Berlin is fondly known for its thriving international culture amid traditional German establishments. Moving here two years ago, I knew I would be able to find books in English, but it took me a while to feel out Berlin’s literary scene well enough to know where to wander for a book that would interest me. I eventually made friends who after one quick conversation with me would say, “I know a place you’ll like,” but it was hard to depend on other people for something that, to me, is as necessary as water. Internationals, suffer no longer! I present to you my Guide to Berlin’s English Book Spots. (Hang in there for some library tips!)
Lucy Caldwell’s These Days was at Shakespeare & Sons almost straight after its release. (Credit: Luiza Zanardi)
Shakespeare & Sons is a staple for literary fiction (also known as litfic) readers in the city, and a top destination for bagels! The shelves house big name novels in modern writing as well as up-and-coming or lesser known authors, with sections for hardcover and paperback new releases, non-fiction, poetry, and even drama. Bring your laptop during the weekdays for a prime study location on the long benches or solo tables—or just grab a book and take a seat to enjoy the lively yet cozy atmosphere.
What fewer people know about Shakespeare & Sons, is that all their bagel goodness (as well as first-come first-serve challah loaves and chocolate babkas) comes from a Jewish family business. Per their website, they bake “because eating a hot bagel and schmear every morning is not a privilege, it’s a birthright.” Find their Jewish books section right by the cashier, housing delectable volumes like The Jewish Cookbook, by Leah Koenig—yum!
Best for: Literary fiction and new fiction, especially when you’re willing to spend a prettier penny for a beautiful volume. Try their carrot cake and horseradish spread!
Recommendation: Old School, by Tobias Wolff (should be sung as a writerly classic)
Address: Warschauer Str. 74, 10243
#klimaoffensiv (Credit: Luiza Zanardi)
Located close to Senefelderplatz —almost on our doorstep!—St. George’s is another Belin staple and perhaps its best-known secondhand English bookshop. When in St. George’s, expect to lose yourself in the shelves of volumes old and young, pages yellowed and brand new. The books are laid out by genre. In their fiction section, I’ve found books as classic as Flaubert’s Madame Bovary as well as the little-known favorite We Only Saw Happiness, by Grégoire Delacourt. They also have extensive young adult, travel, world history, politics, and law sections, among many others. St. George’s is about taking a gamble on books, which is made easy by the low, low prices this secondhand Buchhandlung offers!
Best for: Browsing little-known fiction, or looking for political, social, and cultural theory books—their collection of those is large and well-versed.
Recommendation: How to Blow Up a Pipeline, by Andreas Malm (#klimaoffensiv)
Address: Wörther Str. 27, 10405
Dussmann lights and books are magic year-round. (Credit: Frank Fujimoto)
Dussmann’s four-tiered locale in Friedrichstrasse is a site of peregrination for all book-buyers in Berlin. Although it isn’t an independent bookshop, Dussmann’s English Bookshop within the city center can hardly be left out of any itinerary when it comes to buying books, as they have some volumes you won’t be able to find anywhere else in the city. Besides their large inventory, including an irresistible classics section with beautiful versions of beloved books, Dussmann has the advantage of cushy seats and opening hours until midnight on weekdays. More than once I have made the trip to be among books in the quiet sanctuary of the English Bookshop, and I would advise you to do the same.
Best for: Keeping up with the newest and freshest releases in literary fiction, philosophy, and political theory.
Recommendation: Maus, by Art Spiegelmann (from their graphic novel section!)
Address: Friedrichstraße 90, 10117
Mieko Kawakami’s Breasts and Eggs is my most recent buy from Love Story of Berlin! (Credit: Luiza Zanardi)
Love Story of Berlin is by Schwederstrasse, less than 30 minutes from campus! The bookshop is a small laden in the lively Kastanienallee, which has more bars and charmings small shops than any of us could count. Don’t let its size fool you though—Love Story of Berlin has a little bit of everything, with sections for poetry, young adult, feminism, and non-fiction, besides the shelves for lit-fic (from where I recently fished Mieko Kawakami’s Breasts and Eggs). My favorite part of Love Story is the novelty area that sprawls onto the sidewalk. They have heaps of stickers, temporary tattoos, adorable design cards, novelty lighting, calendars, and tote bags. (One I have been trying to decipher reads, “Twitter is not Bertolt Brecht.” Did anyone say it was?)
Best for: a quick browse for litfic staples, or to exercise some self-control over their adorable charms and quips.
Recommendations: All Adults Here, by Emma Straub (an easy but insightful read)
Address: Kastanienallee 88
This magazine my friend bought has in it an adorable poem about blanket forts that inspired me to go back to my childhood and build one myself. (Credit: Luiza Zanardi)
If you want to change it up, you can’t go wrong with do you read me?! They describe themselves as a “small shop with a hand-picked selection of books & magazines on fashion, art, architecture & more.” Though the place is also pretty small, tucked into a sidestreet in Hackescher Markt, the collection is both as wide as Love Story and large as St. George’s. They have a full and fascinating section of travel books, Fitzcarraldo editions, and literary quarterlies and journals. If you’re into cookbooks, this is also your place to look.
Best for: investment buys or magazine-finding!
Recommendations: (magazine Sarah bought that other time)
Address: Auguststraße 28, 10117
I couldn’t choose between these two books from my visit, but luckily my partner offered to buy me one so I could get both! (Credit: Luiza Zanardi)
She Said is a favorite of Berlin’s international community—and yet a place which I had not visited until writing this article. She Said is a bookstore that sells exclusively woman and queer authors in a spacious bookshop-café space. The environment is colorful and cozy, perfect to sit down and take a closer look at what you’re browsing. To attempt to describe all that can be found in these shelves would be a fool’s errand: beyond women’s fiction and feminist theory, She Said also has a children’s books section, poetry, art & zines, gender theory, ecological texts, cookbooks, anti-racist theory, and then all of that in German editions. If your goal is supporting non-cismasc voices in all fields of publishing (and shouldn’t it be?) She Said must be on your itinerary.
Best for: obviously, books by women and queer folks, but particularly if you’re looking for interesting non-fiction.
Recommendation: The School for Good Mothers, by Jessamine Chan
Address: Kottbusser Damm 79, 10967
This big library has a lot to explore. (Credit: Gunnar Klack)
The Amerika-Gedenkenbibliotek might not be a Buchhandlung like the rest of the places listed here, but it is a gem for literature in English that seems somewhat hidden from the eyes of BCB’s readers so far. (I, for one, didn’t know it after a year of living here, until my book guru, third year student Sarah Wolbach, took me there on a slow summer day.) One of the biggest libraries in the entire city, this library allows members to check out up to fifty items at a time: not only books, but also magazines, language books, films, and more. This particular branch was co-financed by a donation from the United States, so it houses consecrated names of English-speaking literature, like Alice Munro and William Faulkner, but I have seen many new volumes on its shelves.The library also has space for studying and sitting down to read, so come with time!
The mystery here is evident, and it’s time to solve it: how does one procure a library card to have access to all this? If you do it in person, it’s as simple as showing up to the info desk at any Berlin Stadtbibliothek (city library) and asking the clerk to make you a card. They will need a form of ID, which you can provide through your residence permit card or passport. Make sure to bring your student ID too—there is a fee to open an account, but it is reduced to just 5 euros for students!
(Alternatively, hit up Philip-Schaeffer Bibliothek, right at Rosenthaler Platz with a much smaller selection that makes do on a tight schedule.)
Best for: browsing during a time when you can read a lot!
Recommendations: Dear Life, by Alice Munro, and These Ghosts Are Family, by Maisy Card
Address: Blücherpl. 1, 10961
With all these options and resources right at our fingertips, it’s a shame if any English speaker isn’t basking in all the glory of Berlin’s English book scene. Though literature lovers and people with a saved penny for books will enjoy it the most, even just these starter places should make anyone able to enjoy a day of book-hopping to find your perfect fit—EPST to HAST, above and beyond! Choose your adventure now and get ready to cozy up with a volume as a break from the semester in Berlin’s (sometimes lovely, sometimes rainy, always cozy) Fall weather.