Where to find books in English in Berlin?
No. 5 – Hundt Hammer Stein in Mitte. Style and substance are no contradiction for this basement bookshop.
The area around U-Bahn station Weinmeisterstraße is a hub for stylish young Berlin. The shops sell contemporary urban fashion for art and architecture aficionados – COS, Skunk Funk, Urban Outfitters, & Other Stories – and during Berlin Fashion Week, the footpaths are a gauntlet of prosecco tables. Around the corner in Alte Schönhauser Straße, between Australian ice cream, Japanese sneakers and Italian espresso machines, the Hundt Hammer Stein bookshop takes up a basement unit.
This is the brainy one among the fashionable crowd: no less stylish, their tongue-in-cheek humour riffs on the collective mood of the internet age. “You are now leaving the amazone” declares a note on the door. Artfully decorated sandwich boards and an old-school display box on the house wall tease walkers-by with clever remarks and unusual product presentations.
This all could be too much, were it not for the solidly good selection of books inside. A large shelf in the left-hand side room is dedicated to English books. Fiction rules, the bulk being modern classics or recent publications of critical acclaim. True to their stylish sensibilities, there is a noticeable presence of newly designed editions of (modern) classics, for example from Penguin Random House.
There is a considerable offer of children’s picture books in English. I wonder if they are really bought for children or perhaps as a new status symbol for hipsters. The latter would also be attracted by the funny but clever titles on the central table, such as the Ladybird Books for Grown-Ups series, where the books in the well-known helpful and informative style now deal with The Meeting, The Hangover, or The Zombie Apocalypse.
Food and cookery books can be found at the opposite end of the store, German- and English-language ones mixed. The section is small and mostly focused on recipe books. Again, solidly good ones prevail, like Jamie Oliver or the Silver Spoon, but nothing to pique the food nerd’s interest. Honourable exception here is of course Bella Younger’s Deliciously Stella (pictured), which offers recipes on current food trends – berry bowls, spiralising, cauliflower “rice” – except that they are all made with sweets and snack food. The berry bowl features jelly raspberries and blackberries, she “spiralises” chocolate bars and the cauliflower is doused in double the amount of melted cheese. Fittingly, the book is on the funny table, not the cooking section, lest foodie purists be offended. Know your audience.
I did not spot any Creative Nonfiction titles, except one collection of essays by George Orwell. That’s ok. Maybe they need to work on their cover art.
Hundt Hammer Stein
Alte Schönhauser Str. 23/24, 10119 Berlin
Mon – Sat 11.00 – 19.00 h
Tell me: Did you ever discover a bookstore in an unexpected place?