Home > 21st Century, About reading, Algerian Literature, French Literature, Historical Fiction, Non Fiction > Bookstores, publishers and readers – everlasting love

Bookstores, publishers and readers – everlasting love

October 31, 2022 Leave a comment Go to comments

We, book lovers, are a different species.

We love to read, we love to read about reading, we love to read about people who run bookstores, we love to discover other people’s reading lists, we love to discuss our TBRs and self-imposed book-buying bans, we love to read about publishers, we love to talk about books, we love pictures of bookshelves, we love a good debate about the best way to organize the said bookshelves, we love visiting writers’ houses and we love to read about people going to bookstores.

Let’s own it: to non-readers, we’re weird.

Since I’m a proud card holder of the Weird Club, I had to read Our Riches by Kaouther Adimi – 2017. (Original French title: Nos richesses.)

Kaouther Adimi was born in Algeria in 1986 and she now lives in Paris. Her book Nos richesses has been translated into English under two different titles, Our Riches and A Bookshop in Algiers.

In 1936, Edmond Charlot, a French young man born in Algeria founded the bookshop Les Vraies richesses in downtown Algiers. Kaouther Adimi imagines that in 2017, Ryan, a young man gets an internship in Algiers that consists in tidying this old bookshop to turn it into a sandwich shop. That side of the story wasn’t very interesting: Ryan doesn’t read when he arrives and, no epiphany there, he still doesn’t read when his internship is over.

The most fascinating part of the book is the tribute to Edmond Charlot. This man was an incredible book lover, fostering talents and writers. He knew Albert Camus in Algiers and was his first publisher. He knew Mouloud Feraoun and Jean Giono. He published Albert Cossery and Emmanuel Roblès. He wanted to promote poets and authors from the Mediterranean. He had an incredible career as a libraire and as a publisher.

He was also a resistant, a promoter of literature and books for all, lending the books of his shop to his poorest clients. He published Le silence de la mer by Vercors during the war and L’armée des ombres by Joseph Kessel.

During WWII, he relocated in Paris, becoming a renowned publisher. He was inventive in the publishing industry but he was not a good enough businessman. He struggled with money, with paper procurement and never had enough working capital to weather all his business ups and downs. He went back to Algiers but had to move after Algeria became independent.

We owe him a lot. I’d never heard of him and I’m glad that Kaouther Adimi chose to write about him. It is important to know about men like him, who wanted people to be able to read, who wanted to spread the words of others, who believed in the power of books.

A healthy reminder. Read Lisa’s excellent review here.

The same Weird Club card played a new trick on me and I couldn’t resist buying Eloge des librairies (A Tribute to Bookshops) by Maël Renouard (2022) when I saw it on a display table in a bookstore in Montchat, Lyon.

I could totally relate to his first paragraph:

D’un grand nombre de mes livres, je peux dire, bien des années après, dans quelle librairie je me les suis procurés, et je m’en souviens comme je me souviens de la ville où je me trouvais, du jardin public ou du café où j’allais en lire les premières pages. For a lot of my books, I can tell, even years later, in which bookshop I bought them, and I remember that just as I remember in which city I was, or in which public park or café I went to read their first pages.

I will remember where I bought his book and that I read it in one sitting, during a lazy afternoon on the beach in an incredibly warm October month.

Maël Renouard is about my age and this tribute takes us with him in different cities and different countries, sharing with us his bookshops and book memories.

He mentions San Francisco Book and Co in Paris and this is where I bought Cards on a Table by Agatha Christie for the #1936 Club. It was the only shop open in Paris on this Sunday morning. It was February 2021, we were under COVID rules and we had just driven our daughter to her school in the Paris suburbs. It was eerie, to be in Paris in such circumstance, with empty streets, no noise, no cafés and consequently no toilets.

I’m a reader of fiction, I didn’t go to university to study literature or any “soft science”. I have no culture of academics, nights in libraries or doing research. I don’t know the names of respected historians, linguists, literary critics or sociologists unless they are in mainstream media. So, he lost me when he talks about fantastic discoveries in second-hand bookshops, books for his studies and research. I have no clue how rare or precious these old editions are.

I felt a bit left out and would have wanted to hear more about literature but he still makes me want to visit the bookstores he writes about, especially the ones in Paris and London. Bookstores are the beginning of the relationship with the books we buy there.

I could relate to the passages about holidays, taking a big pile of books, knowing you wouldn’t have time to read them all but needing to have a wide choice on hand, and eventually reading a book you bought on impulse in a local bookstore. I managed to tame this (a bit) with a Kindle, only to end up taking with me a pile of already-read books to catch up with billets…Unless I have restricted luggage due to flights or train travels, I always load a bag of books when I go on holiday.

Eloge des librairies is a lovely book for book lovers and even if Maël Renouard and I don’t read the same kind of books, we still share an infinite love for wandering into bookshops and making a permanent link between a book and the place where we bought it.

  1. October 31, 2022 at 5:47 pm

    Ah, yes, it sounds like a wonderful book for us weirdos and book lovers! My older son is always amused when he asks me: ‘So, which is your favourite book or author?’ and I end up with a long list, because different ones are right for different occasions, right?


    • November 1, 2022 at 8:50 am

      I think all people passionate about something sound weird to people who don’t share their passion.

      I understand that someone who’s not into reading has a hard time understanding why I’m reading to walk longer just to pass in front of a writer’s house or can’t help but stop in front of each bookstore window display I see.

      This is why I’m both amused and fascinated by the fly-fishing things I encounter in all the Nature Writing books I read. I adore their quirkiness and their passion. I wouldn’t spend hours assembling the perfect fly but I understand why they do it.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. October 31, 2022 at 11:48 pm

    You’re right, it is interesting reading about other readers reading habits and preferences. I wonder why that is, I’ve spent most of my life paying very little attention to other people.
    I love second hand book shops but I rarely remember what I have bought in each. Maybe only Eliz Gaskell’s Cranford which I bought in a bookstall in Madrid


    • November 1, 2022 at 8:53 am

      It’s just a thing you do when you have a hobby you love, I believe.

      You love to go cycling, you check out all the mountain bikes and road bikes you see.

      You love to read, you go to bookshops, you love to know what other people read, etc.


  3. October 31, 2022 at 11:49 pm

    From one ‘weirdo’ to another and proud to wear the tag, thank you for the mention!


  4. November 1, 2022 at 7:13 am

    I’m ok with (probably) being weird in many different ways, but I wouldn’t say I see reading as making me weird. I’m not even sure I would want to present myself to the rest of the world as “weird” just because I like to read (more specifically I like to read books that are (most of the time) actually and objectively interesting). If I think about it a little bit more I might even conclude that it’s sad, not weird, that reading is such a minority occupation and that it could be seen as a not-normal way to spend one’s time, money, brainpower etc.
    P.S. working all day long with excel sheets – now that is weird!
    P.P.S. I thought I knew the story of how Le Silence de la mer came about, but this is the first I hear of Edmond Charlot so thanks for mentioning him and this book by Kaouther Adimi.


    • November 1, 2022 at 8:59 am

      I don’t thing that reading makes us weird.

      I think that all the quirky things that go with it (huge TBRs, sharing book lists, photos of bookshelves…) and that are a true pleasure for us book bloggers seem weird to people who don’t share our passion.

      Just like you wouldn’t ooh and aah over of a certain brand of road bike or an antique fly for fishing or a limited edition pair of sneakers, they don’t see the urge to have huge TBRs.

      PS: Damn. I’m double-weird. Excel spreadsheets all day at work and bookworming at night. 🙂


  5. November 1, 2022 at 4:17 pm

    What a marvellous sounding pair of books – as one of the weirdos, i empathise!


  6. November 4, 2022 at 2:21 pm

    Thanks for these treasures for the weird club!
    I thought there had been another recent book on Charlot, but now I can’t find it. Maybe on another Algerian publisher??


    • November 5, 2022 at 7:46 am

      I haven’t heard about another book about Charlot.
      Do you think of Charlie Chaplin too when you read “Charlot?” I can’t help it!


      • November 5, 2022 at 4:33 pm

        lol, no, but I think it was another famous Algerian publisher. It drives me nuts I can’t remember his name, where I heard about him, whether in French or in English…


        • November 5, 2022 at 9:31 pm

          It’ll come back to you soon!


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