Bookshops in Berlin

(1) Mitte Kollwitzkiez Prenzlauer Berg.

There were several areas of Berlin we went to that struck me as places I’d love to live and this area would have to be top of the list.

The first bookshop we went to was St George’s English Bookshop.

Can’t recommend this place too highly. It has an excellent selection of stock, both new and secondhand with a special emphasis on local. This is the place to buy English translations of German books. I’m in the middle of one now: Going to the Dogs by Erich Kästner. It has nice seating and a really good feel to the place.

If only Geneva had such a place. We did have a specialist English bookshop, but most people here would rather support Amazon than a local bookshop. Thankfully Berlin doesn’t seem to have this disease.

Next we went to Shakespear & Sons. This has much smaller holdings than St George’s. On the other hand, it is a delightful place to pass the time with inviting arrangements of sofas, tables and chairs. You can also eat here and I am told the bagels are splendid – unfortunately sampling them will be the onerous task of another visit.

Finally over this side of town we dropped in on Mundo Azul.

This is a specialist children’s bookshop for many languages including English. We were there so Manny could shop for books to develop his fledgling German. There are areas for small children to occupy themselves, but fortunately some adult sized seating as well. I knitted, Manny shopped. After all, at the yarn shops he read while I shopped. There was a nice balance to our day.

This is by no means an end to the bookshops in the area, but it was what we planned for the day.

(2) Kreuzberg Bermannkiez area.

This is another area with a vast array of bookshops. Unexpectedly, it was a not-for-profit shop we found to be the best.

Berliner Büchertisch is a spotless, large bookshop with an excellent assortment of stock. It is predominantly German, but it had a good English section. We went to their shop at Gneisenaustraße 7a. They have another large shop a few minutes’ walk away, but it was closed, being a Monday.

We were disappointed with the other bookshops we went to in this part of town. One was Fair Exchange which unfortunately had a relatively small and unappealing selection of stock. I do wonder if that isn’t because it is competing with both Berliner Büchertisch and Another Country. The latter is large and ramshackle. It is the furthest removed from spotless of anywhere I went in Berlin. Not to put too fine a point upon it, we didn’t stay for long. It seemed to be very popular, lots of people in there browsing away. I gather it is a veritable institution in Berlin. Enough said!

There were two shops we intended to visit in this area and decided we didn’t have time for: Perquod Books and The Curious Fox. The former is a multilingual shop, the latter is English books, new and secondhand. I look forward to visiting these next time!

So it’s Sunday. The bookshops are all shut, no Sunday trading in this part of the world. What do you do for your bookshopping fix? The answer is flea markets. We went to one here:

It was raining and we didn’t idle, but nonetheless there were German books to be had for a few euros apiece and some English too. This is an area stacked with bookshops which will be for another trip. I love the look of Cafe Tasso which, being a cafe, opens on Sunday as well as the rest of the week and Lesen und Lesen has caught my eye too. Merely to name a couple!

You’ve got the drift of this post? Berlin is a bookshopper’s paradise even if you are stuck, as I am, on English. I can envisage a time when the bookshops disappear here as they have in English speaking countries. Quite apart from the precariousness of having to rely on a population that doesn’t want Amazon warehouses to set the tone of a town, I wonder whether Berlin is able to support so many bookshops because it is a cheap city. I understand, however, that this has changed quite a lot over the last years and will continue to do so. One hopes it doesn’t become a wasteland like Fitzroy Street St Kilda, with many premises empty and the bookshops expelled by landlords who don’t care about the community and would rather have an empty premise than a bookshop paying a modest rent.

May Berlin never suffer from this plight.

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