Where to find books in English in Lisbon?
No. 1 – Bookshop Bivar in Estefânia. All-English secondhand books. Browsing recommended!
Tucked away on a hill in a residential neighbourhood with winding narrow streets, I only found it because I was lost, but it’s worth the hike. A few bookshelves, a table, a counter and a big, inviting couch – it doesn’t take a lot of fancy trimmings to open a bookstore. The books themselves lend a merry atmosphere with their colourful spines on the white shelves. A few potted plants and someone friendly to help the customers with their queries about books for school, for beach-reading or to satisfy their book cravings, and you’re away.
Bookshop Bivar is all secondhand books, fiction and classics upstairs, a motley band of nonfiction (from sports to feminism, golfing to neuroscience) in the basement. It is not a concept shop but rather what in food terms would be perhaps called “honest fare”, market-based fare: You take what is available and make a satisfying meal out of it.
This is place where you go with an open mind, ready to find something you were not looking for. I was, as usual, interested in the nonfiction and food book section. There were some recipe books, some interesting (Siamese cooking), others wisely culled from someone’s collection (diet, fat-free and low-fat…they really belong in the crime and punishment section).
I debated whether to take home a book by Matt Ridley – I enjoyed reading The Red Queen: Sex and the Evolution of Human Nature when I did, some years ago, and I find it interesting how he connects evolutionary theories with realms beyond biology. But I was not quite in the mood for economics.
Instead, thinking of The Alice B. Toklas Cookbook I had read recently, I picked up Gertrude and Alice by Diana Souhami. I began reading it on the way to the airport, and basically only put it down, reluctantly, when I had to get off the U-Bahn close to my house in Berlin. It is a wonderful book, written in a pleasant, conversational style laced with many quotes from diaries, letters and other writings by Gertrude Stein, Alice Toklas and their families and friends. Souhami puts the marriage (not really, but effectively) of Stein and Toklas centre-stage of the book, and gives a glimpse into their lives without being gossipy. With some snippets of Stein’s writing put into context, I even started to believe I could understand some of it, but phew! An attempt some days later with an un-annotated Stein text took that pretence away from me quickly.
Rua de Ponta Delgada 34A,
1000-243 Lisboa, Portugal
Tue – Fri 14.00 – 19.00 h
Sat 11.00 – 17.00h