I love to read and I end up collecting books in every city / town I live in. So when I moved to Paris, my biggest challenge was finding bookstores that sold books in a foreign language – English!
Shakespeare & Company
No list can start without this dream of a store. The original store established by Sylvia Beach hosted Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald among many others. With makeshift sleeping quarters on the top, this store has housed as many as 40,000 struggling writers. This is every reader and aspiring writer’s home away from home.
The store is located at 37 rue de la Bûcherie, near Notre Dame, over the Seine. The closest metro / RER stations are St. Michel (Line 4), St. Michel Notre-Dame (RER B and RER C).
Given the tiny space inside crammed with books old and new, you might have to wait outside for a bit. They allow only a few people at a time to enter. Photography inside the store is prohibited. On my first visit, someone on their staff was at the piano upstairs. It was so beautiful that I had to sit down and cry for a bit. You’ll find everything from Austen to HONY here. They also organise poetry readings and book clubs on Sunday evenings. You can attend one after the weekly organ concert at Notre Dame (held on Sunday afternoons around 4).
This is usually my airport stop (Bombay-Hyderabad-Bangalore). But a good old dependable store like this one comes handy in a non-English speaking country. Located right outside Concorde (Metro Lines 1,8, and 12), this store to the left of Jardin des Tuileries, if you are facing towards The Louvre. It’s quite hard to miss. If you’re looking for Lonely Planet travel guides in English, this is where you’ll find them. If you’re sneaking in here in your lunch break, fear not for they have you sorted. On the ground floor, there is a mini café next to the magazine section.
This is a chain of stores but there’s a huge one just behind the Notre Dame. They sell French and English books along with art supplies, stationery, and postcards. The closest metro / RER stations are St. Michel (Line 4), St. Michel Notre-Dame (RER B and RER C).
There are certainly more bookstores that sell English books but the above three are your best bet if you’re looking for well known titles. There are a lot of booksellers outside the Notre Dame, but I doubt you’ll find anything in English here. Don’t let my experience stop you from checking out these second hand book stalls though.