On a quiet little side street in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower, there's a place that's become as much a part of our life in Paris as a trip to the neighborhood boulangerie. At first glance, the American Library in Paris is a little musty, dim, and worn around the edges. And at first, the annual subscription fee of 155 euros also seemed a bit over the top. But, having just renewed our membership for another year, I can honestly say it's worth every centime, particularly for a family of voracious readers like ours. I've been able to indulge a reading habit that had grown rusty in the years when I was juggling work and a growing family. The travel section and the cookbook aisle have kept me from spending a small fortune. And the children's librarian really knows how to talk with kids about books. In her jeans and Converse sneakers, she looks nothing like Miss Betts, the gray-haired lady in spectacles who presided over the children's room at the Atlanta Public Library's Highland branch where I got my first library card, but she has the same warmth and sparkle. Plus, when she couldn't locate a book my nine year old was looking for, she wrote down the title and author and within a matter of weeks, the book had been purchased and was ready to be checked out.
There's no chance that we'll exhaust the library's offerings during our time here, and the number of books on my "to read" list keeps growing. Just added: anything by new Nobel laureate J.M.G. Le Clézio which I noticed on display (in English translation) when I was in the checkout line last weekend. I just have to finish the books already piled up on my nightstand plus four or five back issues of The New Yorker before I can take that on.