February 10, 2012 10:15 pm

The List: Favourite foreign-language bookshops

Many still prefer entering a literary oasis and browsing the shelves to buying online

The Waterstones bookshop chain plans to open a Russian-language bookshop within its flagship Piccadilly store this month, offering London’s Russian expats and language students the rare chance to browse bookshelves, rather than buying online.

Here is the FT’s pick of our favourite foreign-language bookshops in major cities.

1. Page One and Bookworm, Beijing

Gone are the days when expats in Beijing had to rely on the government-run Foreign Languages Bookstore for its stodgy selection. The city got its first international-calibre mega-emporium last year with the opening of Page One, but many people still prefer the quainter confines of the Bookworm, an English-language shop with a café and a lending library. It hosts a literary festival every spring.

www.pageonegroup.com

www.beijingbookworm.com

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2. The European Bookshop, London

A charming oasis of a bookstore on a West End side street, stuffed full of French, German and Spanish literature, along with textbooks, academic tomes and works in several other European languages (including Portuguese and Polish), all sold by friendly staff. There’s a separate Italian bookshop nearby.

www.europeanbookshop.com

3. Pasajes, Madrid

Pasajes, in the heart of Madrid, is well-lit, modern and good for spending lots of time browsing titles in Spanish, English, French, German, Italian. There’s no in-house cafe but there are plenty nearby and, across the street, the Alonso Martínez metro station.

www.pasajeslibros.com

4. Idlewild Brooklyn, New York

Idlewild opened its first international travel bookstore in New York’s Chelsea in 2008, later adding foreign-language books to its majestic shelves. Owner David del Vecchio last week opened a new branch in Cobble Hill, known for its burgeoning population of novelists and French families. The shop is filled with novels in Spanish, French and Italian, with a wall of children’s books.

www.idlewildbooks.com

5. Shakespeare and Company, Paris

The landmark Paris bookstore sells mainly English-language literature but also has Russian, Spanish, German and Italian books. Housed in a ramshackle building, packed floor to ceiling with volumes, the shop exudes the spirit of George Whitman, who founded the shop 61 years ago and died in December last year, aged 98. The shop has been run recently by Sylvia, his daughter. Writing, not commerce, is its philosophy and impecunious writers can even sleep there. The store hosts a literary festival.

www.shakespeareandcompany.com

With thanks to FT book lovers: Scheherazade Daneshkhu, Victor Mallet, Simon Rabinovitch, Leke Sanusi and Emily Stokes

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