Café Livre and Lots of Book Love

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about real books versus e-books, traditional versus independent publishing. The digital explosion means new possibilities for writers and readers in so many different ways. I’ve loved creating a cyber community that feels just as strong as my on-the-ground network (hmm, does that say something about my social skills?).

This blog and you lovely readers are now such a happy part of my life; I’m thankful for the Internet, for new technology that has revolutionized the way we communicate, how we stay in touch. So much information streaming at me from one little screen.

I dream of seeing my words in both print and electronic formats now.

Still, I love books. The kind I grew up with. What would we lose if they all ended up in a computer or on a wireless device? Ink on paper. Another person’s mind and imagination captured in a concrete creation. A book you can hold in your hands.

Besides the stories inside them, I just like looking at books. I love how the colorful spines of copious volumes brighten up my apartment. A room filled with books makes me feel warm, safe, cozy; they seem a necessary part of a living space to me. Is this because my mother is a librarian, because I grew up in a house with overflowing bookshelves?

Probably, but I know I am not alone.

Café Livre in the center of Paris (just in front of the Tour Saint Jacques) uses books as mood-setter, decoration, too. I went recently with a friend off on her first mission to Congo-Brazzaville with Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors without Borders (good luck, Hayley!)

The café is casual classy. The leather armchairs and carefully placed wine bottles don’t hurt, either, as well as friendly service. Our waiter happily spoke English with us (not in that condescending way, and not that we needed it) and we lingered over one pot of tea for four hours without being rushed.

It’s actually more chic than cozy, a surprise as when I picture books, I picture myself curling up in a corner somewhere. Lounging. There was no lounging and no one seemed to be looking at the books. But the books were there, surrounding us, and that is something no Kindle, Nook, or iPad awesome as they may be, can compete with.

Café Livre
10 rue Saint-Martin
75004 Paris
Metro: Hotel de Ville

If you prefer a wine bar with your books, try La Belle Hortense, also off the same metro and located at 31 rue Vieille du Temple.

In other “I love books” news, the semi-annual English-language booksale held by SOS Help is this Sunday. All hardbacks are 2 euros, and paperbacks are just 1 euro. It’s a *very* dangerous place for me. This year I’m just donating books as I’m trying to make space and will have to fight not to look at the offerings lest I just replace my old books with new books.

English-language booksale – Sunday, March 20
12 pm to 4 pm
Orrick Law Offices
31, avenue Pierre 1er de Serbie
75016 Paris

All proceeds go to SOS Help, a good resource if you’re feeling down in Paris (yes, it happens) and need to connect with someone who will lend an ear.

For a more regular book sale, the American Library of Paris holds a monthly used book sale the first weekend of every month.

And last random note: there are websites for both bookshelf porn and bookcase porn in case you can’t get enough. Yep, you read that right.

For a little live-action bookshelf love, here you go:

Other book/cafe places in Paris you like?

32 Responses to “Café Livre and Lots of Book Love”

  1. 1 Stephanie March 17, 2011 at 10:22 am

    As light and convenient a nook or kindle would be, I cannot give up my books. I’m the same in that I love books, love the look of books and enjoy the feeling of a book in my hands. Even as a baby, my mom said that I was content to play and simply touch books.

    Now as an adult, my bookcase is my most treasured and personal decoration and I’m probably the only one looking to expand my shelf space and my collection. Even when I’m flipping through Marie Claire Maison or Elle Decor, it’s the authors and titles of books on the coffee tables of the featured homes that I’m interested in most behind only the colors and textures used.

    Nope, no kindle or nook for me! Just beautiful, wonderful paper and I can’t wait to check out Café Livre!


  2. 3 Tanya in Transition March 17, 2011 at 11:23 am

    You are definitely not alone. I love books. I’ve spent a mint on books.
    Travelling with books, however, can be a pain for me as sometimes I travel with 2, 3 or 4 books. Not fun when I’m trying to watch my weight (for checked luggage and not my fat ass).
    And now that I’m in France, do I really want to start a French book collection? As wonderful as that sounds, and I’m totally tempted, the space issue in this country has me shaking my head as I type.
    It really is tempting…


    • 4 paris (im)perfect March 17, 2011 at 4:15 pm

      I know, the space issue. *Shakes fist at small Parisian apartment* Well…that’s why I’m trying to clear out some of my books right now. But I was only able to let go of about 20 – still hundreds on the shelves! 🙂


  3. 5 Opal March 17, 2011 at 3:42 pm

    Books+alchol=happy Opie
    Good seeing you at the Amer Library Paris last night and hopefully at La Belle Hortense next week!!!


  4. 7 Barbara Hall March 17, 2011 at 3:50 pm

    Hello Sion. This is a subject near and dear to my heart.

    As much as I love “my eGadgets” (iPhone, laptop, most of all — my digital camera!), I cannot ever see myself going over to eBooks. I echo the sentiments of Stephanie and Tanya: I love the look and the feel of books; I love turning the page of a book. I always overload my carry-on bag with books when I travel. I have several friends who sing the praises of their Kindles, but it’s something I’ve found easy to resist.

    If you have the time, perhaps you will read a blogpost I wrote a few months ago on the topic of independent bookstores — something else that I really treasure.

    Thanks for a great post!


    • 8 paris (im)perfect March 17, 2011 at 4:26 pm

      Hi Barbara. I completely agree. I don’t like to knock anything I haven’t tried and since I don’t have a Kindle I can’t say anything about them. I do like that the Kindle in some ways has made people read more. That is a good thing! But yes, for me, I’ve had no desire to buy one myself. I really can’t imagine reading off a device. I like holding the book, turning the pages. I spend enough time looking at a screen, that during my down time, I want to enjoy the pleasures of a good book in my hand.

      That being said, I really am thinking about it from two perspectives now. Reader *and* writer. As a writer, it’s really kind of amazing to think of the further reach we can have through ebooks. My friend just published her novel directly on Amazon for the Kindle, cutting out the agent/publisher route and going straight to readers. Wow! I don’t know what the fate of all this is going to be, but it seems kind of empowering in a way, too. Not sure what I will do, but possibilities abound!

      Thanks for the link to your post, too. Really great! I left a comment over there 🙂


      • 9 Barbara Hall March 17, 2011 at 4:47 pm

        You’re right about the Kindle — if it gets more people to read, then it’s a good thing.

        You bring up a point I had never considered — that of the writer’s role in all of this. If the eBooks allow you and others to publish more easily and to reach that audience, then that is a step in the right direction of progress. The world of publishing really is changing. I look forward to knowing your path and journey to publication.

        One of the cafés I like in Paris is Au Bon Saint Pourçain, in the 6eme. Small, neighborhood place, great food and along the walls are books and magazines. The first time I ate there I was by myself and I passed the time reading a French critique on Woody Allen’s movies.


      • 10 paris (im)perfect March 17, 2011 at 5:05 pm

        Hi Barbara. Yeah, my mind has really been spinning lately about what it means for writers. I’m pretty interested to see what my path ends up being, too – I have no idea at the moment! Thanks for the cafe suggestion, too. I’ve never heard of it and it sounds fabulous!


  5. 11 Sariah March 17, 2011 at 5:47 pm

    Sion, this is really timely for me. I am slowly selling most of my books because I just can’t imagine shipping them all overseas. I was feeling really glum about it, until the bookseller at The Strand told me “You have nothing to worry about. You are still young, and the world is full of books with which to start a new collection.” I think the sales you mentioned above will be a good start. . .

    I’m of two minds on e-readers, too. I think I will always adore books – the tactile experience of reading. But I am open to e-readers too. The convenience is lovely, and the opportunities they provide new writers is almost astounding.

    Really, a great post. Thank you.


    • 12 paris (im)perfect March 17, 2011 at 5:55 pm

      Oh Sariah. That is a lovely sentiment. “You are young and the world is full of books!” I’m going to start saying that to myself 🙂

      I hear you. I don’t know that I would ship all my books overseas, either. But they’re hard to part with. It’s funny – I’m not into material things for the most part, but books are the one thing that I just feel like I need around me to feel good.

      But yes, it’s much better to come to Paris without being bogged down and start anew. It will be such an exciting adventure – starting your collection here will be just one part of it!


  6. 13 3samovar March 17, 2011 at 5:52 pm

    as a librarian this subject matter is close to my heart! thanks for sharing this, and i like the look of the café, not too cozy as expected, rather understated and cool!
    thanks also for mentioning ALP!



    • 14 paris (im)perfect March 17, 2011 at 5:57 pm

      Hi Andrea! Ah, librarians are such great people 🙂 Yes, I was surprised, too. I expected a cozy place, too. I *prefer* cozy places, but also thought this place was so pretty. Always happy to mention ALP, too!


  7. 15 Lupinssupins March 17, 2011 at 7:06 pm

    Yes, books, glorious books! My dining room has 10 good sized bookcases in it– my son renamed the room “The Eat and Read.” Alas, having a computer [yrs after the rest of the world-my ex husband would not allow one in the house] has altered that dynamic all too much [esp. since I have a handed-down, “old” enormous terminal that the techie, thin-screeners now mock derisively; takes up my whole desk & it’s NOT a small desk!] I, too, can’t imagine reading real books “on a device,” to use your wonderful turn of phrase. Heck, don’t still don’t have a digital camera, not even in my phone! Same son says, “Film? What’s that?!” To that, I respond, “iPod? C’est quoi, ca?” b/c most of my music is still vinyl. And we’ve never had cable TV. The boy kvetches,”Why must we be Amish?!” However, I also have lost my fine art of snail mail to email,leaving my computer-less elder relatives to plead for one of my multi-page letters of yore. My handwriting has so deteriorated that no one could read a handwritten note from me anymore, even if I could crank one out. [I think long term keyboard communication alters our neurons.] And, having wondered what on Earth was the point of facebook when it kept my socialite boy away from his schoolwork, I am now a hopeless addict. I have also, to my chagrin, become one of those whom I criticized for contributing to the death of the newsPAPER, getting all my written news on-line. Just today, the New York Times is belatedly exacting its revenge — going to pay subscriptions for those who want to access over 20 articles a month!

    I hate that newspapers are dying [I WON’T do a NYT crossword on a device!] and now, even the chain bookstores that killed the indies are going bankrupt (Borders). I’m still librarian enough that I want LIBRARIES, not “Information Centers.”


    • 16 paris (im)perfect March 17, 2011 at 7:38 pm

      You’re a librarian, too? I love it!

      So much to respond to. The eat and read room sounds lovely! I can also picture your huge outdated computer terminal – I love the description!

      I used to write letters, too, and just don’t anymore. Email is so much easier, but something has definitely been lost. When I actually receive a letter, I feel like I’ve been given a gift. A treasure!

      Yeah, all of this computer time really *does* alter our neurons. I’m convinced (and pretty sure there are scientific studies to prove it, too). I have to combat the addiction to get any writing done. The two don’t go together. Maybe that’s why it’s taking me so long to finish this book 🙂


  8. 17 Res March 17, 2011 at 7:45 pm

    I love Café Livres – I in fact wrote a sizable chunk of my (e)book there! Ah, the twists and turns of fate…

    (and they also have a lovely Sunday brunch)


  9. 19 SAS Fiction Girl March 17, 2011 at 9:26 pm

    I don’t know how anyone can resist the books at Cafe’ Livre. I recently visited a coffeehouse in my hometown (in Virginia) that is stocked with castoff books and half the fun of being there was leafing through them. The books also provide good conversation topics.
    And I agree that a home with books looks cozier and more “lived in.” -Jen


  10. 21 Susan March 17, 2011 at 11:32 pm

    My husband bought a Kindle when it first came out and I resisted it – until he bought me one for Christmas and now I love it. We are big readers, and while I do miss the physicality of books – the heft of it, the artwork, etc, I do love that we can bring MANY more books with us to Paris (2 weeks and counting!) on our Kindles than we could actually bring with us on the plane or ship to ourselves. We just recently had to go through a book purge – it made me appreciate the books I really cherish and which ones could maybe give more pleasure to someone else. The one type of book I can’t give up is art books – I don’t think a kindle or iPad can every replace those!


  11. 23 Shelli March 18, 2011 at 12:47 am

    Les Editeurs on the Carrefour de l’Odeon is also lined with books, many of them pulled off the shelves and read by the customers. The food isn’t great, and it’s a bit pricey, but if you want to coze up with a book and a coffee, you’re welcome to hang out there.


  12. 25 Buffy March 18, 2011 at 3:54 am


    I think it is great that you can meet and communicate like never before because of the internet. But as far as books vs reading them on say a kindle, I would rather have the book. At home in my loft I have 11 bookshelves full of books…literature, history, firefighting, paramedic material, travel, cooking, just to name some types. That doesn’t count the books from my really early childhood that are packed away, nor those of my kids. I love going to the bookstore. We have many that are closing down, well primarily Border’s books. Maybe one day I will get the electronic one, but I think it will be when I am forced to do so, like when DVD’s took the place of VHS. Hope all is well, and that Paris will becoming alive again with Spring in the air!!

    Take care,


    • 26 paris (im)perfect March 20, 2011 at 7:35 pm

      Hi Buffy. Wow, what a collection! I think I might be in your camp – holding out till there’s no choice. But happy that some people like them!

      And yes, spring is in the air in Paris! There’s actually been sun!


  13. 27 Paris Karin (an alien parisienne) March 18, 2011 at 12:43 pm


    It’s all wonderful, no matter in what format, IMO. But yeah — the thing I have accumulated most here in Paris in the 2 years and 9 months since arriving here? Books. The print kind. I would *adore* having a way to read electronically, though, whether through a Kindle or iPad or smartphone (although with how my eyesight is deteriorating, the larger the print & format, the better).

    Thank you for this bookish post. You are a girl dear to my heart in all your book-loving ways. Looking forward to seeing you at La Belle Hortense next week. Maybe something we could do when meeting there is share about a book we have been reading which we like! That would be fun. 🙂


  14. 29 Le Café Livres July 26, 2013 at 5:53 pm

    Hello ! Thank you for your pleasant article.
    Through our new website, web users will go towards this page 🙂
    We also have an english version of our website…
    Thank you very much,
    The Café Livres staff


  1. 1 A Weekend in Paris — La Belle in France Trackback on April 2, 2011 at 7:27 am
  2. 2 Weekend in Paris Trackback on August 11, 2012 at 11:43 pm

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paris (im)perfect?

Sion Dayson is paris (im)perfect. Writer, dreamer, I moved to France on – no exaggerating – a romantic whim. As you can imagine, a lot can go wrong (and very right!) with such a (non)plan. These are the (im)perfect stories that result.

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