Paul Sullivan rounds up some of the city’s best English (and some German) language bookstores…
A good chunk of its 20,000-odd books are for loan, not sale (bring a book back and the purchase price is refunded, minus €1.50), while about ten percent of stock functions as a reference library, available only to read in-shop.
Add to all that its considerable other life as a social club, and its curious owner herself…
Riemannstraße 7, 10961 Berlin, T: 030 69401160, Open: 11-20 Mon-Fri; 11-16 Sat.
Officially a second-hand bookshop specialising in cookbooks, Bibliotheca Culinaria is a bit more than that. Comprising a private collection of around 15,000 books, the store is run by the collectors themselves – Swen Kernemann-Mohr and Johannes Mohr – who invite you to browse the large selection of rarities and curiosities and leaf through whatever you like on the antique sofa. A whole wall is reserved just for cookbooks out of the GDR (former East Germany) and there’s a small English selection too.
Zehdenicker Straße. 16, 10119 Berlin, T: 030 4737 7570. Open 11-19 Tue-Fri; 11-16 Sat.
Started by American David Solomon in 1993, this intimate store hosts mainly the vast collection of American and British literature he’s amassed over the several decades of living and working in Berlin. The store has new and used books (you can trade your books for the ones in the store), ranging from obscure cult sci fi tomes to the latest bestseller. The store also serves as a language school and hosts readings by local writers and poets.
Goethestrasse 69, Charlottenburg, 10625 Berlin, T: 030 3131 233. Open: Mon-Fri 12-20, Sat 10-16
Founded by graphic designer Mark Kiessling and professional bookseller Jessica Reitz in 2009, the L-shaped space Do You Read Me!? stocks an international array of magazines as well as art books, coffee table tomes, lesser known periodicals, obscure zines and regular books, covering everything from art, culture and fashion to photography, design, architecture and politics. If you want to take a seat and glance through one of the journals in comfort you’re welcome to use one of the several white Eames chairs placed in the corners of the shop.
Auguststraße 28, 10117 Berlin, T: 030 6954 9695. Open 10am-7.30pm Mon-Sat.
Ebert und Weber is a lovely little store that stocks mostly books from small and independent publishers that have experienced such a boom here in the past decade, but are nearly completely unrepresented in shops. Best of all, the shelves are organized by publisher, which will help you make sense of their various programs and understand the titles in their context. These young publishers’ striking, innovative approach to cover design means that a trip to Ebert and Weber is also always a visual treat. A back room offers a small but intelligent English-language selection.
Falckensteinstr. 44, 10997 Berlin-Kreuzberg, T: 030-69 56 51 93. Open: Mon-Fri 9.30 19; Sat 10-16
Originally called Buchexpress, English Books is found right next door to the English Institute of the Free University. Containing mostly new books, with around a third of the space devoted to second-hand, the intimate, characterful shop specialises educational books such as learning (and teaching) English, literary and linguistic theory and history, but also stocks a decent selection of general fiction and non-fiction and also children’s books. Owner Peter Michael Schuer was one of the store’s co-founders in 1977 and still works here, helping visitors out with advice and the store also offers English language courses.
Unter den Eichen 96, 12205 Berlin, T: 030 831 4004. Open: Mon-Fri 10-18, Sat 10-13
This two-roomed shop in Kreuzberg is a handsome jumble of second-hand English and German books covering crime and academia to rare hardbacks and limited editions. With over 20,000 books in stock, there’s a very good chance they’ll have something for you – even better, a lot of the unwanted fodder has already been rooted out by the American teacher-owners. The atmosphere is homey and charming, and includes cups of tea to sustain longer browsing sessions.
Dieffenbachstraße 58, 10967 Berlin, T: 030 694 4675. Open 11-19 Mon-Fri; 10-18 Sat.
This publisher-operated gallery and bookshop tucked away in Sophie-Gips-Höfe holds regular publication parties and presentations. The aesthetic focus attracts a young international, mostly black-clad crowd of students and greybeards with funky glasses who mingle throughout the two rooms over beer and wine.
The smaller room is used for changing exhibitions while beautifully produced books in the fields of art, architecture, typography and graphic design are on displayed in the main room.
Recent soirées have celebrated the best self-published photography books and explored the intersections of curating and design. Gestalten Space also offers graphic design and typography workshops.
Sophie-Gips-Höfe, Sophienstraße 2, 10178 Berlin, T: 030 2021 5821. Open: 12–19 Sun–Mon and Wed-Fri; 10–19 Sat.
Opened in 1929 by the eponymous Frau Schoeller, this West Berlin shop was once a focal point for West Berlin’s burgeoning literary scene, attracting esteemed international writers like Beckett, Hesse, Mann, Eliot, Auden and the members of Hans Werner Richter’s famed Gruppe 47. Though Schoeller passed away in ’78, her son and colleagues have continued her good work. The shop still sells mostly German-language books, but still maintains one of the best English book selections in Berlin, located in an alcove on the left as you enter.
Knesebeckstrasse 33, 10632 Berlin, T: 030 881 1112. Open 9.30am-7pm Mon-Wed; 9.30-20 Thur, Fri; 9.30-17 Sat.
Mundo Azul is a delightful Prenzlauerberg store specializing in multi-lingual children’s books. Aiming to provide bilingual families with books (including schoolbooks) from their home countries, they stock titles in Spanish, Italian, English, French and German. The shop also hosts readings, events and creative workshops for bilingual children, parents, and teachers – even exhibitions of children’s books illustrators.
Choriner Straße 49, 10435 Berlin, T: 030 49 85 38 34. Open: Mon. 10-18; Tue – Fri 10-19; Sat 10-16 (May – September), 11-18 October – April
Motto was started by Alexis Zavialoff around 2007, and initiated as a distribution company for Switzerland, specializing in magazines and fanzines, a service which hardly existed before on the Swiss territory.
Hidden away in a disused frame factory in a courtyard just off Schlesisches Tor, the gently-lit, all wood shop offers around 3,000 titles – a considered array of fanzines, art books, posters, rare print-runs and cult classics – across a long central table and in glass cabinets.
As a publisher and distributor, Motto stocks a lot of back issues of selected magazines, and a wide selection of artist publications. There are also regular book launches and events.
Skalitzer straße 68, 10997 Berlin, T: 030 7544 2119. Open 12-20 Mon-Sat.
Pequod stocks used books in English, French, Italian, Spanish, German, Dutch, Swedish, Turkish, Polish, Norwegian, Romanian and Danish, along with a handful of books in other languages. The bright, orderly shop is small-ish, but a second room will be opened in the coming months, nearly doubling the size of the store.
The selection leans strongly toward traditional classics, in part because owner Álvaro Sendra González does not speak all of the languages he offers, but also because, an artist by trade, he is still learning about the book business, and is building his stock up from a solid foundation. In the spirit of our low-cost city, no book in the shop costs more than €6. (Pequod will also buy used books).
Selchower Straße 33, 12049 Neukölln, 0152 55130374. Open: Mon – Sat: 14-19
This large and relatively new (2012) bookshop, with its oak-panelled interior, is the dream-child of local designer Martina Zeyen. The books are a mix of the old and the new, and there’s also comics, graphic novels and tomes on design and art.
There’s an English selection too, but it’s not quite as well-curated as the German stuff. There are also talks and concerts, readings and films – and you can order online on the store’s homepage.
Best of all is to visit though, especially as there’s a cosy in-store café where you can enjoy a coffee and baked goods.
Brunnenstraße 181 10119 Berlin, T: 030 9789 4592. Open: Mon-Sat 10-20
Just off the Rosa-Luxemburg Platz, this bright and spacious store has an overt design aesthetic, with its minimal interior, floods of natural light and artfully arranged clusters of books and magazines. Run by artist Katja Reichard and architecture professor Jesko Fezer, the store aims to present a sophisticated mix of new and used books alongside magazines and periodicals on architecture and art, design and cultural theory. English titles are available.
Almstadtstraße 48-50, 10119 Berlin, T: 030 2472 8520. Open 12-20 Mon-Sat
With around 30,000 books – 80% of which are used – St George’s is one of the longest-serving and comprehensive English language bookshops in the city. Located in the near-Parisian Kollwitzkiez, the shop especially prides itself on its rare and out-of-print collections, and holds an impressive number of translations from German into English of the likes of Tucholsky, Sebald, Fallada and Thomas Mann. The philosophy collection is top notch and you can also find magazine titles such as The New Yorker, The New York Review of Books, the London Review of Books, and n+1. There are also events, launches, readings and more.
Wörther Straße 27, 10405 Berlin, T: 030 81798333, Open: 11-20 Mon-Fri; 11-19 Sat
Highlights are Eastern European literature in English (including lots of titles from noteworthy Prague-based Twisted Spoon Press), a sizable French-language selection, a respectable graphic novel/comic book section with each book displayed cover-out (super-important for graphic browsing), and a substantial philosophy collection.
What’s more you can also relax in one of the many chairs and grab a delicious cup of coffee and a cake to help you while away an afternoon. Events, concerts and readings take place each month too.
Raumerstraße 36, 10437 Berlin, T: 030 4000 3685, Open 11-19 Mon-Sat
In summer 2011, the proprietors of the overstuffed Scheunenviertal magazine shop Do You Read Me?! opened this alluring outpost in the emerging Potsdamer Straße gallery district in Tiergarten. The luminous, uncluttered space offers passersby a quiet spot to pause and reflect.
A side room displays select art, design and cultural journals as well as books, but the most unusual treat is the stock of Reading Lists, favorite books and journals recommended by a mix of twenty-six creative personalities in the fields of art, design and culture.
The Reading Room hosts lectures, exhibitions and book launches as well as issue launches for diverse but uniformly gorgeous publications such as the UK-based art and literature journal The White Review and the dual-text urban-focus periodical Ein Magazine über Orte.
Potsdamerstraße 98, 10785 Berlin, T: 030 69549695. Open: 12–18 Thu-Sat
Genre fans can draw up a seat and enjoy a glass of wine under the gaze of the inflatable dragons gracing the shelves in the backroom of Otherland, named for Tad Williams’s cyberpunk fantasy series.
These two shops, just around the corner from each other, collaborate on events: crime and mystery authors, a mainstay of Hammett’s, sometimes read at the larger space at the sci-fi/fantasy-focused Otherland. Both keep a good stock of English books and regularly host readings in English. Recent readers include Stephen King spawn Joe Hill and Tad Williams himself.
Otherland, Bergmannstraße 25, 10961 Berlin, T: 030 69505117. Open: 11-19 Mon-Fri, 11-17 Sat.
Hammett Krimibuchhandlung, Friesenstraaße 27, 10965 Berlin, T: 030 6915834. Open: 10-20 Mon-Fri, 9-18 Sat.
Fronted by generous windows the interior consists of several rooms offering shelf upon shelf of art history, architecture, photography, design and philosophy.
There are also exhibition catalogues, coffee table books and some rarer publications too.
An der Museumsinsel, Burgstraße 27, 10178 Berli, T: 030 2576 0980. Open 10-20 Mon-Sat
Some of the information included in the article above was provided by Marian Ryan’s excellent round up of Berlin’s Live Lit Scene (which of course makes a nice companion piece to this one) – and from Amanda Demarco’s excellent literature and translation website Readux, which you can read more about here.