While I’ll always have a soft spot in my heart for libraries, where you can find so many great books and take them all home for free, I’ve always been a fan of small bookstores. Unfortunately, as more and more readers turn to online booksellers for all their reading materials, independent book shops have been losing their customers. This is a low-down dirty shame for those who like to browse, judge books by their covers, get into discussions about literature with other customers, or simply strike up friendly conversations with the staff—many of whom love books and are great founts of all kinds of wisdom.
I suppose I won’t convert anyone with just one blog on the subject, but if you’ve got a local bookseller, you should support them while you still can! Even if they don’t have the book you’re looking for, many times you can find great alternatives, great prices, and some great conversation as well. In a world where everything is going digital and just being able to have a meaningful discussion can be difficult, independent bookstores are some of the last bastions of deep thought.
In keeping with this theme of buying local and supporting independent booksellers, here’s a short (and, sadly, increasingly shorter) list of some of the best non-chain bookstores in Montreal.
Concordia Community Solidarity Co-op Bookstore (aka The Co-op Bookstore)
The Co-op Bookstore is one of my favourites in Montreal, not only because the people there are super friendly and the prices (particularly for members) are excellent, but also because they’ve got an unusually large selection of gender and sexuality books. As a sex columnist, this is invaluable! In addition to this section, they’ve also got lots of great DIY, political and environmental selections to choose from, along with artisan consignments (everything from t-shirts and zines to buttons and laptop bags and even bike repair kits), school supplies and tons of used books. If you’re a Concordia student, you’ll find discounted textbooks. Join the Co-op for only $10 for life and get even better prices.
The Word is another great bookstore, located just outside of McGill on Milton. It’s been around since 1975, which must be some kind of record for an indie bookseller in Montreal, and offers a variety of McGill textbooks plus philosophy, literature and poetry. If it’s a fairly obscure title you’re looking for, you’ll likely be able to find it at The Word. And if you like to shoot the shit about literature, definitely stop by and get the owners, Adrian and Luci, talking. Here’s a great article on the store, for more info!
Cheap Thrills is usually viewed as a used record store, more than a bookstore, but they do have a fairly large selection of used books for sale as well. Need a copy of On the Road? You’ll be able to find it here. Anything that would appeal to the Montreal hipster is likely to be on their shelves, and since more people are coming in to check out the CDs than the books, you may be able to score some great bargains and vintage reads.
2065 Ste-Catherine West
Westcott Books is another great used bookstore, but beware! The sign in the window reads “No admittance, except for pleasure,” so don’t come in hassling the owner about where to find the latest thriller or a textbook for your English class. Nope, nothing but reading for pleasure is allowed here, and maybe petting a few of the neighbourhood cats that make themselves comfortable inside the store. A great article from The Gazette on this store can be found here.
225 St-Viateur West
Metro: Place-des-Arts + 80 bus to St-Viateur
Sellers of used and antiquarian books, S.W. Welch has been a Montreal fixture for years. Formerly located on St-Laurent, they’ve now moved up to St-Viateur, so you can grab a sack of fresh St-Viateur Bagels while you’re in the neighbouhood for a truly Montreal reading experience!
If you haven’t yet caved to the Internet bookstore giant that shall remain nameless (and, let’s face it, sometimes you just have to in order to get what you really want), I’m curious to know: what’s your favourite bookstore in Montreal?