I have said it before and I will say it again.
I judge books by their cover.
I know this isn’t pretty but it is true. What can I say? It has been that way for a long time. I often end up picking a book by the feel and texture of the cover and/or on the book jacket design. (Now before you go getting all high and mighty, don’t try to tell me you are above getting trapped by visual consumerism. Please. I’m guessing you bought something you have on right the fuck now based on how it looks over the quality of the product. Just saying…)
Admittedly, this modus operandi has steered me clear of a few sure shots and classics, but it also probably has something to do with the fact why my top 5 favorite books contain no classics. (I have read some of the classics, they just didn’t make it to one of the coveted Top 5 Favorite Chris Malo Books list.)
But here in Paris? Wow… I brought a few books with me but they were all the short story/reader/compendium type. No novels. I pass bookstores on the regular, but the books are all in French. So I Googled bookstores in Paris that sell books in English and turned the list of 11 into a map.
A few days ago I went to Galignani, across from the Louvre. It’s the oldest English bookstore on the continent. I went to the back where the books in English are and was blown away. First, as I said, I am someone who judge books by their cover. It was obvious that the covers used on the European editions of books differ- and are FAR superior- to their US counterparts. Damn near every book had covers that were beautiful. Either the photography or the graphics, but the design was just drop dead phenomenal. And it wasn’t just titles from one publishing house either. (Although Penguin titles seemed to extra stand out…) Across the board they were all markedly light years better than almost anything in the states.
And although they had a large selection of books it wasn’t like being in a Borders or B&N. It was a decent size for a bookstore in Paris with an English selection, but definitely not expansive. Yet, the selection they did have was outstanding. I easily could of walked out with 50 books. Instead I walked out with one. What blew my mind was when I went to the V’s. Before my eyes, not one, not two, but six titles by William T. Vollmann? I have yet to see a store back home that carries one, let alone six. The books of his I have I have all had to order online. But here…
I picked The Atlas because it seemed appropriate.
(They also had a selection of Nick Tosches, which is rare to see…)
The following day I dragged Jill out to hit more bookstores. I had picked up a copy of East of Eden in Galignani, but thought I might be able to find it used at one of the other places. Turns out I was wrong. We went to Village Voice Bookshop (new only; smallish selection), San Francisco Book Co. (used only; good selection, not for anyone that requires order), The Abbey (new & used; see: San Francisco Book Co.) and Shakespeare & Co. (new only; lots of history, lots of books, tourist trap) and none had it. So today I went back to Galignani and in between posting, finishing the third season of The Wire I have had my nose in it…
During one leg of our roadtrip, the conversation obviously turned to books, literature and authors. (See end of post for my often discussed/mentioned top 5.) Great convos for sure. Again, I commented that even as a recovering dope fiend, I still fear running out. If I find something I like I want to buy several of whatever it is, in case the original runs out or breaks. One of the things I love about reading and books is that the list of books to get to is endless. I can never run out. And for someone like me… It gives me a little bit of security.
Strange fact time?
Bookstores and libraries make me have to take a shit. No lie. Ask my family or any of my exes. If you are in a bookstore and want to find me, scan the place quick, then head for the men’s stalls.
My top 5 books (in no order & subject to change at any time):