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Location: Dublin, Republic of, Ireland

Friday 25 January 2008

Dublin's Bookshop Maze

Why did I choose Dublin to write? It is too beautiful a city. Taste its spoils and it will haunt you, demanding your return. Luxurious, evocative, soft as a leopard's fur and slender as a designer's gown, the Liffey River from where I stand on the famous Ha'Penny Bridge, broods and smoulders with impatience, its mood bordering on a dangerous romance.
Snooty swans glide by showing-off a polished arrogance and offering the odd pose for a video cam. Noisy seagulls race with the wind.
And what a gale this January! How they howl and lash upon the rooftops at night! In the darkened trees looking up to a solitary full moon, one hears the faint twittering of birds, angry with this sudden gatecrash to their nightly shut-eye.
But the wind which fled to land from the raging Irish sea continues to play hookey and proclaims itself as Dublin's boisterous king this January. It tears at umbrellas; ripping them to shreds, messes up hair, and snatches at hats with gusto. From somewhere in the grey skies, it rustles up its wobbly belly for a merry laugh. I expect its sharp cold gusts would frighten even the stars but a glittering starry-eyed night persists!
Facing me, is the Winding Stair bookshop. If I walk a little way and turn left, I'll bump into Waterstone's on Jervis street. If I turn right, there's Eason's on O' Connells, ready to beckon with its generous display of Irish titles. If I walk further ahead, I'd come to Parnell Street, which houses Chapters, popular for its new titles and fabulous hardback bargains. They also exhibit some of the biggest displays for carefully-tended second-hand classics in the country. An onward saunter sees my next stop at the Writer's Museum, often visited for its quaint bookshop. For the moment, this is Dublin's northside but if I attempt to cross the bridge once more to the south, I'd first have to stroll past another bookshop with its splendid titles on Christian philosophy.
Directly across the road from the Christian bookshop in Middle Abbey Street is a sunny independent bookshop called Bookworms.
Now. away from the bridge I have to quickly escape from from the cool Temple Bar with its own favourite show of bookshops. Upstairs, downstairs, and in secret corners next to colourful alleys and pavements.
On the south side, I may stop to gaze with fervent longing at an independent vintage bookshop, called Books Upstairs, famous for avant-garde subjects on art, drama, poetry, alternative fiction and the latest literary and poetry journals out in London.
In five minutes, I'd be at Ireland's biggest bookstore on Grafton Street, which is Hodges & Figgis. It commands one the friendliest customer service staff bustling about. Directly behind the building, lies another independent bookshop called International Books and across the road from
Hodges is a large Waterstone's bookstore. Walk further on and you'll come to Reads which faces Trinity College. Walk a little further on and you'll come to more Reads. You may also spot another Eason branch. Walk a little further ahead and you'll spot yet another Eason's branch. And it goes on and on.
By the way, international titles are everywhere.
Such is the powerful reading culture in Ireland. Bookshops, cafes, fast food chains and designer boutiques all command pride of place with their loyal parades.