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The American Library in Paris

Floor-to-ceiling bookshelves
Photo via Facebook, American Library in Paris

The American Library in Paris

A haven for English-language book lovers

10 Rue du Général Camou, 75007 Paris

This review may contain sponsored or affiliate links.

An Anglophone bookworm in Paris will always be in want of books in English. And Paris is in many ways the perfect city for booklovers.

The first thing that I noticed while walking les rues of Paris was that there was almost always a bookshop around the corner. Plus, the French capital has a fantastic — and free! — public library system.

With 57 libraries across all the arrondissements, you only need a single card to enter them all.

It’s a reader’s paradise, granting never-ending access to all the texts and tales you could ever want. The only catch is that most of them are in French.

American Library in Paris near the Eiffel Tower
Library façade, 10 rue du Général Camou, 75007 Paris © Krystal Kenney

However, if you prefer to read in English you needn’t look any further than The American Library in Paris.

When I first moved to Paris, I was eager to become a member because of the remarkable history of this century-old institution.

Established in 1920, it initially began with the Library War Service (part of The American Library Association) shipping over 2 million books to the US armed forces serving here in World War I.

History of the American Library in Paris
Soldier reading on a motorcycle, waiting for the officer who occupied the sidecar. Circa 1919. G. Gorce, Éditions d’Art. From the American Library in Paris archives.

Many of these books went on to form the core collection of the library. Its history includes resisting the fascists in World War II. And it even stars as the hero in a book of its own story, The Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles!

Since then, the American Library in Paris has grown into the largest English-language lending library in Europe, boasting many well-known members over the years.

The library’s website even mentions how “Lawrence Ferlinghetti composed poems while wandering the stacks. Henry Miller wrote letters to the librarian asking for books on Zen Buddhism. Mary McCarthy complained to the director that they didn’t have enough copies of her books.”

English books in Paris at the ALP
Photo via Instagram, @theamericanlibraryinparis

I’m constantly in awe of being able to casually browse in stacks of such historical significance. But what keeps me renewing my membership year after year is the collection.  

Currently the library has a catalog of over 100,000 items including eBooks and audiobooks. Their diverse collection spans all genres from poetry to biography, nonfiction, and fiction — speaking of which, as an avid crime fiction and true crime junkie, I really appreciate the entire mezzanine dedicated to mystery!

What I like best is that they update the collection frequently, keeping up with the hot new releases. They also subscribe to nearly 100 periodicals, magazines, and journals.

On their shelves, you’ll find variety enough to cover the most eclectic tastes — from the latest Vogue to The New Yorker, or the more niche Slightly Foxed and Idler — as well as online access to hundreds of popular magazines.

They also have a well-stocked Children’s and Teen’s section.

Children's books in English at the American Library in Paris
Children’s Library © Gema Salamanca

Another thing that makes the library stand out for me is that they have multiple literary events such as Evenings with an Author, which allow readers to interact with their favorite authors in an intimate setting.

I’ve been to discussions with several, from award-winning authors to the latest name on everyone’s lips.

Speakers and events at the American Library in Paris
Viet Thanh Nguyen and Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, with Alice McCrum, on 21 September 2022, in partnership with Festival America. © American Library in Paris

The best part is that these are free and open to all. You don’t have to be a member of the library to attend.

Nor are these events for adults only. ALP has a very active Children’s and Teen department. In addition to book and cinema clubs for all ages, they host weekly Story Times for toddlers, workshops and activities for kids, and regular teen nights after library hours. 

Becoming a member is easy and they have a variety of options from annual to week and day passes if you want to just relax and browse in their reading room.

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Métro Ⓜ
  • 10 Rue du Général Camou
  • 75007 Paris

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