You can learn a lot about a person when you live with them. When I lived in London with my friend Krissy, I started to notice that whenever we were out and about she couldn’t pass a bookstore on the street without going inside and looking around for a few minutes. She was a big bibliophile and I was more than happy to hop into stores too as I am just as big of a bibliophile.
I was a voracious reader growing up, reading everything in sight from books to newspapers to magazines. I remember the day my Mom’s friend brought over a large packing size box full of books including The Babysitter’s Club series and The Boxcar Children series. I devoured them completely so much so that sometimes I would go through a book in a day. In high school, my English literature classes were my favorite and I loved the hour-long discussions with classmates about the chapters from a classic work that we read the night before. However in college, reading for pleasure was no longer on my radar. I had to read books on marketing principles and practices or rhetorical theory and maybe during the summer I would have time to read at least one book for fun.
Then a few months after college, I started living with Krissy and I unexpectedly landed a job at a literary agency and the office was littered with books that were mine for the taking. I was reading all the time now and I loved it and seven years later, I’m still working in the book industry and reading more than I ever have in my life. So no doubt I need to visit famous bookstores around the world and I’ve been doing pretty well the last few years. In 2012, I perused the 18 miles of books at The Strand in New York City. Last year, I was at Bondi Beach in Sydney and spent some time in Gertrude & Alice, a cozy bookstore café.
This year I went to what might be considered the mother of all bookstores, Shakespeare & Company in Paris and of course I spent a good hour or two in there. It had the creaky wooden floors, narrow aisles, books packed on every shelf, and a pure white cat chilling by the window on the top floor. My favorite part of the store was the upstairs room where there were two beds among the walls of books. Employees can sleep there if they promise to write every day. Quite the dream, no? I sat on one of the beds for fifteen minutes as I listened to two girls play the most beautiful classical music on the piano sitting in the corner of the upstairs room. I could have sat there for an hour just listening but before I left I bought a tote bag carrying my copies of The Fault in Our Stars (I know, I know, I’m late to the party) and Love is a Mixtape.
Now if anyone is living me with they will know that my shelves have books with notes on the title page saying where I bought them and the date and that I must love traveling to iconic bookstores. Where to next?