Being bibliophilic in MTL: a tour of 514 bookshops

by Jacob Siefring, MLIS ’13

As I wrap up the year, I bequeath this final post to MLIS students who will be returning next year, and to future and incoming MLIS students. Thanks to my fellow students, from whom I learned quite a lot. Best of luck to everyone! Tonight is my last night in graduate school, goodbye graduate school. Soon, goodbye Montreal, where I’ve lived five years. In Ottawa I shall live by mid-summer.

If you’re anything like me, then you require to be surrounded by books. Not just any books, either—new books, recently acquired books, recently purchased books. Pay no heed to Camus’s suggestion that “the more one buys books, the less one reads them” (Jonas ou l’artiste au travail). I cannot stop accumulating books, and even as I look for work I continue to read them. I address new and future residents of Montrealers, students in library-and-information science like, perhaps, you. How well do you know the bookshop scene in Montreal? Sundry fantastic bookstores dot Montreal’s map. And don’t forget thrift stores, especially the Salvation Army. May this be of use to some bibliophilic Montreal newcomer!

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Cheap Thrills (EN): You must visit this bookstore at least once because it is stellar. To their credit, Cheap Thrills manages to rival or undercut Amazon.ca’s prices (i.e., the combined amount of a cheap used paperback and $7 in Canada Post shipping). Relatively high turn-over for a used shop. In addition to being a vendor of concert tickets, also a vinyl hot-spot, a must-visit stop for vinyl lovers. Through the speakers the employees play arcane music I don’t know that suits my taste.

The Word (EN)(on Milton in the McGill ghetto): You must visit this bookstore at least once. Excellent stock and organisation, very knowledgeable staff. Readings happen there sometimes. Adrian, the owner of the Word, has been there since the store opened in the 1960s and is worth meeting (cautiously).

Argo (EN)(downtown on Ste-Catherine): You must visit this bookstore at least once because its stock is so interesting. New books, especially experimental, cutting edge, avant-garde literature. Relatively new? A very interesting bookshop with a lively ongoing series of readings.

Drawn & Quarterly (FR, ?)(Mile End): You should visit this bookstore at least once because it is awesome. Lots of graphic novels (BD, bande dessinée). Readings occur here regularly. Signings and readings occur infrequently (I think). William Gibson read there and signed Ian Roberton’s tattered copy of Mona Lisa Overdrive.

Encore Books and Music (EN) (on Sherbrooke St in NDG: Good stock, nice genuine- feeling retro aesthetic and vibe. Doesn’t even feel retro, just contemporary. Because I am a resident of the neighbourhood I’m a little partial. A vinyl hot-spot, a must for vinyl lovers. Where I bought The Anatomy of Bibliomania.

Paragraphe Books (EN, ?)(on McGill College): Upstairs they have a showroom where they set books out for librarians to see what’s new and recommended. Paragraphe and other QC bookstores are fortunate to benefit from a statute in QC that publicly-/government-funded libraries must buy their books from provincial vendors.

L’Echange Mont-Royal (FR)(Plateau): Used books mainly, if not exclusively.

Le Port de Tête (FR)(on Mont-Royal on the Plateau): New and used. Avant-garde bent. Good selection of comics (BD (bande-dessinée)).

Concordia Co-op Bookstore (EN, ?): Recommended; I’m not too familiar with this one.

Atwater Library – Basement Used Book Store (EN, some FR)(open Wed-Sat, noon-3pm): Used. Small stock, but good stock, and dirt cheap.

Flammarion (FR)(on Saint-Laurent on the Plateau): New, good stock of French books. Costly paperbacks, I recall.

McGill University Bookstore (upstairs (trade/general books), downstairs (academic texts): Not bad for browsing. Expensive relative to Amazon and to used stores of course.Chapters (EN, ?)(Ste-Catherine near McGill)

Archambault (FR)(Berri)

Renaud-Bray (FR)(various locations)

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In the comments, readers: what bookstores do you love? Bouquineries? Who did I miss?

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