Shakespeare and Company’s bookshelves
16th January 2015
This bookshelf is for when you're feeling slightly under the weather i.e not feeling so ill you must close the curtains, shut your eyes and wait for the doctor, but a little indisposed, or perhaps convalescing and needing no great shocks to the system, but also needing somehow to fill up on what is good.
Browse more authors' bookshelves:
• Keri Walsh on Sylvia's Circle
• John Baxter on A Sweet Sickness
• Max Porter on Sending Grief on Holiday
• Joanna Walsh on Her 8 Best Books of 2015
23rd March 2015
When Irish eyes are smiling it is often because they are reading one of these terrific books. It could also be because some banker has finally got his comeuppance in a tribunal, but for now, let's just celebrate Irish literature in some of its many forms.
25th March 2015
We like to think we float in our own peculiar way here at the bookshop and being big Bowie fans, we are thrilled that the extraordinary exhibition, David Bowie Is, has finally come to Paris. So take your protein pills and enjoy our literary tribute to our favourite space oddity.
27th March 2015
Rebecca Solnit wrote that, "writing is saying to no one and to everyone the things it is not possible to say to someone." Books make perfect Valentine gifts, eloquently portraying feelings we cannot always articulate ourselves. Here we have let our selection of books speak for themselves, click on each book for a beautiful quote, and fall in love with books all over again.
14th April 2015
International literary giants Haruki Murakami and Erwin Mortier have made the shortlist for the 2015 Independent Foreign Fiction Prize, the 25th anniversary of the Prize. They are joined by German authors Jenny Erpenbeck and Daniel Kehlmann, as well as the Prize's first shortlisted book from Equatorial Guinea, courtesy of Juan Tomás Ávila Laurel. They are joined on the list by Colombian Tomás González.
15th April 2015
First, there are the Sylvia Beach essentials: Ernest Hemingway's A Moveable Feast, Noel Riley Fitch's Sylvia Beach and the Lost Generation, Richard Ellmann's James Joyce, Gertrude Stein's Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, and Sylvia's own writings (her memoir Shakespeare and Company and her collected letters). Once you've read those, you can move on to these gems, all written by her friends and associates. A few notes on this list: If you have a modernist turn of mind and haven't had the pleasure of discovering it yet, Walter Benjamin's book on Charles Baudelaire, The Writer of Modern Life, is a once-in-a-lifetime treasure (and the perfect gateway to Benjamin's Arcades Project). Samuel Beckett's poems feature his dazzling translations of French poetry; and the City Lights “Corrected Centenary edition” of Stein's Tender Buttons is pleasing to hold and to read. Richard Wright, Paul Robeson, and H.D. were among the Americans whose careers Sylvia promoted in Paris.
Keri Walsh is the editor of The Letters of Sylvia Beach. Sylvia Beach was the first publisher of James Joyce’s Ulysses in 1922 and the owner of the original Shakespeare and Company bookstore in Paris. Professor Walsh teaches in the Department of English at Fordham University in the Bronx, New York. When her students travel to Paris, she advises them to make two pilgrimages: one to Oscar Wilde's grave, and the other to Shakespeare and Company. Her edition of James Joyce’s Dubliners is forthcoming from Broadview Press.
23rd April 2015
This week we celebrate the life of our namesake, William Shakespeare, whose birthday falls in April.
"Knowing I lov'd my books, he furnish'd me from mine own library with volumes that I prize above my dukedom." — William Shakespeare
5th May 2015
Of all the dynasties that have succeeded one another on the English throne, the Tudors, who reigned between 1485 and 1603, are one of the most popular. Brush up on your history with some of these fascinating reads before checking out this exhibition which is the first in France on the subject.
4th June 2015
2015 will be the year of a double commemoration, the 70th Anniversary of the end of the Second World War and the 50th Anniversary of Churchill's death. From 10th April to 26th July 2015, the Musée de l'Armée and the Fondation Charles de Gaulle present a joint exhibition, Churchill-De Gaulle, inspired by the tragic events that led to their encounter. If you want to delve further into this topic, try one of the following books.
4th June 2015
Book collecting has been called “a sweet sickness.” Its symptoms include a hunger that only the aroma of paper and the feel of a fine binding can satisfy. This selection of modestly-priced first editions from Shakespeare and Company’s Rare Book Room raises the curtain on the treasures that, for half a century, have made it a Mecca for collectors. But enter at your peril. The bibliophile bug, once caught, can make one, like me, its slave for life.
An expat resident of Paris for more than twenty years, John Baxter is the author of the bestselling memoirs Five Nights in Paris, The Perfect Meal, The Most Beautiful Walk in the World, Immoveable Feast: A Paris Christmas, Paris at the End of the World, and We’ll Always Have Paris. He is the co-director of the Paris Writers Workshop and gives walking tours through Paris. John Baxter lives with his wife and daughter, in the same building Sylvia Beach called home.
See photos and listen to the podcast of John’s brilliant recent event for Five Nights in Paris.
18th June 2015
I remember so fondly that age when, though I was able to read alone, my Mum would choose books to read to me before bed, one chapter a night. Suspense, fantasy and magical lands, these are all titles that will grip you as much as they will the child listening.
29th June 2015
The Avignon Festival is one of the most important performing arts events in the world. It takes place every summer in July in the courtyard of the Popes' Palace as well as in other locations around the city of Avignon. Get a flavour of this year's events with some of the following books.
13th July 2015
Sit on your verandah with a mint julep in one hand, a classic of the American South in the other and raise a glass to the publication of Harper Lee's surprise second novel, Go Set A Watchman.
17th July 2015
A good book is as important an item in your suitcase as sunscreen, mosquito repellent, plug converters and other such holiday prerequisites, in fact, I'm going to go the distance and say that it is probably even more important, more essential to your enjoyment of your holiday than any of those potenially life-saving items. Whether you're looking for heartbreak or humour, mysteries or mayhem, there's something in the following list for anyone looking for a captivating read this summer.
18th July 2015
This is a bookshelf for young people who are just starting to feel they are ready to venture out of the young adult section of the shop and downstairs into adult fiction. These titles make a smooth bridge between the two, with themes you might be familiar with from Young Adults that are here being dealt with in more adult ways. All of them are excellent reads but are written in a way that you won't find daunting. Plus they are so good that you'll want to come back to them in years to come!
29th July 2015
From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk, the Jean-Paul Gaultier exhibition currently showing at Grand Palais, features astonishing haute couture and prêt‐à‐porter ensembles designed between 1970 and 2013. If you can't handle the queues but want to immerse yourself in the world of French fashion, stroll on over to your local bookshop and take a look at one of the following.
17th August 2015
Every year Sam Jordison leads a hunt by readers of the Guardian books blog to find the year's best book, which may – or may not – tally with the assessment of the Man Booker prize judges. The winning book will be announced on 12 October 2015. The prize? A Guardian mug.
20th August 2015
If I had to send my novella, Grief is the Thing with Feathers, on holiday, then I’d pack these books in its suitcase. They are books which speak of similar concerns. Some of them are directly related to the subject matter; mourning, childhood and poetic obsession. Some of them are by the writers I think of as my permission givers, writers who do things with language and form that have moved or shocked or inspired me. Some of them are books I have loved and returned to many times, such as Angry Arthur, which I consider to be a book of complete perfection. They are all books I would want with me in my shack in the woods, when that time comes. From Hughes’ letter to his son Nicholas explaining his decision to publish Birthday Letters, to the exquisite dismantling of language in Anne Carson’s Nox, these are books which changed the way I think. If anything gathers them all together, from the deep peace and rural quiet of late John McGahern, to the roaring dream-time brilliance of Riddley Walker, it is that these are books which celebrate language. Books which lodge themselves in a reader’s brain and refuse to leave.
Max Porter is a senior editor at Granta Books and Portobello Books. He previously managed an independent bookshop and won the Young Bookseller of the Year award. He lives in South London with his wife and children. Grief is the Thing with Feathers is his first book.
27th August 2015
There's long been a creative connection between extreme weather and extreme behaviour. In these books, the sun bakes down, steamy indolent summers linger on, and the weather becomes a force and a character in its own right, unleashing all sorts of strange and wild occurrences.
14th September 2015
I always used to shy away from Fantasy and Sci Fi feeling I would find it exhausting to get my head around all the worlds and the lineages with unpronounceable names. What a mistake! Led in by Kurt Vonnegut's Sirens Of Titan I haven't looked back and am now a convert. This selection is not too "genre heavy" so they make good points of entry in the world of other worlds.
14th September 2015
Am I the only totally obsessed with all things Mitford? Of course not! Love them or love to hate them (depending on which of the sisters we're talking about) they are undeniably totally fascinating and I can't get enough. Make sure you listen to Decca and Dianas desert island discs!
16th September 2015
Autumn is always an exciting time for new fiction and an exciting time generally if you're someone who doesn't like blistering summer temperatures. Put on your favourite scarf and curl up with one of our la Rentrée selection.
21st October 2015
Oh, the books you can read,
You can read about the tiger, and when he came to tea,
You can read about the rabbit, the one made from velveteen,
You can read about Charlotte and her web, oh so wide,
A book is just perfect when you're in the mood to hide,
Oh, the books you can read!
4th November 2015
When two of my books (Vertigo and Hotel) were published within a week of each other in the US, I dealt with the terror by trying to build some new book shelves. My books were overflowing from my current shelves onto the floor, pooling under my bed, around the legs of furniture, growing into stacks of must-reads, stacks of should-reads, stacks of probably-won’t-reads, stacks to-give-away and many other subdivisions. Not able to carpenter, or to afford readymades, I bought some scaffolding planks that I was surprised to find as thick and heavy as young trees. They lay across the floor of my workroom for a long time, which made it difficult to get to and from my desk until I got hold of some bricks to stack between them. Now they hold almost all my books.
These are the books published in 2015 that I was happiest to add to my shelves.
Joanna Walsh's books include Hotel, Vertigo, and Fractals. Her writing has also been published by The Dalkey Archive (Best European Fiction 2015), Granta Magazine, Salt (Best British Short Stories, 2014 and 2015), The Stinging Fly, Gorse, and others. She reviews for the Guardian, The New Statesman, and The National. She is fiction editor at 3:AM Magazine, and runs @read_women, described by The New York Times as “a rallying cry for equal treatment for women writers”.
6th November 2015
Comprising over 200 works, Unlimited, the Andy Warhol exhibition at the Musée d’Art Moderne, highlights the serial side of the Warhol oeuvre – a crucial aspect of his work – and his ability to rethink the way art should be exhibited. Discover more about one of the leading proponents of pop art with some of the following titles.
20th November 2015
The Guardian First Book Award celebrates first-time writers across all genres who have had their first book published in English during the last year. This year's shortlist includes poetry, prose-poetry, fiction and non-fiction. A winner will be selected by a judging panel which includes British writer and historian Tom Holland, BBC journalist and newsreader Emily Maitlis and Forward-winning poet Kei Miller. The winner will be announced at an awards ceremony in London on Wednesday 25 November 2015 and will receive a £10,000 prize.
29th December 2015
We called upon our booksellers to tell us their favourite reads of 2015 and this is what they came up with. It’s an eclectic list, which is just as it should be when you ask thirteen voracious readers for their opinions. There are prize-winning novels, unsettling short story collections, works of history, anthropology and philosophy, and a timely, deeply moving essay on race relations. There’s also one little book about a crow that just doesn’t fit any category at all.
Click on any of the titles to read more about why the book was chosen.
12th January 2016
Compiling this list of exciting forthcoming titles really got my heart racing. And this is just a fraction of the fantastic new reads coming our way. Will there be enough time to read them all? How quickly can we get our mitts on them? Which ones will be the ones that no-one can agree on? Shiny new books: pure catnip.
19th January 2016
There are people who leave their bodies and their bodies go on living without them. These people are named Natasha.
Here are some other Natashas I have gotten to know, part of a diaspora of voices for whom language is sometimes damage, and damage an aphrodisiac. Where eroticism is called home, and comes home, claiming its own welcome.
From the bone-chilling romance of Russian Ludmilla Petrushevskaya, to the rubix-cube stories of self-consciousness of Spanish Ana Maria Moix in Dangerous Virtues, the poetry “in the quiet vacant dark” of Persian Forugh Farrokhzad, to the provocation to dance from Jamaican Jean ‘Binta’ Breeze: “inside this womb / is the song of songs / the story of all stories / can you move that?”
The masterfully subversive Japanese German-writing Yoko Tawada’s The Naked Eye, following a Vietnamese student smuggled through the Iron Curtain, eventually to Paris where she takes refuge in cinema and her obsession with Catherine Deneuve.
The daring essays on healing our perspectives on love, gender, and sex by the African-American writer and social activist Bell Hooks.
And the Hungarian András Pályi, who transforms the political occupation of territory into carnal mythology, in his two novella collection, Out of Onself. In the second novella, Ildi Schön a young actress in1980s Communist Budapest seeks to reclaim her flesh:
…at the very spot when Gergö almost stabbed Rudi to death, I’m telling you we were sitting here and I was saying to them, kids, do whatever you want to me…but they wouldn’t believe me, so I started to strip, yea, right there, no sweat at all…
26th January 2016
Some people say it with flowers. Others with chocolates. Others by holding aloft a Peter-Gabriel-blasting boombox in their intended’s front garden. We think there’s no better way to say it than with a book - even more so one plucked from our shelves, stamped with our logo and sent from the heart of a city practically synonymous with the Big L. Your choice should be personal, elegant and loaded with double meaning (or double entendre, if you prefer). Should you need a little inspiration our booksellers have selected these few titles to get you started.
5th February 2016
In their variously delightful ways, the books I’ve chosen here all melt down the barrier between fiction and non-fiction, and exhilarate through proximity to the lived experience of the author, rather than relying on artifices of character and plot. In my series of linked short stories This Is the Ritual, I took great pleasure in creating fictions that drew inspiration from books such as these. Thus there are essays that are stories (and vice versa), autofictional self-assassinations, and deadpan biographies of imaginary authors - in short, fictions that keep the reader guessing how much is truth and how much is fabrication.
What binds together many of the books I find fascinating is a spirit of playfulness, along with a genre-bending willingness to disregard the conventions of much so-called literary fiction. Summertime by J.M. Coetzee was a novel comprised of (fictitious) interviews with figures from the life of the deceased South African author, J.M. Coetzee. In Sheila Heti’s How Should a Person Be or Aidan Higgins’ Balcony of Europe, the authors novelised their own day-to-day lives rather than dream up stories that never happened. These are all writers whose natural instinct is to make it new, recasting literary forms in their own mould and jettisoning the parts they find boring, rather than merely inheriting the common ways of doing things. As such, they thrill me as a reader and inspire me as a writer.
16th February 2016
The days are short, the month is short, tempers are short when you lose yet another umbrella, why not keep the stories short too? Here is a selection of some of our favourites as well as some new collections that we are excited about. All go well with tea and shortbread.
5th April 2016
A lot of the time I feel like I’m just hanging around. Seldom is it obvious to me what I should do with myself. Some philosophers and psychologists believe that human beings are born with a number of innate predispositions and it is the fulfilment of these biological and social leanings that give direction and meaning to one’s life. Along with many other instructive and possibly life-saving documents I seem to have mislaid that particular blueprint and am therefore forever grappling with the double-edged sword of freedom; sometimes I feel like a swashbuckling occupant of the whole wide world, other times I cannot muster the wherewithal to tread beyond the apartment door. When I think about the writers I most often orientate towards I am not surprised to realise that the basic situations of life do not occur to them automatically either. They presuppose very little, if anything, and so the use of themselves in the world is persistently unclear to them. They never quite adapt to and integrate with their surroundings, instead they prod about in an obsessive hermetic zone, or else freefall fast and loose through a dissolving universe. Paul Bowles was 17 when he decided to quit America – ‘I think I had a fairly good idea of what life would be like for me in the States, and I didn’t want it.’ When the interviewer asks him what it would have been like, Bowles replies; ‘boring’. Pessoa dodged the obligations of a fixed personality by devising around 70 heteronyms for himself, Sara Maitland left behind the yakkety-yak of city life in order to experience deep silence in the Hebrides, and Beckett went so far as to abandon his mother tongue – ‘Is there any reason why that terrible materiality of the word surface should not be capable of being dissolved?’ he asked.
The dissolution of that which appears to be an essential of life – home, identity, integration, language – can be liberating and may lead to something ground-breaking, personally and artistically, yet it can also be alienating and traumatic: ‘It was as if a curtain had fallen, hiding everything I had ever known’, goes the opening line of Voyage in the Dark; the eighteen year old narrator, having spent her childhood in the West Indies, has just arrived in England. The author Ella Williams came to London from the island of Dominica in 1908, and was renamed Jean Rhys by Ford Maddox Ford some years later, but she never did quite settle into either of these adopted appellations. ‘I would never be part of anything’, she wrote in her unfinished autobiography, ‘I would never really belong anywhere, and I knew it, and all my life would be the same, trying to belong, and failing. Always something would go wrong. I am a stranger and I always will be, and after all I didn’t really care.’ Whether through wilful sabotage, laziness, inattention, or some inherent glitch, I frequently feel slightly at odds with wherever I am and the things that go on there. And so I am grateful for the existence of the books listed here because I have felt very much at home in each one of them. As I am sure you will too, regardless of how well attuned you may or may not be; after all, as Shirley Jackson wisely pointed out – ‘No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality; even larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream.’.
3rd May 2016
If you’ve read Jean-Paul Sartre’s Nausea or Albert Camus’s The Stranger you’ll know that Paris’s famous existentialists did not just write philosophical treatises: they liked conveying their ideas through stories. Perhaps the best novelist among them was Simone de Beauvoir, whose dramatic She Came to Stay and panoramic The Mandarins revolve around her existentialist notions of political and personal life. Other writers sprinkled existentialist spices into their fiction too, if only through Parisian settings or anguished moods. For existentialists, “mood” is itself a philosophical principle: it is through moods that we perceive and experience the world.
While researching At the Existentialist Café, I became fascinated by this network of influences in fiction, especially when it stretched across the Atlantic. Camus and Sartre modelled their work on earlier hard-boiled American detective fiction by writers like James M. Cain, or Horace McCoy – whose bleak, horrifying They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? gripped me so much that I couldn’t get back to the writing till I’d finished it. Later American writers then returned the favour by writing their own existentialist novels – like Richard Wright’s existentialist take on the black American experience, The Outsider. On the excuse of “doing research”, I came across a few novels so readable and moving that I’ve been urging them on people ever since – novels such as Patricia Highsmith’s Camus-esque The Tremor of Forgery, or Sloan Wilson’s The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit, a classic example of the 1950s tale of alienation and authenticity.
Here’s my selection of a few of these, plus some of the more famous existentialist novels and a few that are “in the mood”. For a wilfully perverse take on Liberation-era Paris, try Funeral Rites by Sartre’s friend Jean Genet; for sheer fun, try Mood Indigo by Boris Vian. Embrace the Angst - and enjoy!
18th May 2016
These were the wild books I was reading while I was working on The Lonely City: the books I turned to for guidance or for mood, to conjure up the New York of the past century, the seedy, squalid, beautiful city. These were the books that reported on loss and death and danger, that told me about sex and connection, about art and love amidst the ruins. And these are the books that helped medicate my own loneliness, that taught me isolation is never not political.
1st June 2016
This bookshelf contains the most famous writers from the cold country up north. There is a book for every reader: short stories for the anxious, supernatural books for youngsters, and literature for the highly updated Swede. Sweden is not only the greatest publisher of murder mysteries, the country is also expert at delivering dark stories about drunken priests, orphan girls living with animals, and novels about men that will never return your calls. Journey through this literate world and find out how the population has been affected by the darkness that we encounter every winter.
1st September 2016
The eighth edition of Festival America will be taking place in Vincennes from 8-11 September 2016 and we are delighted that we will once again be on-site in the bookshop marquee to make available all the wonderful books and hopefully meet some of the authors. This is a terrific festival featuring over 60 authors and celebrating the literature of the United States in all its richness and diversity. Come and say hello!
24th November 2016
From the edgiest new fiction to prizewinning memoir, to a scabrous, 800-page solution to the Jack the Ripper mystery, when asked to name the best books they read this year, our booksellers didn’t disappoint.
3rd January 2017
Bookstores expand our worlds, indulge our curiosities, answer questions, and excite our imaginations. On the completion of the shop’s own memoirs, Shakespeare and Company, Paris: A History of the Rag & Bone Shop of the Heart, we celebrate independent booksellers around the world—mostly real, a few fictional—along with the loyal, engaged readers who support them.
4th January 2017
With novels from Paul Auster, George Saunders and Sara Baume, as well as timely non-fiction titles by Kapka Kassabova, Mark O'Connell and Emmanuel Carrère, to name but a few, if 2017 is beginning as it means to go on, it looks like we could be in for a vintage year of reading.
20th January 2017
What better time to read groundbreaking literature by black authors than February, Black History Month? The past year or so has seen an incredible new array of award-winning and thought-provoking works. Enjoy this selection of titles from American, Australian and British authors, in a variety of genres from fiction to poetry to memoire. Here you'll find the Man Booker Prize winner, The Sellout, the National Book Award winner, The Underground Railroad, and the book that compelled Oprah to restart her book club, Ruby.
This year's Black History Month feels especially poignant as we say goodbye to America's first black president, Barack Obama, an avid reader himself.
The precise role of the artist, then, is to illuminate that darkness, blaze roads through that vast forest, so that we will not, in all our doing, lose sight of its purpose, which is, after all, to make the world a more human dwelling place. – James Baldwin
20th January 2017
Literature often has a cruel way with lovers. From Romeo and Juliet to Wide Sargasso Sea, not much goes right for star crossed lovers on the page. But does it have to be this way? Does meeting your one true love inevitably always end in disaster? We say no! This Valentine's Day, we present you a list of our favorite love stories that *spoiler alert* don't end horrifically for all involved. It may not be all Pina Coladas and getting caught in the rain, but at the end of the day these books celebrate pure, true love and all the complications that come with it.
21st March 2017
Of the word of the year selections for 2016, Merriam-Webster picked "surreal" and I think this is the correct choice. In French literature writers like André Breton and poet Paul Eluard firmly established themselves as writers of the surrealist tradition which is a category rarely attributed to American or British writers.
Today instead we use the term post-modernism for contemporaries of the French surrealists, a term which everyone agrees was influenced by surrealism, but no one agrees on its official definition. You can see traces of the movement in the writings of Rimbaud, Poe, and some of the old Russian masters, for example Dostoyevsky's richly comic story in which a man is swallowed whole by a crocodile and decides living in its stomach is preferable to the outside world. In 2017, one sympathizes more and more with the man inside the crocodile.
12th May 2017
I recently read Rebecca Solnit's response to an Esquire reading list entitled "80 books every man should read", a list containing 79 male authors. She responded with a call to expand our capacity for empathy by reading novels by authors and with protagonists that are not just mirrors of ourselves. This is particularly relevant to straight white men who are constantly having their images reflected back at themselves. This bookshelf is aimed at all those men who don't want their sense of empathy to be defined by their gender. I leave you with the far more eloquent Solnit:
These books are, if they are instructions at all, instructions in extending our identities out into the world, human and nonhuman, in imagination as a great act of empathy that lifts you out of yourself, not locks you down into your gender.
23rd June 2017
I spent a lot of time in weird and ugly corners of the internet while writing Enemies Of The People, but most of the books on this list were also constantly beside me. Many of them provided not only information but wit, righteous anger and new ways of thinking about our problems. Two of them (Atlas Shrugged and Free To Choose) were utter drivel. But they're still important. Everyone should read them. These books have become the foundations of our society. And yet they are ridiculous. The more familiar people become with their ideas, the less power they'll have over us… I hope.
(I also put a PG Wodehouse book on here, because after dealing with these horrors, you may want a reminder that humans can also be wonderful. Leave It To Psmith was the first book I read after I finished writing Enemies Of The People - and it was balm for my soul.)
18th September 2017
Vikings! If the image that springs to mind features horned helmets and skull goblets (alas, both fallacies), then reading a few Icelandic sagas will surely change your perception of the Nordic women and men of yore: farmers, shepherds, lawyers, poets, axe-wielding warriors, conquerors of the British Isles and Normandy (literally, "Northmen"), and nautical engineers whose vessels reached North American shores through open ocean and Constantinople via the maze of Eastern European rivers that feed the Black Sea. Rich, curious, and insightful, the Icelandic Sagas offer a fascinating perspective on the Norse Vikings before, during, and after their settlement of the uninhabited island, Iceland.
Whether mythology, history, or poetry, the Icelandic Sagas are a pleasure to read. At the age of six, Egil axed a peer to death for being a more talented athlete. Three years earlier, he rode a horse to a feast that his father had forbidden him from attending–"You [Egil] are difficult enough to cope with when you're sober"–and recited his first poem. These two events offer a glimpse of the sensitive, strong-willed, tempestuous, and poetic Egil Skallagrimsson, whose family is chronicled from its origins in Norway to its settlement in Iceland in Egil's Saga. The Prose Edda lays out an unforgettable mythological framework depicting Yggdrasil, the cosmos envisioned as a great ash tree encompassing the human and godly realms, and Ragnarok, the icy-fiery apocalyptic final battle of the gods after which all life will be extinguished and subsequently re-birthed. Njal's Saga details a ruthless blood feud that neither poetry recitals nor legal cases manage to stop from spiraling wildly out of control. An age-old story that continues to ring true.
Finally, it would be hard to disappoint with The Saga of the Volsungs' hidden treasure, dragon-slaying, and cursed gold ring. Sound familiar to fans of Tolkien?
26th October 2017
From November 7-12, 2017, we're proud to welcome 11 independent English presses, transforming our central display area into a photobook shop during Paris Photo Week.
The aim is to give an insight into the contemporary English photobook scene, and focus on how publishers work with photographers in the production of artist books. Each publisher will present a selection of 5 to 10 recently published titles. The week will also be punctuated by events bringing together authors and their publishers. A selection of the curated titles can be found below.
Read more about the invited publishers on Le Blog.
See the upcoming events
Tuesday 7th November 7pm
Anne Golaz on Corbeau
Thursday 9th November 7pm
Nicholas Muellner on In Most Tides an Island
Friday 10th November 10am
Coffee Morning — Feast for the Eyes: The Story of Food in Photography
27th November 2017
Gaudy knitted pullovers, roaring log fires and snifters of fine brandy are all very well, but they are for nothing on a winter's evening without a suitably seasonal book to snuggle down with. Thankfully our booksellers have compiled a list of new releases and classic titles perfectly suited to the long December nights.
26th December 2017
This bookshelf was designed to help mothers find a voice to echo their own experiences of the many facets of pregnancy and motherhood. First-time mothers propelled into a world of muslin squares, unrecognisable bodies and shifting relationships will find companionship, solace and even some helpful tips in this selection.
Each of the following authors has articulated in their own way the intense, baffling path to parenthood, which remains shrouded in secrecy despite being walked by so many. You will find personal accounts of pregnancies, practical advice on surviving as a couple, explorations of the extremes of maternal love, the otherworldly experience of childbirth and the redefining of selfhood; both fiction and prose capturing the confusing whirlwind of delight, despair and devotion that defines motherhood.
1st February 2018
January 2018 saw the passing of one of science-fiction's greatest philosophers, Ursula K. Le Guin. Her two most celebrated novels – The Left Hand of Darkness (1969) and The Dispossessed (1974) – not only displayed a great talent for world-building and mythologising but also raised the bar, both literarily and intellectually, on what science-fiction could be: the former exploring the social and personal implications encountered in a society where gender roles are literally interchangeable; the latter detailing the cultural chasm between two diametrically opposed societies: one the ultimate realisation of the capitalist ideal, the other an extreme manifestation of social anarchy.
In a world where socially prescribed notions of identity are rapidly disintegrating and where, election after election, we see left and right consistently opposing each other in near equal numbers, to call her ideas prescient would be a rather bold understatement. What, then, of the writers who followed in her wake? What of those who went before? Perhaps it is time to re-evaluate this often slighted genre and see if we might not find some valuable insight into how we are living our lives, hints at where we're heading and perhaps some sage advise about what we should do – and, indeed, what we should not – when we get there.
12th April 2018
To celebrate April Fools Day (or Poisson d'Avril in French), that mischievous day for laughing and playing tricks, we have put our minds together and come up with a selection of our favourite funny books. Everyone seems to agree that effective comic writing is incredibly difficult and yet surprisingly it can often be overlooked as less accomplished than serious writing. So here's a list of some excellent writers who have pulled it off.
From the moment I picked up your book until I put it down, I was convulsed with laughter. Some day I intend reading it. — Groucho Marx
7th June 2018
All human life starts with a pregnancy and yet it is still remarkably underrepresented in published work. Perhaps this is because it is often wrongly considered the exclusive realm of women.
Being pregnant is to fully come up against yourself as a body, in no need of your constant cerebral analysis to function, while at the same time inspiring existential angst the like of which I've never known. The isolation and frustration of not being pregnant when you want to be in Stay With Me, the unsettling sense of paranoia and fear you can feel in the early months, captured oddly well Rosemary's Baby. The strange, delicate wonder of your changing body explored by Maggie Nelson in Argonauts. The gradual awareness of your child's life followed by the sudden realty of their presence that Meaghan O'Connell experiences in her memoir.
These books offer windows into that fleeting, weighty moment when all our lives began.
13th July 2018
Here is a selection of some of the best contemporary French fiction in translation. While Zone by Mathias Enard and Cry, Mother Spain by Lydie Salvayre explore the ramifications of 20th century wars, Emmanuel Carrère reflects on his relationship with Christianity and its history in The Kingdom, and Antoine Volodine extends the limits of his post-apocalyptic world in Radiant Terminus. Marie Darrieussecq tells the story of a single day in the life of a mother and her three daughters in A Brief Stay with the Living, and Ladivine by Marie NDiaye deals with the complexity of family secrets and origins. Annie Ernaux's A Woman's Story and Edouard Louis' The End of Eddy are two remarkable autofictional works. Last but not least, The Map and the Territory by Michel Houellebecq, Vernon Subutex 1 by Virginie Despentes and Madame Bovary of the Suburbs by Sophie Divry give extraordinary insight on what French society has become.
5th September 2018
Solitude is a theme that brings out a host of other implications, which different authors have explored in different ways, putting more or less stress on one or the other. The most straightforwardly philosophical of the books here are Sartre's Huis Clos, with its infamous "hell is other people", and Michel Tournier's Vendredi, the story of a new Robinson Crusoe that delves deep into the idea of the other, in the sense of any third person, as a vital element in our way of perceiving and living in the world. Both these works, though with very different approaches, stress the importance of others in the way we form our own view of ourselves.
Haushofer and Hegland's novels about women (one and two, respectively) coping in a world where they find themselves alone are both beautiful, unforgettable stories, as much concerned with our relationship to nature as they are with human matters. Hegland has two sisters working together to fend for themselves, which, though it has its difficulties, is surely preferable to total solitude. Haushofer's heroine must make do with her dog, her cat and two cows. A man, in both of these cases, is more often a menace than a blessing.
Markson's experimental book is now a classic (despite going through over fifty rejections from publishers before finding a home at the Dalkey Archive Press). It is again the story of a woman alone, but her struggle is one with memory and with culture, which, as its last custodian, she tries to cling on to with limited success. In all these works solitude is examined as a phenomenon that has something to teach us in our everyday lives, even as we find ourselves surrounded by others.
17th October 2018
My time at Shakespeare and Company has been characterised by an untold assortment of positive conversations and experiences, so it’s no surprise to me that when I went back over the list of books I’ve read since being here (almost 60 titles!), it reflected that variety. Many of these books are prize-winners (The Vegetarian and Flights both won the Man Booker International Prize) or classics (like The Secret History), but others are relatively unknown. Other Men’s Daughters is full of sentences that you want to read multiple times to appreciate how well-crafted they are; the structure of and stories within Flights, which its author calls a “constellation novel”, were something profound to me. The three non-fiction books—the last three on the list—I chose for their strong influence on my views of the modern world, my travel plans, and my sense of inner peace this year.
There are many themes I could pick out from this final list of the best books I’ve read this year, but the main thing that seems apparent to me is that most of the writers are women, and the stories are about women. Mrs. Caliban is a terribly sad, fantastic novella that highlights the plight of an American housewife who is let down by everyone she knows; Bonjour Tristesse and The Dud Avocado are extremely funny, yet ultimately revolve around the struggle for the young female protagonists’ independence amidst those seeking to limit their freedom; Anaïs Nin, the most luxuriously erotic writer I know, commits to sensual pleasure in a way so fully embodied as to make one be glad to be a woman. Educated, The Summer Without Men, and How Should a Person Be? also speak of a familiar complexity that these authors are so good at putting on the page. With a little distance, it is obvious to me that I connect with these works on a deeply emotional level that has something to do with their intelligent treatment of the female condition.
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