Bookshops in foreign lands

I just got back from 10 days hanging out with two of my best friends at their house in The Hague and a bit of a mini-break we all went on to Milan. Despite the fact that I had five books with me and was in two non-English speaking countries, I still managed to buy about 23 books. And all but one of them were in English.

I’ve already shown you my excursion into a glorious heap of used books I found in The Hague. But I managed to find a few other things along the way as well.

First off was a dedicated English-language bookstore that is charming and cozy for browsing. After about 7 years of visiting it, however, it has finally dawned on me that it is really just charming and cosy. The stock seems geared at the twee and/or obvious with lots of Englishy nostalgia items like Penguin merch. I had a bunch of UK titles that aren’t out yet in the US that I was hoping to find and this store only had one of them, and only one copy at that. It’s not a bad store by any means, but feels a bit like they might be missing the opportunity to broaden their offerings and still sell books–particularly when compared to other English language sections at other Dutch bookstores.

I love following Matt Haig on Twitter, but I have never read any of his books. This one is getting so much play on the internet but still isn’t available in the US. Finally glad to have my hands on a copy.

I asked my friend who is Canadian but has been living Europe since 1992 and in The Hague for a decade to take me to a good Dutch bookstore. I had never been in one in my visits. He took me to Van Stockum Boekverkopers where I was very impressed by the aesthetics of the store. If I spoke Dutch it might be possible that it wasn’t very comprehensive, how could something so stylish without tall shelves be comprehensive. Still, I quite liked it. They had a decent English section but I didn’t buy anything.

This store was very nicely designed, but does it hold enough books?
I’m told this is a great book, but I think I will find the English edition.
I’m not sure what’s going on in this coffee table-sized book, but I was hoping it was just full of officephilia pictures like the one on the cover. It wasn’t.


And then we were off to Milan. Just inside the world famous Galleria we bumped into Rizzoli Books which was disappointing only because most of the stock was in another language. Although that might have been a good thing. God only knows how much I would have purchased.

This has nothing to do with Tess Gerritson. Although I guess her books might be inside.
Books that won’t be mine.
The large English section was down in the basement.
Doesn’t this remind you of Breaking Away?
I like an event space that doesn’t require rearranging the store. On the other hand it looks a bit small.
Certainly a compelling cover for book lovers.
I loved this wall of little blue books.
Recently I began Italian classes to try and resurrect the two years of college Italian I gook almost 30 years ago. I picked this up off the blue shelves at random and found I was able to actually read the first paragraph. So I bought it to use as a study aid when esercizi start to get me down.


I cooled my jets in the Tauschen Store in Milan while my friends were in search of espresso and a toilet. If I was rich and had a huge library with special slanted reading tables, I would buy lots of Tauschen Books which tend to be enormous.

I was really tempted to buy this. But I had only brought along a messenger bag as my luggage and this would not have fit.
I think this one belongs to Yotam Ottolenghi. I would love a print of this framed somewhere in my house.

We had some time before our bus left Milano Centrale for the airport so I popped into the extremely good bookstore at the station. They had a pretty big English section. Reminded me of the the time in 1992 when I was a poor student passing through Rome and ran out of reading material. I found a copy of The Razor’s Edge at the Rome train station. It was a cheap mass market edition that cost me a whopping $15. Did I mention I was poor and it was 1992? I still bought it though, I was desperate. I wasn’t desperate this time but I bought books like I was.

So happy to have this much to choose from.
So happy to get Elmet and Tin Man which everyone has been talking about and I haven’t been able to find in the US. The others were impulses. I finished African Pyscho on the plane ride home.

As if I wasn’t laden enough with books, I couldn’t resist browsing a bookstore at Schipol Airport on my way home.

Can you believe I bought the Ali Smith. I really hated How to be Both, but the cover made me pick it up and when I read a bit of it I thought it might not be so bad. The bottom one is all about the whos whats and whys of air travel written by a pilot. I eat that stuff up.

I can’t help following up on my previous post about the used bookstore in the Hague with these photos.

Thought you might want to see the cover of the Mrs. Harris edition. Couldn’t believe the good condition of the dust jacket.
I love these Faber editions and this cover is particularly nice. I first encountered them with the Alexandria Quartet and now I buy them whenever I find them. It was only recently that I realized Lawrence and Gerald were brothers. There outlook and books are very different.
I actually found this at a different used bookstore in The Hague. Much better organized but much less to buy. There is a little part of me that thinks I may already own this, possibly even read it.


If at this point you are thinking this post random and poorly written, it kind of is. I will blame jet lag.

6 thoughts on “Bookshops in foreign lands

  1. BookerTalk October 31, 2017 / 10:06 am

    You’ve done well for international travel this year. I love popping into bookshops in other countries just out of curiosity about what they are offering in English. Mostly they are bestsellers and a few classics…


  2. Annie D. October 31, 2017 / 7:39 pm

    Wonderful post – I was in Europe for three weeks in September but I limited myself to about six books purchases, as I was already overpacked.


  3. Claire (The Captive Reader) November 1, 2017 / 1:03 am

    I spent five weeks in Italy this year and was overwhelmed by the number of bookstores I came across. It’s fun to browse even when I can’t read the books! And I love, love, love Dutch bookstores (and the fact that they usually have large English-language sections). I was in Utrecht last week and popped into every bookstore I saw, all of them chock full of books and charm.

    If you’re looking to continue reading in Italian, the Astoria translations caught my eye when I was in Bologna: They have published a LOT of middlebrow mid-Century female authors (Barbara Pym, Stella Gibbons, D.E. Stevenson, Georgette Heyer, etc), including some who aren’t currently in print in English.


  4. Liz Dexter November 1, 2017 / 4:53 am

    What beautiful bookshop pictures – thank you for sharing them. I love French bookshops and Icelandic ones, although get wildly over-enthusiastic about what I think I can actually read in those languages …


  5. Karen K. November 2, 2017 / 3:17 am

    This post was NOT random and poorly written — it was lovely and the photos are great. I was in Italy for a week this spring (Pisa, Florence, and Siena) also impressed by the number of book shops, especially in Pisa and Siena which are not enormous towns.

    But I am mostly impressed by your ability to carry 23 books home — and how many were in your carryon? I’ve been trying to avoid bookshops since I’m so terrible about buying books and then leaving them unread while I being unfaithful with library checkouts.


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