Roman Kratochvila, the soft-spoken Czech that owns Shakespeare & Sons, Berlin’s brand new English-language bookstore, seems oddly noncommittal about his new Prenzlauer Berg home. “I was told here or Kreuzberg,” he says. Some benevolent wind guided him, together with his business partner Radin and wife Laurel, when they parachuted in from Prague last month, seemingly with nothing more than the shirts on their backs and the business experience that comes from 10 years of running Prague’s most successful English-language bookstore.
Shakespeare & Sons is your inner-bookworm’s paradise and a perfect fit for the Helmholtzkiez: sunlight shines through the big, street-facing windows onto houseplants in cute porcelain tubs and rows of lineographed dust jackets.
By now you’re thinking, “Finally I can buy a graphic novel and satisfy my curiosity about home cheese-making in the same place,” but it’s more than that. The plan is to stock one-third used, two-thirds new English-language books, as well as a small French section and an extensive selection of children’s books. Penguin Classics reissues and basically anything with muted blues or a bird on the cover line the walls (including a comic section that holds a Prenzlauer Berg graphic novel!), and there are a few comfortable armchairs tucked into the corners, their upholstery matched to the green-stained hardwood floors.
The proximity of the venerable and respected St. George’s, a mere two blocks south, would be daunting to most aspiring booksellers. But judging by the crowd of multilingual Prenzlauer Berger swarming in the street outside, there’s more than enough demand to go around. TIP: prices are based on current exchange rates, so books imported from America will save you some money.