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Bookshop Bivar

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The Bookshop for your Erasmus

Published by Bernardo Nunes — one year ago

Bookshop Bivar is a second-hand English bookstore and cultural center located in the heart of Lisbon. Most books cost between 5 and 7 euros and genres you can find here are varied such as: general fiction, classics, sci fi and fantasy, non-fiction, crime & thrillers, poetry, plays, romantic novels and more. Here you can find various types of book clubs where people meet to discuss a topic related to literature. The bookshop also organizes creative writing courses with a British teacher.



If you live near Alameda or Saldanha, if you are desperate for some books in English, if you want to meet some book lovers and share ideas, or even if you do not match any of the descriptions made before, you should visit Bookshop Bivar.

Located on Rua Ponta Delgada 34A, it is near Alameda and Saldanha metro stations. The Bookshop is small, but very cozy and offers lots of activities. It was opened in 2014 by Leena Marjola, a Finnish accountant who moved to Lisbon and couldn’t find enough English books to satisfy her hunger for reading.

Among the many books you can find in the shop D. H. Lawrence's romances, J. K. Rowling's fantasy and drama books, a biography on Alan Turing, travel guides to Cuba, Cairo, India, Cape Verde and Poland, and many others are available. There are also some Finnish books in honor of the bookshop's owner. The bookshop also has a swapping policy. If you bring back the book(s) you bought at Bookshop Bivar, you will get some credit in exchange for you to buy other books from the same store.




The events organized by the bookshop are varied and focus on different topics. There are two classic book clubs - Bivar Book Club and LitLovers – where members read a book per month and gather to discuss it. The book for November’s Bivar Book Club is "The Sense of an Ending" by Julian Barnes. There is also a different kind of book club named The Book Raft in which participants gather to discuss, not a book, but to talk about a topic. You do not need to read anything, you can just join and have a conversation with the other members about the topic of the month. You can bring a quote, a poem or a song related to the topic to contribute to the discussion. Topics already explored include the connections between literature and love, death, doors, painting, body, food, Fernando Pessoa and others. If you would like more information on the Book Raft check out the webpage: BookshopBivar

Book Raft Experience

I went to a Book Raft event in October and the topic was about paintings and literature. We talked about how a painting can be a source of inspiration for a poem, such as Bruegel’s “Landscape with the Fall of Icarus” which influenced William Carlos Williams' poem with the same name. This also happened when Tennyson’s Arthurian legend poems influenced John William Waterhouse to paint “The Lady of Shalott”. I talked about how Ernest Hemingway wrote that he could understand paintings better when hungry in “A Moveable Feast”. Although there is only one topic for discussion, the approaches to it are varied as every person thinks in a different way and has different associations with the topic. We finished the Book Raft session by listening to Leonard Cohen’s “Take this Waltz”, as one of the participants made the connection between music, painting and literature. It was really nice to participate in the event.


Caption: The table where the Book Raft happened.

Creative Writing Courses

Bookshop Bivar also organizes Creative writing courses. The teacher is Michael Langan, a British University teacher who taught Creative Writing for over 15 years. He initiates people into the art of storytelling and creative writing through an intensive five weeks course where people experiment with different aspects of prose writing. Short stories are the main focus to develop fictional skills in form and in method, but you can apply what you learn to any other forms of writing.

A Way to Meet New People

Visitors of the bookshop are as varied as the books you can find there. The Bookshop becomes more than a store: it doubles as a cultural centre, a place to meet and connect with Portuguese and international people who love books. Everyone is welcome. People who come are interested in literature, they have different ages, backgrounds and nationalities, such as: Romania, United States of America, Canada, Italy, South Africa, and many others.

I discovered this store some years ago, I don’t remember how many. However, I have only bought one book from them some weeks ago. The book is Oscar Wilde's "The Picture of Dorian Gray". It cost me 4 € and is in very good condition. I had been reading some quotes and poems by this author, and read that this book had a good lesson. However, once I picked it up, I opened the first page and closed it again. I asked if I could give it back to the shop, but Paula, one of the people that work in the bookshop, convinced me to give it another go. She said the book is very good, and that she would not let me return it without having read at least 20 pages, just so you can see the love for words that she has, she would not have me missing the words of Oscar Wilde.

Visit them during the opening times or come to one of their cultural events. You can also visit their website for information and posts on literature here: here. I liked this one made by the owner on what bookshops are:

"Bookshops are time machines, spaceships, story-makers, secret-keepers, dragon-tamers, dream-catchers, fact-finders & safe places".

— Jen Campbell, The Bookshop Book


Check out my full article on Lisbon for more places and experiences!

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