One of the most beloved institutions in the Parisian Anglophone community is the Red Wheelbarrow. Formerly located on the Right Bank, in 2018 this wonderful bookstore managed by Penelope Fletcher, bookseller extraordinaire, reopened its doors on the Left Bank in a lovely location just across the street from the Jardin du Luxembourg (at 9 rue de Medicis). This November brought even better news for the readers and writers who frequent (and support!) this shop. A nice big new additional space has opened, at 11 rue de Medicis, just two doors down from the other shop. More room for more books, and more literary events!
What makes the Red Wheelbarrow such a special place to shop for books? According to Oliver Gee, author of Paris On Air, Kylie the Crocodile in Paris, and Roger the Liger in Paris, “The great thing about the Red Wheelbarrow is that it’s very clear that it’s a book shop, not just a business. Penelope always takes the time to recommend something good to read. As a writer I’ll always be grateful that Penelope was the first in the world to take a chance on our children’s books – she was one step ahead of the game!”
As for me, I love being able to shop in a place that supports not only the local economy but also the local community, especially for people who love to read, as well as contemporary writers. Penelope is widely read in the classics but (importantly) she keeps on top of new and upcoming books as well. I asked her what she’s reading now, and what she’s looking forward to reading soon. “I am about to read the new Salley Vickers novel, The Gardener, and I just read Toibin’s book The Magician,” she said. “Also we are launching Aysegül Savas’s book White on White on December 3. I have already read it and it is really good!” When asked for holiday gift suggestions, she mentioned Yasmina Seale ‘s Annotated Arabian Nights, Deborah Levy’s Real Estate, and Janet Skeslien Charles’s novel, The Paris Library, which is coming out in paperback this month.
The point is, Penelope is always ready with suggestions for good books, and not just any good books: She is very good at matching book suggestions to peoples’ individual tastes and interests. (That is what a good bookseller does.)
I haven’t been able to go to the new shop yet, but as I studied the photographs of it; one intriguing sight for me was the photo that reveals several shelves of red-spined books in the new space. I asked Penelope what books those were. “Oh, that’s the Vintage UK Classics,” she said. “A good collection of modern classics with authors such as Philip Roth, Toni Morrison, Iris Murdoch, and Haruki Murakami, among many others.”
There is also a wonderful selection of children’s books at the Red Wheelbarrow, and often there are special activities and events for children. One recent event held shortly before the new annex to the store opened featured Oliver Gee and his wife, Lina Nordin Gee, who illustrates the charming stories — one about a Parisian crocodile, the other about a Parisian liger — created by this very creative couple. And on December 12 there will be an event featuring Maxine Rose Schur and Jeanne B. de Sainte Marie, the author and illustrator of Marielle in Paris. (Marielle is a Parisian mouse.)
Need it be said that if you’re in Paris you’ll want to visit the Red Wheelbarrow again soon to see this wonderful new space? And if you’re not, you should definitely plan to go there next time you’re in Paris.
You can learn about recent news and upcoming events at the Red Wheelbarrow on Facebook and Instagram and follow their blog here. But there’s nothing like an in-person visit. Penelope will warmly welcome you, and you’re sure to come away a little bit smarter, and a little bit richer in terms of your book collection — or maybe with some very special gifts for friends and family — every time you go there.
So what are you waiting for?
Lead photo credit : Filling the shelves in the new space. © Margaret Gerner