Berlin’s steep literary tradition and history is reflected in the sheer number and rich diversity of the city’s bookshops – no list of them could ever be exhaustive or complete. However, we’ve narrowed it down to the top five bookshops for the Anglophone expatriate.
do you read me ?! (photo by Achim Hatzius)
Auguststraße 28, 10117 Mitte – 030 6954 9695
Yes, you do – even if you usually don’t include magazines in your reading material, the assorted selection of do you read me?!will have something to offer you. Content is king at this neatly packed Mitte location for the creative, attracting flocks of devoted regulars and traveling curious with their great variety of international contemporary magazines, journals and readings. Hip, obscure, academic, gallant, gorgeous, delish: this hub for aficionados of design, fashion, photography, art, architecture, culture, society, and even cooking will have your coveted cover in stock or order it for you.
Saint George’s Bookshop
Wörther Straße 27, 10405 Prenzlauer Berg – 030 81798 333
While catering to the academic expatriates around the Kollwitz-Kiez, Saint George’s draw is simply their largest selection of new & used English language books in Berlin, pulling people from beyond P-Berg’s borders. While they specialize (mostly in publishers, genres, translations and writers they like), they’re neither stuck-up nor ironic about it. Everything can be ordered, express if need be. They ship internationally, if you don’t want to lug your purchases back home overseas, and for the traveling-strapped-for-cash type, they do buy back used books or even trade them in. Berlin is not New York, but here they do accept your credit card, as well as US and Aussie dollars or pounds Sterling. More extras: occasional readings, couches in the back, WiFi.
3. Motto Berlin
Skalitzer Straße 68, 10997 Kreuzberg – 030 4881 6407
This was the first bookshop of the Motto Distribution company, specializing in zines and fanzines, international publications, small-press prints and self-published items. Their distribution network includes over 150 publishers, and they’re especially skilled in finding back issues or out of print stuff for you. Among the array of fanzines, art books, posters, cult items and rare print runs at their Berlin location is the occasional mystery piece where even the staff have no clue where it came from. Motto collaborates with institutions and libraries and have an intense schedule of exhibitions, discussions, screenings, presentations and regular in-store events centered around publishing, art, graphic design, photography, typography and all things related.
Bergmannstraße 25, 10961 Kreuzberg – 030 6950 5117
Proclaimed Germany’s number one bookshop for sci-fi, fantasy and horror, Otherland carries nearly all German publications in these three genres as well as material associated with movies, TV shows and games. Their English language selection is impressive as well, with both established genre classics and new writers. The staff are eager to chat with you about all things Otherland in German or English, but won’t pester you if come to bury your nose in a book. The store hosts the monthly gatherland, a SF & fantasy book club.
Schönleinstraße 31, 10967 Kreuzberg – 030 6273 5111
One of Berlin’s most popular boutique bookshops, Dialogue Books in gentrified Graefekiez is run by London expatriate Sharmaine Lovegrove, who lovingly curated the store’s eclectic selection of English books ranging from fiction, philosophy, art theory, cookbooks, and children’s books. They boast “a deep knowledge of non-fiction,” so this is the place to go if you’re looking for French philosophers translated into English. A book club and monthly events provide more than just satisfying your reading habit.
No map since Dialogue Books has since then closed its shop and is only selling books online.
La Rayuela – For the Spanish Expatriates
Südstern 2, 10961 Kreuzberg – 030 4401 3293
With the ever-swelling ranks of the Spanish community in Germany’s capital at an all time high, la libreria universal hispana fills a void none too early. Browse Spanish literature classics, pick up course and grammar books, sign up for a language exchange or let the café anderswo (which is part of the bookshop) round out your Spanish experience con café y tapas.
Mundo Azul (photo by Sonja Danowski)
Mundo Azul – Multi-lingual children’s books
Choriner Straße 49, 10435 Prenzlauer Berg – 030 4985 3834
Nowhere else in the city is the immigrant population as diverse as in P-Berg, and this delightful bookshop specializes in multi-lingual children’s books. Aiming to provide Berlin’s bilingual families with books (and schoolbooks) in their native language, they stock titles in Spanish, Italian, English, French and German. Mundo Azul also organizes readings, events and creative workshops for bilingual children, parents, and teachers, including exhibitions of children’s books illustrators.
Neurotitan – Comics & Graphic Novels
Rosenthalerstraße 39, 10178 Mitte – 030 3087 2576
Berlin’s comic bookshops would warrant a whole list of its own. Neurotitan deserves a mention here because as part of the Haus Schwarzenberg (an ongoing project warding off gentrification which in itself is worth a visit), they do have their own gallery and artshop. Supporting artists ranging between experiment, subculture and established, the Neurotitan bookshop features small print runs and self-published items next to graphic novels by established artists and publishers.
This article was first published in May 2013 on Untapped Cities. It has since then not been updated to reflect Berlin’s changed landscape of bookshops. However, as of August 2016, all places are still operational.