Fittingly, given the centre’s multimedia remit...

  1. 19, rue Beaubourg, 75004
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Bouquinistes

Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Man Ray and the rest of the ‘lost generation’ of the 1920s browsed here, and the atmospheric lines of used booksellers with their painted wooden stalls along the banks of the Seine are an unmissable stop-off – even if only for a photo opportunity – for every visitor to Paris.There are 217 licensed bouquinistes, totalling around 300,000 volumes and 3km of quayside browsing. Some of them sell more postcards and Eiffel Tower keyrings these days, but with time and patience you can still find affordable first editions, intriguing second hand finds and other curios...

  1. Le long des quais de Seine, Quai de Montebello et quai Saint-Michel, 5e
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Librairie Gourmande

  • Critics choice

As prime destination for food lovers, sometimes it’s easy to forget that eating in Paris doesn’t just involve endless delicious meals out and the occasional browse of a market stall or favourite gourmet food store to stock up on French products with pretty labels. In fact, home cooking is alive and well here (unless you believe all the rumours about everyone relying on frozen food brand Picard Surgélé) – you can take a class or a tour, or make like Rachel Khoo and open a restaurant in your own kitchen.A useful resource for cooks, then, and a fine one, is the Librairie Gourmande on the picturesque Rue Montmartre. Amateurs and pros will revel in the two floors of titles (in French, English and more), plus a healthy range of posters, cards, aprons, toques and other cooking-themed gifts and paraphernalia. Here, you can pick up the latest tome by a famous chef (‘Save with Jamie’, perhaps, or René Redzepi’s ‘A Work in Progress’), or lose yourself browsing the astonishing range of vintage and modern titles on all aspects of food, cooking and wine. From Elizabeth David to Nigella Lawson via Julia Child and Fergus Henderson, and from food-themed comic books a world atlas of wine, there’s no doubting the passion and knowledge of these booksellers. A pleasure.

  1. 92-96, Rue Montmartre, 2e
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Librairie de la Mode

Fashion-savvy shoppers will delight in the shelves at Librairie de la Mode, which hold an extraordinary range of fashion and lifestyle books and magazines from around the world – if you’re stuck for *Wallpaper, Monocle or Vogue or want to know what’s hot in Singapore or Milan this season, this is your salvation.  But the German outfit go much further than mere magazines – here you’ll also find seasonal trends analysis reports, fashion forecasting, graphics and digital titles, huge and beautiful textile sample books and pantone colour charts. The essential address for all the fashion lovers, writers, bloggers and buyers who flock to Paris...

  1. 52 rue de la Croix des Petits Champs, 1e
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Librairie Le Rideau Rouge

A little out of the way for some expat book lovers used to hanging around the Left Bank, Librarie Le Rideau Rouge well rewards the trek out to the 18th arrondissement. Opened in 2012, the chic white-painted space is set over two floors, with a gallery and event space in the basement. The commendable raison d’être is to promote literature from around the world and in translation – so as well bestsellers and a delightful children’s section, you’ll find the titles organised by country rather than by author or genre. There’s a limited selection of original English-language titles (also German, Spanish and Italian)...

  1. 42 rue de Torcy, 18e
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Ofr.

Adored by fans of fashion and contemporary arts magazines, Ofr. bookshop stocks fanzines, arty postcards, boutique publications and fashion accessories. You can find everything from the latest issue of Love to the best street style shots of Facehunter, but Ofr. is also an independent publishing house that creates works in collaboration with a wide range of artists, like the photographer Ami Sioux. Just moments from République, Ofr. regularly holds exhibitions on anything from children’s art to modernist graphics, surfing to Basque dance ­ – nothing scares this ultra-specilaits avant-garde space...

  1. 20 rue Dupetit-Thouars, 3e
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Oxfam

The Oxfam concept was imported into France in 2007 with the opening of its first store in Lille. Since then, two further stores have been opened in Paris, one in rue Daguerre the other in rue St Ambrose. The pretty, apple-green shopfronts set the tone for these decidedly activist stores where people donate their books, CDs and DVDs, old clothes and a host of other pre-loved items. Oxfam then sorts them and puts them back on the shelves for sale with all proceeds going to a number of international NGOs fighting poverty and inequality around the world. Welcoming staff are on hand to guide you through the wide range on offer...

  1. 61 rue Daguerre, 14e
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Au bonheur du jour

  • Free

Whether you’re a collector or a tourist looking for an unusual present, the Au Bonheur du Jour gallery is a treasure trove of erotic art to suit all budgets. The deliciously retro atmosphere is the antithesis of the city’s more modern galleries with their cold, contemporary white spaces (it’s rented from a friend who runs the well-known lesbian bar La Champmeslé just opposite). The Cocteau/Colette vibe is the perfect setting for the collection of male and female nudes that adorn the walls. If you're struggling to choose, we’d recommend the books by the gallery’s owner...

  1. 11 rue Chabanais, 2e
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Les Mots à la Bouche

An institution in the Marais, this bookshop has a large selection of gay fiction, non-fiction, magazines, and English-language books.

  1. 6 rue Sainte-Croix de la Bretonnerie, 4e
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