As a librarian and overall literary nerd, one of the things that I had to do in New Orleans was check out some bookshops to see what they had. My husband and I went into four unique antiquarian & second-hand bookstores. All of them were conveniently located in the French Quarter, which made it easy for us to locate them on foot. The photos used were ones that I took unless noted.
First up is Arcadian Books & Prints.
For over 40 years, Arcadian Books & Prints had offered a variety of items like DVDs; prints; and used books from a whole lot of genres, including some in French (hence its alternate name Livres D’Arcadie) and rare copies of select titles (like a Cold-War-era book that covered Russian Marxism).
The shop has been described by the French Quarter Journal as “organized chaos,” and it’s easy to see why. All of the books are stacked on top of one another, yet they’re not always on the shelves.
There was a narrow walk space for us to use. This was fine for someone who’s small and skinny (like me). On the other hand, my husband had a tough time navigating the bookshop due to his height. He was cautious moving around because he didn’t want to bump his head on the shelves above. In fact, he mentioned that he felt like a bull in a china shop.
Oh and I forgot, there was a fan hanging above. Knowing how hot summers can be down in the south, I’m sure customers are thankful to have that. Above the fan is, I kid you not, a shelf that acts like the Arc de Triomphe, or should I say the Arc de Livres. I’m not going to lie: I was worried that the shelf would collapse on us while we were there. Luckily, it didn’t since it was probably made from steel panels. These stood out in a store containing wooden shelves for the rest of the items.
While there, I bought Beautiful Crescent: A History of New Orleans by Joan B. Garvey and Mary Lou Widmer. From I understand, it’s a good overview of the history of the Crescent City. I can’t wait to read and review it.
Overall, Arcadian Books & Prints is a disorganized bibliophile’s dream as long as they are small and are comfortable in compact spaces (sorry, claustrophobic people.) They don’t have an official website, but if you want to find out more about them, you can call them at (504) 523-4138 for more details.
Our second bookstore is Beckham’s Bookshop!
Beckham’s Bookshop is a second-hand bookstore that contains 50-60,000 titles on two floors. Those books cover any topic imaginable like food, movies, theater arts, and foreign languages. It has been open since 1967 and at its current location since 1979.
Various newspaper articles about the bookshop over the years grace several bookcase ends. This shows that the place is proud of it history, and as someone who has studied history and archival administration, this made me very happy.
The bookstore also contains vinyls, but one can go up to the third floor to find more of the latter at Man Ray Records – a music shop that sells vinyls of various genres ranging from jazz to opera.
And last, but not least, Beckham’s has its own book cat named Juniper. Juniper is 13 years old and has been at the bookshop since he was a kitten. He was asleep during the time we were there, but I managed to pet him when he eventually woke up.
Beckham’s had wider walkways, so it was easy for us to roam around the store. There’s even chairs around for those who need to sit.
To access the second floor, a wooden staircase is located by the entrance. While there, people can look at even more books like these for the kids and young adults.
Overall, Beckham’s Bookshop is a bookstore that’s full of wonderful surprises and a rich history. It’s definitely for readers who like to read everything (like myself), music, and cats, but anybody can come in! To learn more about them, one can access their Facebook and Instagram pages!
Now, let’s look at our third bookstore – Crescent City Books!
Started in 1992, Crescent City Books is another bookstore that offers a variety of books with an emphasis on local history.
What makes this bookstore stand out is that they offer original maps and prints from the last 500 years! The maps even included the original plan for New Orleans and Manhattan! The prints contain botanical and architectural ones as well as engravings, etchings, and woodcuts. Crescent City wanted customers to know that these prints are NOT reproductions.
The store itself is in a small space, but the walkways are wide enough that people can move around. It even has a bench for those who need to sit down.
Adding to its authenticity image, the bookstore also contains leather bound books, both in a case and out of it.
Of course, I have to admit that I bought the book Frenchmen, Desire, Good Children: . . . and Other Streets of New Orleans! by John Chase, which discusses the origin of the various street names in the Crescent City. Like with the title mentioned above, I can’t wait to read and review it!
Overall, Crescent City Books offers the most unique items with its antique maps and prints! If people want to buy items that are distinct to New Orleans and the state of Louisiana, this bookstore is the best place for that! To learn more about them, one can check out their Facebook and Instagram pages!
And finally, we have Faulkner House Books!
Faulkner House Books is a bookstore that contains fine literature, rare editions, and of course, books by William Faulkner. Apparently, he lived in that specific building when he wrote his first novel Solider’s Pay.
It was ironically the first bookstore that we encountered. When I say encountered, it was more like we stumbled upon it as we were trying to find a place to book some tours. As one can see from the photo above, it doesn’t have much signage outside of its name and a plaque indicating that Faulkner lived there.
Nevertheless, I’m glad that we went there because despite the space being limited to two rooms, it was the quaintest of the bookstores that we went to. I think it was the old fashioned lamps and the chandelier. It was also the most organized of all the bookshops we went to as all of the books were lined up spine to spine in neat ways.
The bookstore emphasized poetry, which makes sense as Faulkner himself wrote plenty of poetry. Al lot of them were stored in separate bookcases in a hallway that lead to a fancy gate that indicated the space it was guarding was private.
Another aspect that made Faulkner House Books was that it possessed pictures and notes of various writers who spent time in New Orleans like Tennessee Williams and Ernest Hemingway. One of them included a photo of Williams and Marlon Brando in the Broadway production of A Streetcar Named Desire. That one is second from the top on the right.
Joanne was the lady who works at Faulkner House Books, and she was very kind and personable as we chatted up on the house itself as well as, you guessed it, books. It also turns out that she does personalized book subscriptions. These involve sending the reader 3 to 5 books a month based on their personal tastes. One can go to the Faulkner House Books website to find out more details.
Sadly, I didn’t partake in the subscription, yet I purchased two books while I was there. One was The Pun Also Rises: How the Humble Pun Revolutionized Language, Changed History, and Made Wordplay More Than Some Antics by John Pollack. I love puns as well as how it parodies the title of one of Hemingway’s most famous novels. The other one was called New Orleans Sketches by William Faulkner. I had to buy that while at the one-time residence of that author. It contains stories that he wrote while living in New Orleans, while working on his debut novel. Also, it’s like ordering gumbo at a New Orleans gumbo shop. It’s mandatory. I’m looking forward to reading and reviewing both!
Overall, Faulkner House Books is a cozy bookstore tailored made for those who love the classics, poetry, and the idea of other people picking out their books to read. It’s a compact space, but my husband and I had no problem going through it. Along with their website, one can also find them on Facebook and Instagram!
And that concludes of the first installments of my new series “Literary Travel!”
Let me know what you think of this series!
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