If you go for a walk in the woods one of these crisp Piemontese autumn mornings, you may meet a man carrying a wicker basket. In it, a few small mushrooms on a bed of fern. ‘Oh,’ you will say, ‘not so lucky today?’ – ‘No,’ he will answer, with a rueful look into his basket. ‘Not much luck today. Or maybe I just don’t know where to look.’ And, with a slight shrug of the shoulders, he will say: ‘Maybe this wood is not good for mushrooms. Good luck to you though.’
But if you were to come to the house of this man in these days, you will find him sitting at his kitchen table, carefully cleaning porcini mushrooms the size of his fist. He will be surrounded by several wicker baskets, full of glorious nut-brown and stone-grey specimens, resting on their bed of fresh green fern.
Tucked away on a hill in a residential neighbourhood with winding narrow streets, I only found it because I was lost, but it’s worth the hike. A few bookshelves, a table, a counter and a big, inviting couch – it doesn’t take a lot of fancy trimmings to open a bookstore. The books themselves lend a merry atmosphere with their colourful spines on the white shelves. A few potted plants and someone friendly to help the customers with their queries about books for school, for beach-reading or to satisfy their book cravings, and you’re away.
No.3 – Chapters on Parnell Street. A goldmine for hardcover books, and Ireland’s largest independent bookstore.
I used to think of Chapters as a sort of bargain bookstore. The prices are shown on the front of the books with large, red-and-white stickers, and often they are “special prices” and actual bargains. This makes a big difference on hardcover books. I have no great ambition to own my fiction in hardcover, in fact, I prefer paperbacks, as they are lightweight and fit better into my handbags. But food and cookery books often come only in hardcover, and Chapters was instrumental in helping me build up my collection of recipe and reference books on food and wine. For the same reason, anybody interested in coffee table books on Art and Architecture should not miss visiting this store. Continue reading →
No.2 – Hodges Figgis. The name sounds like a Dickens character, the shopfront looks exactly how you would picture Dublin’s oldest bookstore. Huge windows full of books curve towards the door like a bell jar. Their frames and the door are dark green, like the leather inserts on a library table.
But the shop is not resting on its long and illustrious pedigree (which includes being mentioned in Ulysses, no less). From humanities, business and sciences on the top floor to the sweeping selection of classic and modern literature, Hodges Figgis is eminently knowledgeable without being snobbish. Continue reading →
No.1 – The Secret Book and Record Store. A bookworms’ lair unfazed by fashions.
The Secret Book and Record Store is not all that secretly located in the city centre of Dublin. Around the corner from busy Grafton Street, amidst cafés and shops, a large yellow sign adorns the entrance. The corridor burrows away into the old building. At the end of it, boxes and tables and shelves full of books fill a low room almost to the ceiling.
No.6 – Goldhahn & Sampson in Prenzlauer Berg. The cook book lover’s treasure chest.
Goldhahn & Sampson caters for the mind as well as the palate. They sell food, wine and delicatessen – local specialities from around Berlin and elsewhere. A contradiction? Not at all: speciality food is generally rooted in a certain locality. That’s what makes it special and different from the foods from other localities, and of course from the mass-produced products that have the same taste (or lack thereof) everywhere. Continue reading →
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. Continue reading →