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!
And please make sure you check it out if you are ever in New Orleans: 624 Pirate Alley, New Orleans, LA 70116