Best Of: Montreal Bookstores [Part 2]

Your Favourite Intrepid Page-Hunter is Back and Pretending to Read

Scott Moodie is the owner of The Word Bookstore Photo Ivan de Jacquelin

In this second rendition of my bookstore review column, I review The Word Bookstore, Encore Books and Records and Librairie le port-de-tête. I also spend my entire summer honourarium on books.


The Word Bookstore: 11/10

469 Rue Milton

At the entrance, newspaper articles praising the authenticity of this nook line the wall. A headline from 2015 stands out: “The Word turns 40—but looks way older.” This shop indeed has a very distinctive old bookstore atmosphere that makes you want to stay and scour the shelves. 

The shop is quite small, but its walls are filled with books from floor to ceiling, covering every era between Ancient Greece and the 21st century. 

Encore Books and Records: 8/10

5670 Sherbrooke St W.

Upon walking in, the first thing that jumps out is the rock and roll playing near the cash register. The second thing is the smell of old books radiating from the rows and rows of used novels, anthologies, plays, and philosophical writings. It truly feels like stepping into a record shop from the 70s. Books are stacked in piles on top shelves, organized in rows by category. The vast majority of titles are second-hand, but there is a small bookshelf of new volumes.

Librairie le port-de-tête: 8/10

262 avenue du Mont-Royal Est

I found this bookstore by accident as I was strolling on Avenue Mont-Royal and procrastinating on my research paper. 

What's special about Librairie le port-de-tête is that it has three locations on the same street: one that sells graphic novels and children’s books; a second that features poetry, literature and theatre; and a third that focuses on philosophy, sciences and humanities. The third one was my favourite, so I will only review the locale specializing in the sciences.

The interior of Librairie le port-de-tête Photo Sophie Dufresne


The Word Bookstore: 9/10

This shop has shelves of books costing $1. My friend threw me Civil War In France: The Paris Commune by Karl Marx and V.I. Lenin and said: “You’re welcome. It’s only $1.” It was the first time I got such an ancient copy of a book for cheaper than the original price printed on its cover.

I was also pleasantly surprised to find a $10 copy of a 1946 black & gold hardcover edition of The Collected Poems of Hart Crane. I have no idea who Hart Crane is, but the book looks beautiful on my bookshelf, right next to all my other ancient volumes from famous and lesser-known authors. 

Encore Books and Records: 10/10 

This was the cheapest bookstore I’ve ever been to. The cookbook I got for my dad’s birthday was $6.95 here and listed as $41.20 on Amazon. Sure, it’s second-hand, but only the cover is slightly worn down at the edges. 

Many books here are priced at $6.95, which is very inexpensive for hardcover poetry books (take it from an expert at spending money on poetry anthologies). The 485-page hardcover of Jean-Paul Sartre’s selected writings was $9.95—I don’t think you can find this for cheaper anywhere else, especially since it’s a 1965 first printing. I deserve an award for this find, and Encore deserves an award for making this kind of literature, usually reserved for the elite, finally accessible to the working class. 

Librairie le port-de-tête: 6/10

Though they mostly sell new books, with prices in line with Amazon’s fairly high rates, their used books are around $4.

On the cheaper end for new books was a $9 French copy of Towards A Scientific Analysis of the Gay Question, which was originally published in 1975 in response to the open homophobia that was still present in the American anti-revisionist movement at the time. 


The Word Bookstore: 8/10

This shop is first and foremost an academic bookstore that sells used books and textbooks. They organize their products by literary genre, but have small sections devoted to minority communities. Their philosophy books are mostly Western, but they have  small Chinese history and Indigenous culture sections. 

Encore Books and Records: 8/10

Encore sells almost as many French books as it sells English books, and the philosophy section is rich in French philosophers, with several works in their original language and translated versions. I haven’t seen such a well-mastered English-French balance in any other Montreal bookstore. 

There was Black and Asian representation in many sections, notably on the poetry shelves, and the cashier clarified that they also have a Black studies section and a Black anthology section.

Librairie le port-de-tête: 8.5/10

According to my notes app, my first remark was “they have almost an entire bookshelf dedicated to Plato, which is a little overboard in my opinion.” They redeemed themselves with a feminist section that was very inclusive of queer and trans voices and featuring a pleasantly surprising amount of Quebecois writers. 

This store featured many books about anti-capitalism written by Black authors. Despite needing more Indigenous books, I found this bookstore to be one of the few francophone bookstores with ample representation of marginalized communities.


The Word Bookstore: 9.5/10

To give an idea of how committed they are to their vintage aesthetic, they only accept cash. Thankfully, there is an ATM machine in the corner store across the street and the employees will hold books for the time it takes to run to the ATM and back.

Encore Books and Records: 9/10

Forever in love with this bookstore—it also helps that they have copies of The Link on display next to the entrance! Then again, so does The Word…

Librairie le port-de-tête: 8/10

The philosophy locale is under renovations until Oct. 10, but although their prices were a little discouraging, I would recommend it for the large variety of books.