So Marie (the Boston Bibliophile) kindly requested I post about my recent trip to Ireland. Simply put: it was fun. But more than the vacation itself, I had the opportunity to visit a few Irish bookstores, get some bookmarks, and experience the general Irish bookish-ness. A nice vacation, in other words.
Unsurprisingly, the big chain Eason was the most common bookstore (that I saw), and to be honest it was fairly disappointing in all its forms. Big and shiny like the best of them, the collections were fairly limited, predictable and oddly American*. The only interesting aspect in the Eason stores I encountered was their support of Sony Readers - a rare sight indeed.
Next up was Dubray, which was a significant improvement. Also a chain, Dubray actually had a lot of books (and much less noise) as compared to Eason. I visited one in Dublin and one in Galway, and both impressed me with the amount of books they managed to fit into their relatively smaller space. The Galway one (where I spent significantly more time) also had a dedicated Irish fiction bookcase that went beyond the expected hits and included several poetry collections and independently published Irish books. And though their fiction section was very Anglo-centric (little translated literature, a lot of American books), their sci-fi/fantasy section was overflowing with classics and newer titles. Quite impressive.
Lastly, I had hoped to visit the recommended Kennys Books (also in Galway). What ended up happening, however, was that I noticed a young man (reading a graphic novel, by the way - V for Vendetta, I believe? I might be mis-remembering) wearing a sign with an arrow towards Charlie Byrne's Bookshop. I followed it rather on a whim, and discovered one of those rare, astonishing bookstores. We're talking big collection - an incredibly packed bookcase lining the outer wall of the store, as well as shelves upon shelves of used and new books inside. The staff recommendations shelf came as a particular surprise, containing all sorts of unexpected and exciting books - I picked up a Peirene novella off the shelf, and in addition to my used purchases, I also snagged a new, ridiculously cheap copy of Matterhorn. I spent a long time in the store, and could have easily kept browsing for several more hours. I never did make it to Kennys (I had apparently used up my "bookstore quota" for the vacation. As if.). Next time, I suppose. But I'll definitely be returning to Charlie Byrne's as well.
As for bookmarks: I got extraordinarily lucky this trip. Rather than hunting down tacky souvenir bookmarks for purchase, lovely bookmarks kept finding me - I got two handmade bookmarks at the Celtic and Prehistoric Museum in Dingle, as well as a couple gifts from family friends. All in all, a successfully trip, both for the traveling itself and the general book buying and book appreciation. Too bad I hardly got any reading done.
* Though for the most part I'm referring to books originating in the U.S., American in this case also includes Canada... yes, I am well aware of how inaccurate a name it is.