Indie Bookstore Spotlight: Librairie Paragraphe

The independent bookstore is a cultural and community hub – authors are introduced, works read aloud to an audience and ideas are shared.

Each month, we will be featuring an independent bookstore from across Canada, proving what a special role these shops play in fostering authors, community and a love of reading. For February, we are featuring Librairie Paragraphe.

Librairie Paragraphe is one of the most renowned independent bookstores in Montreal attracting book lovers from all over the city. Just across Sherbrooke from McGill University, neighbouring mega bookstores and a Starbucks, it is one of a handful of English language bookstores in Montreal and THE hangout for bibliophiles.
Tell us a little bit about the history of Librarie Paragraphe.

Librarie Paragraphe Bookstore was opened 1981 by Richard King and Jonathan Penney. In 2000 we were sold to Groupe Archambault, however, they have left us to function as an independent English bookstore. Paragraphe also has a wholesale division that sells directly to libraries in Quebec and a Higher Education department that sells directly to University students. On top of all this we participate in almost 100 book events a year.

What made you want to work at Paragraphe?

I love people and selling. Being at Paragraphe for almost 25 years I have combined both.

What do you like best about your job? 

Interaction with different people, from my 20 employees to the thousands of customers. It has also give me the chance to interact with hundreds of authors the last few years.

What’s the hardest part about being a bookstore owner in 2012?

Getting the younger generation to pick up a book before an electronic device.

What types of books does your store stock and/or specialize in?

We are a general bookstore, however, being across McGill University we  tend to carry more academic type of books: History, Philosophy and Cultural Studies to name a few.

What are some of your favorite titles?

I really enjoy non-fiction titles from Business to Science and everything in between

Kids titles?

Rick Riordan in my favourite author. I have 2 boys at home and we read everything he has written together. Most nights I finish the book as the boys are asleep and then continue reading to them while they are awake the next evening.

What are you reading right now?

Steve Jobs by Issaacson

What’s your most current best seller?

If we remove the course books from the list (we sell hundreds), Impossible Dead by Rankin. We just had an event with him that attracted +500 people and the sales are still coming in.

What have been some of your favorite (or most memorable) author events?

Last fall we had David Sedaris in store. We had over 400 people in store and we had scheduled to close at 9pm. However, David was so giving with his time that we had to delay closing until almost 1 am the next morning.

Any strange, wild or crazy-but-true stories from your days at Paragraphe?

I had an event with one of my childhood sports heroes. We attracted over 200 people to the event. As the event was finishing up he went back to his hotel. However, he mentioned that he was kind of bored. I didn’t realize it at the moment but it occurred to me a few minutes after he left. So I called the hotel and told him we were coming over. There he was waiting for us in his bath robe in a 5 star hotel bar. We sat there for most of the night with a few of my employees drinking as this icon shared sport stories of the greatest hockey players of all time.

What book are you, or will you, hand-sell with a vengeance?

The Wealthy Barber Returns by Chilton. I recommend this simple business book to all.

Is there anything else you would like to tell our blog readers?

I consider myself extremely lucky as I have been doing a job that I love for so many years and have met so many of the greatest authors of our time.