Best book store in Germany. Sells only science fiction and fantasy. Enormous English-language selection. Enormous German-language section. Owners doing it for the love of the thing in their free time. Events and signings and gaming nights and community. Free shipping for orders from around the country.
I doubt I need to give you any more reasons to love Otherland—a SFF book store in Berlin, Germany—but I am going to go on; it was a visit that felt like a pilgrimage to a holy land.
Imagine you live in a place where English books are hard to come by, where the majority of the books at the stores and the flea markets and on your friends’ shelves are not written in English. Imagine that you obsessively read and write about science fiction and fantasy novels on the internet, but rarely ever hold the books you discover there in your hand. If you want something you have to shout YES and order it; you never stumble across it in a joyful treasure hunt at your local book store because the English-language SFF buyers in charge of your local book store are obviously idiots who don’t pay enough attention to the genre.
I was on my way to Berlin for work, and between scheduling appointments and lunches, I was looking up English-language book stores I could ravage. Frankfurt has a handful of good book stores, sure, but Berlin is known for its size and its international population. Berlin would have book stores with large English sections, maybe even used book stores with large English-language sections. I scanned the internet’s lists of English-language book stores in Berlin (a topic every Berlin blogger covers if she knows what’s good for her clicks), but I was five or six lists in before I found mention of Otherland on Slow Travel Berlin.
As a tourist, I skip the museums and I visit the book stores. Unless they are book museums. I’ve already seen the tourist stuff in Berlin. It was time to move on to the books. Otherland was my first stop. I approached slowly, uncertain. Was I really about to enter one of Germany’s few SFF-specific book stores? Did a book store named for a Tad Williams series that I have never read really exist in Germany? And thrive?
Two plastic-lidded boxes stood sentinel at the entrance, containing used English books I would have bought if I didn’t already own the ones that caught my eye. I spotted a Terry Prachett collector’s hardcover in the window display. Holy yes. Yes yes yes.
The first room was populated with German-language fantasy. Oo. La. La. The books on the stand next to Leia are the store’s top sellers. And look! A Hugos anthology! Analog humans who have heard of the Hugo award! (Not that you all aren’t analog humans, it’s just that you are all digital in our interactions here.)
The second room was dedicated to science fiction. German-language science fiction! Much of it translated, but oh, oh, oh! How many times have I attempted to pry recommendations from German readers who read only America SF? How many answers to my question “can you recommend any good German SF authors?” were on those shelves!
I asked the man behind the counter, who also turned out to be one of the store’s three owners, if I could take some pictures and began to click wildly while he investigated this Book Punks website I was allegedly photographing for.
I was astounded, but it was the third room that really did me in. An entire room of English-language speculative fiction. Every single (new release) book I’ve read about in the last year out and available to be picked up, scanned, held, touched. I held Ancillary Sword in my hand. I leafed through Mirror Empire. I smiled at the Simon Ings books. I ran my hand down shelves containing dozens of books I would have bought on the spot if I had both Peter Schlemihl‘s wallet and Mary Poppins’ suitcase.
On the far side of the room, past the gloriously stocked tables was an entire wall of English-language science fiction and fantasy. IT WAS GLORIOUS. Glorious glorious glorious! Do you think if I keep repeating that word (glorious!) you’ll understand how I felt there? Glorious! Last time’s a charm.
There were also quite a few used books in that room. And a German-language horror section, which I didn’t really see because I was too busy gaping.
I stood in reverie in front of the Terry Prachett collector’s hardcovers for a long time, desperately trying to remember which ones I had already bought and which covers I had just stared at a lot on the internet.
I bought just three things—King Rat and Iron Council by China Mieville and City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett. I held back because with free shipping to anywhere in Germany, I am going to be calling them to order all my missing Prachetts asap. No more annoying amazon orders from England! No more ordering any books from any online store! It is going to be all Otherland all the time from here on out. I revel in the fact that I can support a place like this with my orders even from afar, that I will be able to order them from a real person on the phone.
Lost in a reverie about what it would be like to have a book store like this in my town, to have signings and geek events and people who knew the same author names and titles and internet dramas and websites, I stood frozen in the middle of the store for almost five minutes with a dreamy look on my face.
Address: Bergmannstraße 25, 10961 Berlin
Phone number: 030 69505117