In January I went on a truly unforgettable holiday to New Orleans and very quickly fell in love with the place. It has an incredible atmosphere, ranging from laid-back to festival-ready. The people are friendly and I enjoyed listening to the accent, which is so different to my own British English. Of course, you can’t talk about New Orleans without mentioning the music – mellow jazz in the supermarkets, kids playing self-made drums (basically just buckets) on the street and talented musicians playing in local bars every night of the week. Just thinking about it makes me want to go back!
But one of the things I loved the most, was the amount of amazing bookshops! I visited six in total, and hope to get reviews of most of them up on the blog one of these days.
Today I’ll start with Faulkner House Books, which was the bookshop I was most excited about.
Located in the heart of the French Quarter on Pirate Alley which connects Royal Street and the buzzing Jackson Square, the shop was a convenient five minute stroll from my hotel. It’s a must on the literary map because of its history with William Faulkner who lived there in 1925 while writing his first novel, Soldiers’ Pay. The building was bought and restored in 1990 by Joe DeSalvo and Rosemary James who now live there and run the shop.
But it’s not just the incredible history that makes this place so great. Immediately upon entering, I could sense that the booksellers really care. To start with, the room itself is beautifully done up and filled with particularly attractive editions (notice the cloth-bounds in the picture below). The displays felt well-thought through, almost as if all books had been placed there on a personal recommendation. It’s one those bookshops you can go into and find something unusual that you’ve never heard of, rather than simply the bestsellers (although, there were plenty of those too!)
There is a focus on books set in the local area or written by local authors, making this a perfect souvenir shops for tourists wanting to learn more about Louisiana. And, of course, many books by or about Faulkner. I really should have picked one of these up, but I never did manage to finish The Sound and the Fury, and have been scared of Faulkner ever since!
The place isn’t that big, but I could have spent ages browsing these shelves, as everything seemed worthy of attention. My bookworm brother and I were lucky to have the shop mostly to ourselves, giving us a peaceful half hour to really explore. The bookseller was friendly and welcoming but also happy to let us get on with it.
Poetry fans will be pleased to learn that Faulkner House Books has a whole hallway dedication to poetry. Unfortunately I forgot to take any photos of this section because I was too busy looking through the selection!
I’m so glad I got a chance to visit this wonderful bookshop. It’s as charming and bookish as I’d hoped it would be!
To keep up-to-date with Faulkner House Books, follow them on Twitter, on their blog or on Facebook.
And please make sure you check it out if you are ever in New Orleans: 624 Pirate Alley, New Orleans, LA 70116
3 thoughts on “Faulkner House Books – New Orleans”
Dear Bookworm (Sorry for the title but don’t know your actual name):
We look forward to the day you can return.
And don’t worry about any errors. The plaque on the house, placed before we
bought the property, puts the date of completion of the house at 1840 when the Historic New Orleans Collection records establish it at 1837!
Look forward to following Bundle of Books!
Dear Bundle of Books Bookworm:
Thank you so very much for the lovely post about Faulkner House Books. My husband, Joe
DeSalvo, FHB proprietor, and I had just returned from a long holiday in my hometown,
Charleston, SC, when we discovered your review. What a nice homecoming surprise.
Joe was an attorney and long time, obsessed collector of rare books and good literature, until the Faulkner House came on the market. We took the plunge and bought the house in 1988, spent two years renovating the building and creating a “Sanctuary” for writers and readers, then
opened the store on Faulkner’s birthday, September 25th, in 1990. Joe runs the shop as his retirement gig. I run the non-profit foundation we created with other bibliophiles in 1991, The Pirate’s Alley Faulkner Society, Inc, which has a mission of providing high quality literary programming for dedicated readers, realistic assistance for writers seeking publication, and literacy initiatives for at-risk teenagers. Please check out our web site, http://www.faulknersociety.org, but don’t be too critical, as we are in the process of transition from one domain to another and much updating is yet to be completed.
Another goal of the Society is to call positive attention to New Orleans as an intellectual and cultural destination, so obviously, your post was music to our ears. Joe, a total Anglophile and Johnson – Boswell scholar (probably the only member of the Samuel Johnson Society in Louisiana), is especially happy to get good marks from a Brit.
We are delighted that you recommended both our shop and our city as great destinations!
When you are coming our way next, please let us know in advance and we will plan a tea or cocktail event for you at Faulkner House.
Rosemary James, Faulkner House Books and Pirate’s Alley Faulkner Society
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Thank you so much for your lovely comment! It really has brightened up my week. 🙂
It sounds like you do such great work with the society for budding writers. And you are a credit to your city.
When thinking about New Orleans I used to mostly just think about the history of the music and, of course, Hurricane Katrina. But when I visited I was pleasantly surprised with how wonderfully cultural the area is. It’s bursting with art and there’s a literary scene which I’m sure I would enjoy if I lived there. I really hope I can visit again one day in the future. I will definitely be in touch if I do! In the meantime, I look forward to following your shop and society from across the pond!
PS. Thanks for the extra information about the shop – it seems I got a bit of the history slightly wrong – I guess that is what happens when the Internet is the only source of information!