Montréal and the French language are inextricably linked. You cannot have Quebecois without the city, and you cannot imagine the city without the pervasive French language. This was not always the case. The city was once the center of English Canadian influence, and the Quebecois overtook Quebecers as the primary population in the city only after centuries of being delegated as secondary citizens and backcountry yokels. Today, both French and English are spoken in the city, bilingually by most of the population. The richer neighborhoods are still largely Anglophone (although almost always described as anglophone, and not English speaking).
However, because of the size of the French speaking population, there is a surfeit of English-language-focused independent bookstores. The Word, Westcott Books, Ascott (TK) a few in Rosemont. And, hidden in the hip, young, and quickly gentrifying neighborhood of Mile End, past the Jewish bookstores serving the large Hasidic community and a block up from the famous Montreal Bagel shops on St. Viateur, you’ll find Drawn and Quarterly.
Drawn and Quarterly is the only independent book store in the area that sells new books. The store could be split in two in function and topic - on the left hand, going in, you’ll find new fiction, literary essays, and nonfiction. There’s poetry, drama, plays. On the tables, artfully arranged, you’ll find the same bestsellers as you would from an independent store in New York or London. On the right, you find the raison detre for the shop’s name: rows and rows of graphic novels colorfully aligned pop out to greet you.
Drawn and Quarterly is only the store front for a larger business, that of independently publishing graphic novels and comics. Started in 1990 by a 23-year-old Montrealer named Chris Oliveros, it is the largest publisher in Canada, and the store is their only physical space, excepting a brand-new (September, 2017) store for children's literature across the street and a block down. The store was founded in 2008, and now hosts several events a week, as well as having a small stage for workshops on bookbinding and for the occasional band. (For more prominent authors, D&Q often rent out local venues, like they did recently for Zadie Smith).
The store is small; you can peruse the tables slowly in under ten minutes. However, like all great book shops, this would be a mean and ill-advised feat. The selection is incredible - the essays, some published by Drawn and Quarterly (who occasionally deviate from the drawn medium) and literature section are fantastic, with the normal 15% staff-curated shelf, and the comic and graphic novels practically beg to be opened and perused. Alas, there is a shortage of chairs, and there's no coffee shop. If you want to read a book while doing work over coffee, you can always buy one. Discounts are given for residents of the neighborhood, and there's a monthly book club which is also discounted. The last three months have featured a book on a Japanese lesbian's experience with loneliness, a retreat by a Korean couple into the country, and a young boy's brush with magic and resinking ships. All of them were fantastically written.
In short, if you're in the area, pop in, peruse, and don't expect to leave without a book. Or three.