A visit to my favorite thrift store book department in Chapel Hill yesterday had me thinking about Shakespeare and Company, situate on the Left Bank opposite Notre-Dame in Paris. My daughter Amy and I visited this bookstore (which opened in 1951) on our recent trip to Paris, and it was easily one of our top five favorite things to do in Paris. Many famous writers spent time writing in the many nooks you find upstairs at Shakespeare and Company or sleeping among the piles of books. The entire top floor is almost a museum made up of a number of different rooms - none of the books there are for sale, and often book signings are in the small room overlooking the Seine. In fact you will see the room if you watch the movie Before Sunset which is set in and around Shakespeare and Company.
If you love books, a visit to Shakespeare and Company is a must on any trip to Paris. It made me less concerned about the books piling up on the floor of the library corner in my studio now that I have run out of shelf space. And made me less guilty about coming home with around forty new books yesterday (new as in used but new to me). Books feel like friends. There is something about the energy of books that comforts me. Most of my books are non-fiction and I refer back to them from time to time for inspiration and information.
I especially love old books and I suspect this comes from the many happy days spent in the library in my grandmother's home when I was young, and the summers I worked in my father's law office. My favorite place was the law library surrounded by old books with leather covers. There is something about the smell and feel of books that just feels good. And I know I need to enjoy them now, because perhaps in the not too distant future all books will be downloaded and we won't be able to feel and touch and absorb the individual character of each that speaks to me more than merely the words contained in the book.