“I have spent way too much money this month”, my friend Aidah said thoughtfully. I agreed with a nod she couldn’t see and we both crossed the street in the Prenzlauer Berg district, not sure where exactly we were headed.
“Look!”, she exclaimed out of nowhere, “a book store! Let’s go in.”
In front of the large window stood a row of tables with books that looked as if they had already been read at least once, laying there in neat rows. A board above the door read “Antiquarian”. We went inside, partly because we were curious whether we could find a new companion in the form of a book for sleepless nights and boring hours and partly because we wanted to escape the cold breeze outside. It was one of those moments when you tell yourself that you will just have a quick look and end up spending the rest of your life in there instead.
About a year ago I wrote about where to find cheap books in Berlin. I remember mentioning antiquarian bookshops but deep down I have never been sure whether I myself would ever find anything in there that would spark my interest. I have always imagined that second hand bookshops would mostly have classical works which, although I very much appreciate, I have trouble reading swiftly.
Now here we were in this little shop on Raumer Straße in Prenzlauer Berg and I felt as if I had found a piece of heaven on earth. In the middle of the room and to the right stood boxes full of LPs. The rest of the walls were behind old, wooden, full bookshelves that seemed to touch the ceiling. Aidah was already fully immersed in the contents of the first row of books she saw while I still paid attention to the smell of dust and age around us. The place seemed cozy and nostalgic. Like something I would love to own one day myself.
The place was full of various books. To my relief, not only classics. The owner had written the prices on the first page in pencil. Most were sold for € 4 a copy. A hard cover of Erich Kästner’s Fabian- The Story of a Moralist that I got my hands on cost 50 cents more. Plastic boxes on the ground were full of books for € 1 a copy.
Most books were in German but one small shelf was full of English titles.
“Do you have a catalogue system for all of these?” Aidah was looking for a particular book by a Turkish author and decided to try her luck.
“No, but I know them all here. Just ask”, said the vender. He claimed to have read all of them and smiled. The shop was his and consisted of books and LPs he bought from people whose shelves at home couldn’t hold any more of them.
My eyes kept scanning the shelves, coming past an illustrated volume of the works of Dalí, the collected diaries of Sylvia Plath and the collected works of Erich Maria Remarque. I was now sure that one could find anything in a store where people left their old books. Someone out there has definitely read a book once that you are now interested in!
It did not seem like this place was suited to accept debit cards and maybe that was for our own good.