Book-hunting and bookshop browsing is always one of the most ‘looked forward to’ highlights for all my travels. As such, I had noted down some of the bookshops that I wanted to look out for (based on the suggestions gleaned from various sources), before setting off for my recent trip to the Netherlands and Paris. Special thanks to the helpful recommendations from Bundleofbooks for pointing me in the right direction.

Antiquariaat POLK – had the most friendly owner/person manning the shop. The bookshop is actually the one below ground level (notice the stairs going down?). Sorry for the rather misleading snapshot.

This little gem of a bookshop had some real treats hidden down those stairs! If not for having read about this bookshop on Bundleofbooks’ blog, I would surely have missed out on this one. And that means I would not have found my two copies of Monica Dickens (Mariana, One Pair of Hands) and Christopher Isherwood’s memoir Christopher and His Kind for 2 Euro each. Two other titles which caught my eye but had to be left behind due to luggage constraint issues (as both were in bulky hardcover tomes) were a volume of Isak Dinesen’s Letters From Africa and Boswell’s London Journal. Like I said, who would have thought that a hidden little nook like this could have such treasures within?

And then there are those that had looked so promising as you enter but in the end, you find yourself coming out empty handed.

A lovely looking bookshop with an attractive shopfront, but sadly the books were mostly in a language I couldn’t read.
This would have been an interesting fair to attend.
The largest used bookstore in Amsterdam. Each floor stocks tomes in various languages, across all genres, and covering many subjects. There’s also a large antiquarian book section in one of the floors.

The antiquarian books section.
There are some really interesting bookish decorative pieces that can be admired amongst the antiquarian tomes on display.
Do excuse the poor quality of this shot. But I think you can still catch a vague glimpse of the two adorable decorative items in there.
The arts and graphics section.
The literary section had quite a lot to offer as well (and these were all in English, too).
And this is part of the children’s books section. I never realised that the Dutch had such an attractive and appealing offering for their young ones. The book covers were all so lovely and delightful to look at!

As abundant though, as the offering was to be found here, somehow I didn’t manage to come away with anything. The ones I had spotted and really wanted (ie: Elizabeth Bishop’s One Art: Letters  and a couple of other literary biographies/ diaries) were either too bulky or too costly for my limited constraints. Sigh….

However, all is not lost, as I soon found my way to this :

I think that’s about as pretty as bookshops come by, don’t you agree? Somehow, having a bicycle in the picture always makes it look so much better!
A closer look at the bookshop on the left, the Straat Antiquaren.

When I entered the Straat Antiquaren, all I could see were shelves of books in languages that I wasn’t familiar with. As I made my way around the shop, skimming through the foreign titles on the rows of shelves thinking it’ll probably be another round of fruitless browsing, I came to the last row that was facing the walls on the right side of the shop. And voila! I found myself staring at shelves that were packed and stacked with English literature! How thrilling it felt. Although I came away with just two books (Katherine Mansfield: Letters & Journals, and  D.E. Stevenson’s Miss Buncle’s Book), it was not for the lack of choice but rather due to  budget and luggage contraints, as mentioned earlier. Otherwise, I would definitely have taken home with me the complete set of Virginia Woolf’s volumes of letters that were in almost pristine condition…..

Still, I have to say that I am pretty satisfied with the bounty from this trip, which had actually exceeded my expectations, as believe or not, I really wasn’t planning on buying that many books. Just a couple to serve as mementos for this trip, I had thought, would have been good enough. Really.

But I ended up with all these instead.

Books, glorious books!
These includes the bounty from Paris as well (the ones lying horizontal). I am especially happy with the Folio Society copy of Dicken’s London, which I got from a little bookshop that had everything going at half price. It was beside a bakery where my mum and I had stopped for an ice-cream and cranberry pie. Am also very happy with the second volume of Virginia Woolf’s diary which I found most unexpectedly in a branch of the De Slegte bookshop in Rotterdam. I hadn’t even known they had a branch there.

And oh, I think there’s just a couple more which are not in the picture. But no worries, we’ll come to that when we get to Paris.

Soon. 😉

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10 thoughts on “Amsterdam, for the booklover….

  1. Bookmarked for the next time I go, my last two trips to Amsterdam have been too hectic with work to explore bookshops but I have promised myself a holiday there soon. 🙂

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  2. What a brilliant post! And thanks for the mention 🙂 I still have to write about Antiquariaat Brinkman but your photo is much better than mine!

    I meant to visit the largest bookshop in Amsterdam (and quite a few others) but simply didn’t get enough time. I hadn’t even heard of the Straat Antiquaren so will have to look that up next time!

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    1. Looking forward to reading your write up on Antiquariaat Brinkman! Yes, both the Straat Antiquaren and De Slegte are definitely worth looking up. I didn’t have time to explore all that I wanted to, as well. Hopefully there will be a next time for me too. 😉

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  3. How lovely to explore. I totally understand the constraints money and space put on trip book buying–you have to choose carefully! Is your mom as fond of books as you are?

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    1. My mum is the one constantly reminding me of my constraints, actually.:p
      She is definitely not ‘as fond’ of books as I am, but like you with your son, I try to encourage her by filling up the house with books! And it is slowly working…. I think. 🙂

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