France for Bookworms, Episode 455

Category: French Culture

This episode features our frequent and very popular guest Elyse Rivin. If you enjoy her episodes, please consider supporting her on Patreon.

In France, there are new bookstores opening all the time which is remarkable. Bookstores stay in business in France as well. That's probably because French people give each other books for Christmas and so on. Today we'll just be talking about independent, privately owned bookstores.

The Best of France for Bookworms

We discuss the fact that in France you buy books for high school but not for college. The other difference in France is that the bigger bookstores are also publishers, like in the case of Shakespeare & Company in Paris and Privat in Toulouse. And speaking of Shakespeare & Company, it's very popular, there's always a line. We share tips on when to go so it's not so painful.

Towards the end of the episode we discuss whether listening to a book as good as reading a book. Elyse doesn't think so. She reads for a couple of hours most nights. But Annie has switched to "reading by listening" and it makes it possible for her to listen to classics and hundreds of books she would not have the time for otherwise.

A Tour of of Iconic Bookstores in France

Gilbert Joseph: the biggest bookstore "chain". They do a little bit of everything including used books.

Librairie Jousseaume, Galerie Vivienne. Definitely worth a visit because it's gorgeous and it feels like old-world elegance.

Librairie Delamain, the oldest independent bookstore in Paris. This boostore was founded before the French Revolution in the 1700s.

La Librairie Gourmande. This is on Rue Montmartre which is NOT in the neighborhood we call Montmartre. It's in the 2e arrondissement and specializes in books about food.

Les Mots à la Bouche. An LGBT bookstore which used to be in the Marais but is now not far from the new Opera house.

L'Amour du Noir. In the Latin Quarter. A bookstore that specializes in mystery and science fiction genres.

Artazart on the Canal Saint Martin in the 10e arrondissement. A great place to go for books about art, design, etc.

L'Ecume des Pages. This is on Boulevard Saint Germain near Le Café de Flore. It is open every day until midnight!

Iconic bookstores outside of Paris

Here are a few outside of Paris because, as you wouldn't know when talking to Parisians, most of France is outside of Paris!

Mollat in Bordeaux, one of the oldest independent bookstores in France, evem older than the one we mentioned above in Paris.

Ombres Blanches in Toulouse. A large bookstore that spralls over several levels and buildings. In Toulouse we also have Privat, it was Annie's favorite with Castela (the one on Place du Capitole Annie couldn't remember during the recording).

In Lille the big bookstore on the central square is called Godon. They do signings and events too.

Librairie Maupetit in Marseille. This one is also owned by Gallimard and is a major bookstore in the city.

Le Bal des Ardents in Lyon. A bookstore that specializes in hard to find books and they also do conferences and events.

Kléber in Strasbourg. It is not surprising to have a large independent bookstore in Strasbourg since it's such a big unisersity town.

Le Trouve Tout du Livre in an area called Le Somail in the town of Saint-Nazaire-d'Aude. The largest collection of used books in Europe. There are many more in Montolieu, also in the Aude, it's called The Village of Books.

Book Festivals in France

This list is not meant to be exhaustive, these are the ones that caught our attention.

Le Festival du Premier Roman in Chambéry where they vote for the best debut novel of the year.

Saint Malo Etonnant Voyageurs Festival, for people who love books about travel.

Le Quai du Polard in Lyon, a festival for crime thrillers.

Festival de la Biographie in Nîmes

Foire du Livre de Brive la Gaillarde, a big book festival for a modest sized town.

Le Marathon des Mots in Toulouse. Every year there's a theme or focus on a country and they invite authors (usually French authors) to come read their books. They also invite famous actors and actresses to come do readings.

Festival International de la Bande Dessinée in d'Angoulême, this is a comic book festival, the biggest one in Europe.

Le Livre en Poche de Saint Maure, this is what you call a paperback in English and in French we call it a book for the pocket.

Festival du Roman Féminin in Paris which celebrates women's fiction.

Villages of Books in France

Montolieu in the Aude department, the lovely village of books.

Cuisery Village du Livre the Saone-et-Loire department.

Bécherel in Brittany

Fontenoy La Joûte in the Lorraine

La Charité-sur-Loire en Bourgogne-Franche-Comté

Ambierle village du livre in the Loire


In this journey through the literary landscape of France, we've ventured into iconic independent bookstores, strolled through charming book villages, and felt the lively atmosphere of France's renowned book festivals. We've also delved into the spirited debate on reading versus listening to books—a topic that resonates with book lovers worldwide. It’s clear that in France, the love for books is more than a pastime; it’s a deeply ingrained part of the culture, a cherished tradition that continues to thrive. From the bustling shelves of Parisian bookstores to the tranquil lanes of Montolieu, books hold a special place in the French heart. Thank you for joining us on this literary expedition across France, a true haven for bookworms. À bientôt!

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Category: French Culture