I love bookshops. Specifically, I love the smell of bookshops: that feeling of being enveloped by paper and ink as you walk in the door is something that you just don’t get when you buy your books from Amazon.
I’ve run out of reading material (all this week I’ve been up until 2am reading Zadie Smith’s new novel NW – it’s very, very good) so today I went to the Way In Bookshop in the Hamra district of Beirut to replenish my stocks.
The Way In smells and feels like a bookshop should: overcrowded, hugely disorganised and ever-so-slightly stuck in time. What I love most about it are the handwritten tags they insert into each book, detailing the price and the number they have left in stock. It’s as though barcodes had never been invented.
However, the range of stock (at least in English) is a bit disappointing. It jumps straight from hardcore politics to trashy romance with absolutely nothing in between – as summed up in this photo. Margaret Thatcher on top of The Story of O is a rather unsettling sight.
I was hoping to get a novel but I can’t bring myself to waste my life on Me and Mr Jones and its ilk. Instead I came away with a book about the Arab Spring – as if I don’t spend enough time reading about that already.
But I’d come back to Way In regardless – if only to stand there for a few seconds inhaling deeply.