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!


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’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)


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

Experience the Renaissance: Le livre de la Renaissance at BAnQ

By Caitlin Bailey

The Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec is currently showing the second half of its Le livre de la Renaissance cycle, the result of collaborations between BAnQ, McGill University and the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM). The exhibition showcases the central issues of Humanist thought as seen through the texts produced during the period and includes some fabulous pieces, such as an edition of Machiavelli’s The Prince from 1550.

I wandered into the exhibition as the result of a particularly rainy day during the Thanksgiving break. BAnQ does not advertise their exhibitions on the homepage of the website, though you can access a complete listing through the Activities page. Additionally, it is a bit difficult to locate the actual exhibition at first; I ended up in the basement with several other mystified patrons before I finally realized that 1st floor actually referred to the first floor of the separate archives area and not the first floor of the entire building.

Photo credit: Bernard Fougères for BAnQ

Once I found it however, the exhibition was excellent. Curator Brenda Dunn-Lardeau has chosen to use the texts as solid examples of the currents of Renaissance thought, as well as a view of the actual book of the period. As result, every book is accompanied by an explanatory panel that sets it in context, both within the larger historical environment and as an individual piece. I was fascinated to find a diagram illustrating Copernicus’ theory of heliocentrism next to one of the first biographies of Queen Elizabeth I of England.

Le livre de la Renaissance is quite a small exhibition, leaving you plenty of time and brainpower to attack the many others that BAnQ has to offer. I ended up on the first floor in  De la Belle Époque au prêt-à-porter,  an examination of women’s fashion from 1880 to the end of the 1920s. This exhibition is particularly interesting as the clothing is reproduced in three dimensional paper sculptures, as well as with documents from the extensive archive of the library. All in all, BAnQ is well worth the trip down Maisonneuve and, best of all, for us “starving” students, it’s free!

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Le livre de la Renaissance and De la Belle Époque au prêt-à-porter are now on at the Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec. 475 boulevard de Maisonneuve Est. Free admission.

Blog authors are solely responsible for the content of the blogs listed in the directory. Neither the content of these blogs, nor the links to other web sites, are screened, approved, reviewed or endorsed by McGill University. The text and other material on these blogs are the opinion of the specific author and are not statements of advice, opinion, or information of McGill.