Berlin’s Best Secondhand Bookstores

For the avid reader who loves dog-eared pages and tired dust jackets too much to wander into e-book territory, traveling can test not only one’s packing prowess but also one’s ability to predict the future. What if in the middle of a two-week trip, you need poetry but have only brought essays? What if, in a foreign land, you begin to crave dystopian young adult fiction, but all you have on hand is a four-volume foray into Indonesian military history? For the anachronistic English reader headed to Berlin, neither fretting, nor over-packing nor submitting to the e-book wave come in to play. Berlin, it turns out, is crawling with excellent bookstores, and many of them are overflowing with used English-language titles.

So, if you’re a traveler who needs to keep your nose in a book while wandering around Berlin, go on and get a train pass, start to pack and finalize your search for hotels. Your reading needs are about to be covered.

Saint George’s

Saint George’s is a new and used English-language bookstore founded by twin brothers that sits in the heart of Berlin’s Prenzlauer Berg neighborhood. Brothers Paul and Daniel claim to have the largest collection of new and used English language books in all of Berlin — and maybe, all of Germany. They’ll order anything that isn’t in stock, and if it’s before 5 p.m., they’ll have it in hand the next day. Customers can sell their used books to get store credit or cash, and Saint George’s takes payment in U.S. dollars, British pounds, Australian dollars and Euros.

Pequod Books

Pequod Books is definitely an international bookstore, with used titles in English, French, Italian, Spanish, Turkish, Polish, German, Dutch and Swedish. Much of what its proprietor, Alvaro Gonzalez, offers by way of selection is more traditional than some of the other bookstores on this list, but when you want to compare the dialogue in “Moby Dick” to that in “Middlemarch,” that sort of specialty is useful. One great feature is that no book costs more than six euros.

Shakespeare and Sons

Shakespeare and Sons is located in the Prenzlauer Berg neighborhood of Berlin and has a wide assortment of new and used French and English titles. As a store, they work hard to cover every genre, but their noteworthy specialty has to be their fantastic selection of Eastern European literature available in English. The space is small, and they encourage browsing. If you’re a graphic novel fan, each title is presented cover out. One word of caution: If you’re looking for a lazy Sunday afternoon to-do that features a bookstore outing, head elsewhere; Shakespeare and Sons will be closed.

Another Country

This secondhand bookstore is used more as a library than a traditional bookshop these days. With around 20,000 books on hand, customers are invited to buy or borrow. Simply pay for the book and when you bring it back to the store, you’ll get your original purchase price back, minus a 1.5 euro charge. You can also go the more traditional route and keep the title; the choice is yours. The store also hosts events and salon-type activities from readings to film nights and discussion groups. Rumor has it that their science fiction section is second to none, and since Another Country’s owner is British, it’s probably true.

Fair Exchange

Fair Exchange was Berlin’s first used English-language bookstore. Started in 1984 by two young English teachers named Susan and Paula, who literally started with five books and a sign asking people to let them sell their books, Fair Exchange now has a collection of around 20,000 English and German titles. Located in Kreuzberg, the atmosphere at the store is small and cozy, and the shop is well-organized. You can browse while you enjoy a cup of coffee or tea. Susan and Paul have overseen the purchase of every title and have worked hard to ensure they only have high-quality offerings at affordable prices, so you may be in there a while.

Berlin has more bookstores per capita than any other German city. If you’re an English-language reader who loves secondhand books and tends to over pack because of it, some time spent in Berlin will afford you plenty of packing room and excellent reads.

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