An Authors for Indies Itinerary: Montreal

This Saturday, May 2 is Authors for Indies Day. At indie bookstores across Canada, authors will be volunteering as guest booksellers, and that’s just the beginning of the bookish fun in store. To help get you ready, we’ve got suggested itineraries and highlights for six major cities, written by local booklovers just for you.

Where to go in Montreal, by BookNetter Tim Middleton

People naturally think of food when they think of Montreal. (And why wouldn’t you with places like Schwartz’s and Joe Beef feeding the food frenzy?) Then there’s the Mountain, Bixi bikes along the Lachine Canal, and two amazing markets: Jean Talon and Atwater. But if you’re going to be in Montreal on Authors for Indies Day, then I strongly encourage you to mix in the above with a literary tour.

I will admit up front that I don’t speak or read French, which is a confession that shames me when in Montreal. But English-speaking culture abounds, and so do bookstores for anglophiles. I’ve planned a fantasy Authors for Indies extravaganza tour that I wish I could actually participate in, but alas I won’t be in Montreal on May 2, so I’ll have to be content with the one indie bookstore in my hometown of Guelph. My strategy is to anchor the tour to the two markets, and to do it all by Bixi bike. It’s not a difficult feat, and the biking will help to keep off some of those smoked meat calories!

I’m going to start at the Atwater Market and grab some artisan cheese and bread for the road. Also, I know there is a Bixi station there, so away we go.

My first bookstore will be Appetite for Books. If you love cookbooks, you will love Appetite for Books. Proprietor Jonathan Cheung used to be a chef, and knows a thing or two about food and Montreal. You may have seen him a while back guiding Anthony Bourdain around the city on Layover. Here, I plan on taking a culinary journey with Julian Armstrong, author of Made in Quebec. (Now, if it were May 9, I would hit the store later in the day since they’ll be hosting Douglas Quint and Bryan Petroff of Big Gay Ice Cream, but alas.)

After Appetite for Books, it’s time to pick up some gifts for the kids at Babar En Ville. They’re hosting a handful of authors, including Anne Renaud and Raquel Rivera. If you don’t have kids or don’t know kids, then by all means keep on peddling.

The next stop is Montreal’s oldest independent, anglophone bookstore and one of BNC Salesdata’s newest contributors: Argo Bookshop. Argo has an amazing story to tell about its continued existence (in addition to the amazing stories it has to sell). The added bonus on Saturday is that they’re hosting six authors: Marko Sijan, Melissa Bull, Dean Garlick, Laurence Miall, Greg Santos, and Cora Siré. You’ll want to stay, but the clock is ticking.

Next stop Librairie Paragraphe Bookstore, founded in 1981. Sure, they are owned by Archambault, who is in turn owned by Québecor Media Inc., but they have an indie heart. A quick hello to authors Christopher DiRaddio, Catherine McKenzie, Shelagh Plunkett, Elise Moser, Neil Smith, and/or Aimee Wimbush-Bourque, and then it’s off to the next store.

At 469 Milton Street, you’ll find the fantastic secondhand bookstore, The Word. With origins that make you appreciate the tenacity of booksellers far and wide, The Word is essentially a Montreal institution. On this auspicious Authors for Indies Day, you can chat with authors Barbara Silverman, Heather O’Neill, Norman Nawrocki, Ian Ferrier, Lazer Lederhendler, and Bryan Sentes.

Are you getting hungry? I bet you’re getting hungry. No trip to Montreal is complete without a Montreal smoked meat sandwich from another Montreal institution: Schwartz’s. It’s worth the wait, but if you don’t want to slow down, just up the road is Duddy Kravitz’s local hangout, Wilensky’s. You would be in good company eating a grilled beef salami and beef bologna sandwich here. It may not be kosher, but it is yummy.

Still hungry? Get some bagels at St-Viateur, the original Montreal bagel! With bagels in hand(basket), don’t forget to check out Drawn & Quarterly. Oh, didn’t you know? It’s also Free Comic Book Day!

Well, that is my fantasy Authors for Indies tour. It’s a bit ambitious, and I imagine I’m going to need some food for dinner, so we end the trek at Jean-Talon. A bag full of books, some bagels, maybe a bottle of wine, a nice glow, and ready for the ride home. Wait, what’s this? It’s also Children’s Book Week ‘til May 9! I better rest up, I’ve got more touring ahead.

Not in Montreal? Check out our other itineraries for Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, Halifax, or Winnipeg. Or see a full list of participating stores on the Authors for Indies website.