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Adventures in Writing, Reading & Book Culture

Berlin #3: Used-Book Buying

Books from Berlin

I noted five used book shops in Berlin. I printed out maps of their locations. I noted opening & closing times. The bookstores were in different areas of Berlin, so we would get a many-faceted view of this capital city.

Our first shop was Fair Exchange (Dieffenbachstrasse), south of the city center. The owners are German, but most of the shop is filled with English language books, mostly fiction. We needed to walk a bit after getting out of the U-bahn. We walked through a residential neighborhood with lots of trees.

The storefront shops were mostly open on this Saturday, and the cafés were hopping with people getting good seats for the soccer match between Germany and Argentina. Outdoor benches reached onto the street, in view or two and sometimes three big-screen tv’s. We were in the bookshop when the game began, and the atmosphere was festive and beery and very German.

I had made a list of books I was looking for. Fair Exchange had all but three of them. I was amazed, but very happy, as I’d been looking for these titles for awhile. At a few euros per book, the price was cheap. Asia climbed the store’s ladder, searching for psych books and all the titles she had in mind, but came away with the satisfaction that she spotted four of the books that I had on my list.

As we retreated through these same streets, the football watchers were restless, beery, and sitting on the edges of their seats. As we got ice cream cones at a completely empty shop (if a cafe or other food shop didn’t have a television, it also had no customers), the German side scored a goal, and you could hear half the city explode with cheer.

Our next shop was East of Eden. This is a good name for this huge shop, because it sits in what was the deepest part of East Berlin. And the deepest part of East Berlin is nothing like walking Unter der Linden near the Brandenberg Gate Starbuck’s shop. At first we thought we’d gone to hell. But then the area sort of grew on us. At least, we didn’t run through the streets.

East of Eden also has a huge selection of books, and here I found a few more titles. Asia bought one, an Erica Jong novel from the 80s. We walked back to the S-bahn and took a nice direct route back toward the center.

On Monday we split up for a couple hours to do some individual exploration/shopping. I visited Books in Berlin while Asia stayed around the Ku’dam shopping district. On the way, it was a long walk, I got hungry and stopped at a Chinese noodle shop for a spicy soup with pork, and a beer.

noodle soup & beer At Books in Berlin, a much smaller shop, I met the owner, a guy from Boston who’d been living in Berlin for 16 years. He said that 50 percent or more of his business came from internet sales. “No one comes into the shop to much, anymore,” he said. The prices in this shop seemed outrageous, but the owner told me that those were the internet prices, and I could make him an offer. On a book, “The Quincunx” that listed for 11 euros, I got him to take 4 euros.

We talked awhile about the German economy, what’s happened/happening in America, and the future of the world, and it was interesting for me to get the perspective of an expat who’d been gone for so long. Then I split. There wasn’t enough interesting titles in his shop to warrant a return trip with Asia, so we did our other things for some of the day.

Later, we wanted to go to one last shop, Another Country, which was a bit of a transit jumble to get there. But along the way we stopped at a street café for a beer and pit stop. German beers are always good. I drank many weissen beer while there, and they kept me moving in the general direction of the desired route. So then we found Another Country, and found that it was closed. The owner must have been out of town for a holiday. Bummer. This was the last bookstore I had hopes of finding a couple of books on lit crit I’ve been searching for for a few months.

Time to call I guess.

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