So the German book trade organization does a free book with extracts from all the titles longlisted for the big German Book Prize every year. And every year it's a big deal to get hold of it. I pull all the strings I can but this year I still couldn't find out in advance which bookshops were going to have it in stock. In the past two years they put extracts online, which made my life easier (or less embarrassing), but this time there's only an app, and I don't have the snazzy hardware. I know, I ought to embrace these things, but I'm poor.
So this year it was out into the cruel, hard world again to traipse around bookshops asking for the booklet. I don't know why because I do read a fair amount of books and I do realise that booksellers are the world's coolest individuals, but I hate asking for things in bookshops. It makes me feel like a stuttering ten-year-old, it instantly reduces my German skills to Mittelstufe I and my voice to barely audible. Maybe it's to do with revealing my personal taste to a stranger, who might possibly judge me on it. Live. But still, I took it upon myself to tour Berlin in search of the book blogger's holy grail.
Independent bookshop one shall remain nameless but is in Kreuzberg. The lady said I should contact the Börsenverein if I wanted it. I said I already had (which was exaggerated) and they said "in good bookstores". The lady looked puzzled. I looked puzzled. I left.
Independent bookshop two was ocelot in Mitte. I walked in and approached the lady behind the counter, cleared my throat and started in on my spiel about the free book with the... "Oh you mean from the Börsenverein? Yes, we've ordered that, it should be in next week. Right, boss?" "Yes, that's right, we ordered a hundred of them, just come in and pick it up." Fainting ever so slightly, I stammered that I'd come back on Monday. I went back yesterday, found the free book prominently displayed on the counter, told a different lady that was just what I'd been looking for, could I just take one, and she smiled and seemed pleased that someone would come in specially for a slightly obscure free book and not actually buy anything. I left with the book, impressed. Compare a previous experience here and here to understand why I was so pleased.
Ocelot is a new bookshop. Actually I think there's also a comma after the lower-case name, but I don't feel the need to adhere to silly punctuation. It's terribly swanky to look at, all veneer surfaces and open spaces, with a café counter. This was my third visit after several longing glances through the huge display window (I believe I mentioned my financial situation above). The first time, I was looking for a particular book, a modern classic if you like, and they had it exactly where it should be. The second time was for an event, which was a tad on the dull side but that was hardly their fault. And then this. If you're looking for a good book in Mitte, you should go there too. They have a blog and hold events and seem to be very dedicated. A lovingly curated, modern bookshop, I'd say.