In an age of e-readers and tablets, eBooks and eZines, there are still a few places left that trade in pages not screens, choose human knowledge over computerized customer service, and cherish the unexpected discovery over the narrowed Google search. While we embrace the connectivity of the web, we know there are some things the Internet just can’t replace. A good art book is one. Not surprisingly, Berlin is home to some of the most incredible independent art bookstores that continue to thrive as bustling hubs of artistic expression and community engagement. We found five of the best independent and specialized art bookstores, which take curatorial-like care in selecting the right titles for their shelves. All are worth checking out.
Pro qm (The Cityrat’s Bookstore) - Offering a wide selection of architecture books as well as books on city planning, street art, pop art, design, and landscape design, Pro qm is best place to find books on urban aesthetics. In addition, you can brush up on some crucial modern theorists like Foucault, Benjamin, and Nietzsche, or catch up on contemporary political thought on urbanism and city life. They also have a modest selection of Berlin books for art tourists looking to make the most of their time in one of the largest concrete canvases in the world. While they offer a large selection of books in English, be prepared to pay a little bit more for them than their German counterparts.
Almstadtstraße 48-50 | 10119 Berlin | Tel. 030.2472852-0 | firstname.lastname@example.org | Mon-Sat 11 a.m. - 8 p.m.
Wien Lukatsch Gallery and Bookstore (The Avant-Garde Paradise) – As one of the most hard-to-find bookstores in Berlin, visiting this gallery/bookstore offers a feeling of exclusivity and inside knowledge. They offer an authoritative selection on avant-garde art from the 1960s onward and even sent four artists to dOCUMENTA this year. To find it, look for a small placard next to a doorbell on Schöneberger Ufer, then take the elevator up three floors and knock at the door. When the door is opened, ask to be led to the bookstore at the back of the gallery. You’ll be taken to a large, airy space complete with a balcony overlooking a lush courtyard. Away from the bustling activity of the street it’s only really visited by local artists and curators, which means you can take advantage of having the place to yourself to browse.
Schöneberger Ufer 65 | 10785 Berlin-Tiergarten | Tel. 030.28.38.53.52 | email@example.com | Tues – Fri 1 p.m. – 6 p.m., Sat. 12 p.m. – 6 p.m.
Motto Distribution (The Most Independent) – Don’t go to Motto with a specific title in mind; they won’t have it. This small bookstore in East Berlin by Schlesisches Tor focuses on providing a space for titles from little known or self-published authors. Now located in several countries, this Berlin location was their first permanent residence. You won’t find the textbook on Renaissance art you had to buy in college, and that may be exactly the reason for visiting Motto. You’ll discover something you never knew you needed – the fun of going to Motto is finding what you’ll uncover. This one-room shop located below street-level packs an incredible number of titles. Each book is a work of art in itself and is probably only one of a handful of copies. It is a truly cherished secret of the Berlin art community.
Skalitzerstr. 68 | 10997 Berlin-Friedrichschain | Tel 030.75.44.21.19 | firstname.lastname@example.org | Mon-Sat 12 p.m. – 8 p.m.
Do you read me? (Feeding the Zine Addiction) Focusing mainly on magazines, this bookstore is the best place to find any periodical on fashion, design, art, photography, and architecture. Dangerous to both German and English-speaking magazine-addicts, you’ll find every title on contemporary art and design you want and then some. Located next to two banana-approved galleries in Mitte, it’s worth allocating some extra time in your schedule to explore the neighborhood and the architecture surrounding it. Across town in Schöneberg, they also have a reading room with huge windows and large tables, furnished and designed in partnership with Greige. and Artek. Be sure to check out their events calendar as they host tons of readings, lectures, and presentations here.
Auguststrasse 28 | 10117 Berlin-Mitte | Tel. 030.69.54.96.95 | email@example.com | Mon-Sat. 10 a.m. – 7:30 p.m.
Reading Room & Shop | Potsdamer Strasse 98 | 10785 Berlin-Tiergarten | Thurs. to Sat. 12 p.m. – 6 p.m.
Bücherbogen am Savignyplatz (The Bücher Behemoth): With the largest selection of any bookstore listed here, Bücherbogen is the place to browse monographs on any artist from Kandinsky to Picasso to Xooox. Spanning four large rooms connected by narrow, low-ceilinged tunnels under S-Bahn Savignyplatz in the posh Charlottenburg neighborhood, Bücherbogen is the place to spend hours browsing to the muffled soundtrack of trains passing overhead. In addition to sections devoted entirely to film studies, art theory, and typography, they have an entire room dedicated to Berlin art and design. While it’s usually bustling with customers, the store is well-staffed with experts ready to help. It’s the shop that couldn’t possibly be left off any list of art bookstores in Berlin.
Stadtbahnbogen 593 | 10623 Berlin-Charlottenburg | Tel 030.31.86.95.11 | firstname.lastname@example.org | Mon-Fri 10 a.m. – 8 p.m. Sat 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
(Image top right: Pro qm interior. All photos by Max Nesterak.)