Where to find good books in Dublin?
No.3 – Chapters on Parnell Street. A goldmine for hardcover books, and Ireland’s largest independent bookstore.
I used to think of Chapters as a sort of bargain bookstore. The prices are shown on the front of the books with large, red-and-white stickers, and often they are “special prices” and actual bargains. This makes a big difference on hardcover books. I have no great ambition to own my fiction in hardcover, in fact, I prefer paperbacks, as they are lightweight and fit better into my handbags. But food and cookery books often come only in hardcover, and Chapters was instrumental in helping me build up my collection of recipe and reference books on food and wine. For the same reason, anybody interested in coffee table books on Art and Architecture should not miss visiting this store.
Maybe the look of the shop also contributed to my impression – it is decidedly no-frills, with simple overhead lighting and all space taken up by tables and shelves and racks and stacks of books.
The food and cookery section is straight ahead in the back, and has in my estimate more than 10m of shelf space, plus some tables. Many wonderful things, but I was particularly interested in Anthony Bourdain’s Appetites Cookbook – it looks as if the cover was designed by Ralph Steadman, and the recipes are presented in a very conversational format, probably to underline the idea that these are unpretentious home-cooking dishes. Also the photos are artfully casual, showing spills and stains, being a little out of focus sometimes. I like Bourdain’s writing – it is far less macho than his TV personality often is.
Two other books that did not make it into my shopping bag but onto my ever-growing list of desirables are Sophie White: Recipes for a Nervous Breakdown and Life is Meals: A Food Lover’s Book of Days by James and Kay Salter. A “book of days” is of course a collection of writings in various formats and lengths – poetry, anecdotes, snippets of literature, encyclopaedia entries etc., one for every day of the year. The format probably refers back to a 9th century Muslim scholar, Abu Ubaidah, who wrote a book of the same name. I have seen it in more or less well-known publications since – we had one with children’s poetry growing up, for example. I was supposed to recite the one from December 6th – St. Nicolaus/Santa Claus Day – at a kindergarten christmas party one year. I must have been four years old. I didn’t like that poem, I liked one from somewhere in July that was also shorter, but my mother obviously insisted it had to be the Christmas one. So there I was, standing in front of Santa Claus on the little stage, and I got as far as the second line before my mind went blank (I have always had a strange talent to forget what I did not want to remember). So I started crying, my mother somewhere in the middle of the audience looked guilty and miserable, but Santa Claus put his hand on my shoulder and asked kindly if I had trouble remembering. I sobbed: “Ye-e-es, and I don’t li-i-ike it, I like the o-ho-hother one!” So he said that it wasn’t a problem and would I perhaps feel like reciting the other one? Whereupon I calmed down and graciously, sniffingly told my little July poem to Santa Claus.
This is not a lead-in to Recipes of a Nervous Breakdown, which is described as “part cookbook, part memoir, part self-help manual”. I am interested to see how Sophie White has woven these themes into her narrative, but I will wait for the paperback version.
Ivy Exchange, Parnell Street
Dublin 1, Ireland
Mon – Wed, Fri, Sat 09.30 – 18.30 h
Thu 09.30 – 20.00 h
Sun 12.00 – 18.30 h
Tell me: Do you prefer hardcover or paperback books?