Lost in a good bookshop

Anyone who loves books loves bookshops (right?). When I was young a favourite bookshop was simply one with a lot of books. Probably my favourite growing up was “Read ‘n’ Return” in Exeter – a small second-hand shop where you could return the book after you’d read it and get half the price refunded. I spent many an hour in their basement scouring the stuffed shelves for cheap science fiction. Sadly they closed down just recently.
Second hand bookshops always seemed more fun than shiny new ones. There was the thrill of discovering a bargain amongst the disordered piles, and the musty smell which is so much more romantic and evocative than new book smell. Probably the most romantic (and romanticised) bookshop I’ve ever been to is “Shakespeare & Company” in Paris. It’s a lovely warm, welcoming place to while away a few hours, although, as I say, the young staff are often overly keen to regale you at length with the place’s history and legends.

Brussels has a few good spots too. Sterling Books (English books only) is cosy and friendly and has nice comfy chairs. Filigranes (mostly French, but a lot of English stuff too) has recently expanded and has a new café, a piano player on Sundays, wine tastings, a children’s play area, as well as a very good selection, especially in art. It’s also one of the few places open on Sundays (Brussels is quite traditional in this respect, which is fine by me – I don’t need Sunday to be a second Saturday), and in fact it’s open 365 days a year.
Up until very recently Filigranes was my favourite, but then I found Cook & Book, part of the new Wolubilis arts centre.
Like Filigranes, this is “more than just a bookshop”. As the name suggests, it’s part bookshop, part restaurant (well, several restaurants – there’s a variety of eating areas, dotted throughout various sections). Open 7 days a week and until midnight at the weekends, it’s a fun place to hang out, full of wacky design features (cars, trailers, lamps made from soup cans and bottles) and funky book-related gifts. Take a look for yourself at the flickr album.

Fiction room

I especially like this couples’ reading armchair in the English section. I can imagine curling up in this with a good book and Kate Winslet my wife sat opposite me…

English room


One thought on “Lost in a good bookshop

  1. simonlitton October 16, 2007 / 12:38 pm

    Comments from:

    Posted on Feb. 2nd, 2007 11:38 am (local)
    Mmm… It comes close to you trying to chat me up one morning at breakfast by telling me that you dreamt of Sandra Bullock. Well, I didn’t let that spoil the romance, and that was over 9 years ago…

    Posted on Feb. 2nd, 2007 11:44 am (local)
    I feel that our relationship should be based on honesty and openness. Besides, you were happy to tell me that you fancied Rupert Everett, and he’s not even straight…

    Posted on Feb. 2nd, 2007 12:21 pm (local)
    There’s a cracking bookshop in Glasgow which does all sorts of second hand books. This shop is like a time capsule though – it looks like a bookshop from 100 yrs ago. Totally dusty, very dark, no chairs and a grumpy old man at the till. I get all my out-of-print Glasgow history stuff there. The only thing up to date in fact is the pricing strategy. My dad got me a book out of print since ’71 and it was £112. I’m sure this is all profit as I reckon his whole stock is stuff from his parents loft or something.
    On the subject, have you been to the Soho chain of bookshops in London? There was one in The City near my old office and it was a weird place! Ground level was all respectable with the usual fiction, crime, travel etc sections, and then there was a sign saying “More books downstairs”… You followed the sign down into the basement and the type of books were, shall we say, of a more adult nature, and were slightly more magazineish than bookish. Suffice to say I spent many a happy lunchtime in that shop… 🙂
    I think they eventually had to put up big signs saying “PORN THIS WAY↓↓↓” to stop innocent bystanders and tourists getting a shock…

    Posted on Feb. 2nd, 2007 03:06 pm (local)
    Yes, I got fooled by that one once. I was at a rather impressionable age at the time, so I was rather…impressed.

    Posted on Feb. 2nd, 2007 01:42 pm (local)
    There’s a DC-area chain of bookstores called Olssen’s that I adore. One of the stores is walking distance from my home in fact. They always have fascinating book and other stuff.
    Secondhand book shops are always good too. You never know what you’ll find.


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