The Abbey Bookshop and Shakespeare and Co., both Parisian anglophile bookshops, have a notorious rivalry. And while I love the Shakes, I decided to bring my business to the Abbey today and give it a fair shot for my loyalty.
The Abbey Bookshop is only a block or so from Shakespeare and Co., but takes a little bit more determination to find as it does not appear on Google Maps as a go-to tourist destination. It's a good thing too because the Abbey is only big enough for about one small person to squeeze though the precariously stacked mountains of books at a time, not the appropriate place for a tour group. But because of its small capacity, the Abbey allows for some quality one-on-one customer service, including a cup of filter coffee "on the house."
Maybe because it lacks the pressure of being Shakespeare and Co., the Abbey is refreshingly less pretentious; Stephanie Meyer sits unassumingly between H. Melville and H. Miller. The philosophy seems to be "no book is a pleasure to be ashamed of", or maybe "different strokes for different folks."
By the end of my visit, I'd settled on "The Sons" by Franz Kafka. Kafka because he was born in Prague, which is where I am going tomorrow. Since arriving in Paris I have become a firm believer in reading stories somehow related to the place I am in. I know that one of the best parts about literature is that it takes you off to new and imaginary places, but something about reading Toni Morrison in Paris is just not the same as reading her in Texas. Also, I needed something in addition to Anaïs Nin, who is amazing but "Les Petits Oiseaux" is definitely more "erotic" than it is "novel."