In the latest in our series on bookshops around the world that academics should visit, former City University London and McGill University student Jax Jacobsen shares her favourite bookshops in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. If there’s a bookshop that you think other students and academics should visit when they’re undertaking research or visiting a city for a conference, find more information about contributing below.
Halifax is a tiny city of 370,000, perched on the edge of the North Atlantic and far removed from the Canadian metropolises of Montreal and Toronto. But this vibrant port locale has a thriving arts scene and is home to a host of universities, including Dalhousie University, well-known for its excellent academic standards and specialization in marine and maritime studies. It should be no surprise then that Halifax would boast a number of charming bookstores.
Bookmark is located on the main drag of Spring Garden, and although it is tiny in size contains a wealth of locally-produced literature and nonfiction. Maritime-based writers are no stranger to Bookmark, and the works of esteemed Maritime authors Alistair Macleod, Donna Morrissey, and Kathleen Winter occupy a prominent place in the store. Its shelves also contain a sizable selection of philosophy and literary criticism, and little to no room for the New York Times ‘bestsellers’ that normally appear in bookstore chains.
Large bookstores – independent or chain – don’t have much of a presence in Halifax, with the largest bookstore Chapters sitting on the outskirts of town near the Halifax Shopping Center. Instead, downtown Halifax and its environs are home to several used bookstores, each with their own distinct identity. Trident, a very fitting moniker for a near-seaside location, sits on Lower Hollis just blocks away from Halifax Harbour, and is filled to the brim with hard-to-find authors and odd collections. It is in Trident that I found such divergent works as A.L. Kennedy’s Paradise: A Novel, and Remedies and Rituals: Folk Medicine in Norway and the New Land. This little nook in the South End of Halifax has a tiny café with several tables available, and strict signs barring patrons from using laptops at these stations. It’s not unusual for a crowd to gather here early Sunday afternoons to read newspapers and new (old) books picked up from Trident’s stacks, while enjoying these with coffee and conversation with fellow patrons.
Another used book store, located even further to the south of the peninsula, is Schooner Books. This used bookstore is very clearly part of a still lived-in house, but has a wealth of choices on regional issues, be it maritime history, Arctic exploration and Aboriginal affairs; it also holds the complete works of revered Canadian explorer-author Farley Mowat, among others. Schooner Books also has a vast amount of hard-to-find tomes of early Canadian history, accounts of new settlers in the frozen North, and first-run copies of English literary standards.
Though not a bookstore – and not yet open – Halifax’s brand new central library also deserves a mention. The sprawling three-floor, glass-enclosed, avant-garde design comprises 108,740 square feet, and will have a collection of 315,000 items, with two cafes, a grand hall, meeting rooms and a rooftop terrace. Evelyn C. White, who spent ten years writing Alice Walker: A Life, pointed to the new library as the reason she relocated from California to Halifax. Any city which spent that much on a new library – projected costs are C$4.3 million – is a worthy city to live in, she said at a recent library event.
Jax Jacobsen is a journalist, currently covering the Canadian and African mining sectors for SNL Financial. Prior to this, she served as Managing Editor for web-based news service Central Asia Newswire, covering daily economic and political news emerging from the region. She holds a masters in International Journalism from City University London and completed a masters at McGill University in political science, focusing on the crackdown of religious splinter groups in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. Jax tweets @jaxjacobsen. Read more reviews by Jax.
Do you have a favourite bookshop? If there’s a bookshop that you think other students and academics should visit when they’re undertaking research or visiting a city for a conference, then now’s your chance to tell us all about it.
As part of a new weekly feature on LSE Review of Books, we’re asking academics and students to recommend their favourite two or three bookshops in a particular city, with the aim of building an exciting online series for our book-loving community of readers the world over.
Bookshops could be academic, alternative, foreign language, hobby-based, secret or underground institutions, second hand outlets, or connected to a university. We’d like to cover all world regions too.
If something comes to mind, we’re looking for around 100 words per bookshop, detailing why this place is a must-see. Our editorial team can then find suitable photos and links to accompany the piece, though you’re welcome to supply these too. We only ask that you focus on just one city or region, and two or three bookshops within it.
Email us now if you’d like to contribute: firstname.lastname@example.org