I'm so excited to be bringing you something a little different today. One of my very best bookish friends Kimi recently went on a trip to Amsterdam (jealous doesn't begin to cover it) and of course couldn't resist a trip into the bookstores. You're in for a treat today! A huge thank you to Kimi for being the first person to guest post on my blog!
My Amsterdam Book Haul! (And general bookish musings…)
Hoi! I’m Kimi, a bookseller – like Katie - from Manchester, and welcome to my guest post on Katie’s blog! I know Katie through work, but she is also one of my best bookish pals, so I was over the moon when she offered to host one of my ramblings! If you want to get to know me better, I’ve left links at the bottom of this post.
Anyone that has known me for any amount of time knows how much I love the city of Amsterdam. I had visited over ten times, and my ultimate dream in life is to own a floating bookshop on one of Amsterdam’s canals. During my most recent visit, I dedicated a good chunk of time to exploring some of the amazing bookshops of Amsterdam, which I then wrote about over a series of blog posts – Part One on Fiona’s blog, Part Two on Lois’ blog, and Part Three on Sarah’s blog. I’d recommend checking out those posts, to get a feel for my trip and the bookshops I got the books in this post from!
This blog is all about the books I bought whilst exploring the bookshops (or boekhandels, in Dutch), as well as some general bookish musings I had whilst I was over there. If you have read the other posts, you’ll know that I had an absolute blast exploring Amsterdam’s bookish places. Because of this, my original ‘rule’ of only buying one book during my visit went flying out of the window, and so this post was born! Plus, who doesn’t love a good book haul?
I got a mix of English books and Dutch books. I recently began collecting Dutch editions of my favourite books – kickstarted by the absolutely wonderful Lisa Williamson, who ever-so-kindly sent me a Dutch copy of The Art of Being Normal last year. I don’t yet speak Dutch – I have never been any good at languages, but I am slowly trying and my goal is to one day be able to read my favourite books in Dutch. Plus, this trip I finally had the confidence to begin speaking simple Dutch phrases out loud to actual Dutch people and the overwhelmingly positive reaction has really spurred me on!
Before the book haul, however, there were a couple of bookish musings I had whilst I was out there that I wanted to write about, that I didn’t think really fitted in to the other posts, and realised that this blog would be the perfect place to do it! Obviously, these are just my thoughts and opinions based on my experience over this visit. I’m not saying that they’re accurate or completely ‘true’, but I wanted to get them out there anyway.
Books seem to be valued more in The Netherlands
What I generally noticed is that books are priced higher out there, but people are willing to pay it. Of course, nowhere in the world was safe from the book industry crash of a decade ago, and I had a sobering chat with a bookseller at The Book Exchange about the decline in bookshops in Amsterdam over the past few years. He told me that once, there was a magazine published every year listing all of Amsterdam’s bookshops because there were so many. There are still many, many bookshops in Amsterdam (more than in UK cities, anyway), but a good chunk of them have disappeared due to shifting markets and rising rents. But the Dutch, even those who are not ‘readers’, seem to appreciate the value of bookshops, and are willing to pay a little more for their books in order to keep them around. There are also rent-control laws that cover certain premises, that help bookshops stay open.
YA Fiction is seen more as it’s own section than a sub-section of Children’s
As a YA and Children’s specialist Bookseller, of course I was immediately drawn to those sections in every bookshop that we visited. Of course, in the smaller shops, the YA books were next to, or in,
the Children’s section – from a space point of view, this makes perfect sense. However, in the larger shops, and the majority of the mid-sized ones, YA Fiction (and non-fiction), often had it’s own section. In fact, in Scheltema (which I likened to the Dutch version of Waterstones) the YA department was on a completely different floor to the Children’s department.
Personally, I agree with this concept. When we’re trying to encourage teenagers to read, the last thing we want to be doing is herding them toward the Children’s department. I know of no teenager that wants to be referred to as a child...
Booksellers are much happier to meet other Booksellers
I had so, so many amazing conversations and interactions with the booksellers out in Amsterdam. I made the effort to say hello to the booksellers when entering the shop, to ask if I could take photographs as well as introduce myself. The vast majority of the booksellers I spoke to were so incredibly welcoming towards me, instantly launching into bookish conversation as if we were colleagues at the same shop. In fact, in one shop, upon introducing myself as a bookseller in one shop, the bookseller replied with ‘Hallo, colleague!’.
Often, here in the UK, I always seek out the bookshops when visiting new places. However, a lot of booksellers (especially of indies) become quite defensive and/or dismissive when they learn I am a Waterstones Bookseller. I can sort of understand their reasoning, but I just really love books, and bookshops – all bookshops – and want to interact with bookish people. The welcome I received in Amsterdam’s bookshops warmed my heart.
Their books are often a lot bigger
Like, some of their books are beasts of Priory of the Orange Tree proportions! I don’t mean bigger as in thicker, but larger in shape. The biggest surprise I found was Obsidio (photo included, with normal-sized paperback for scale!). The text inside seems pretty much the same, so I assume it’s just a format preference. But it certainly made a noticeable difference when I was trying to lug the books I had bought home…
Speaking of the books I lugged home…
Book Haul Time!
I originally told myself that I was only going to buy one book whilst over in Amsterdam. I don’t know who I was trying to kid, because no way was I going to visit that many bookshops and only come away with one book, but I tried. I guess.
I got a mixture of Dutch and English books, so I have split the haul up.
Schim en Schaduw – Leigh Bardugo
I love, love, love the Grishaverse, so knew that a Dutch Grishaverse book was a must. I was originally after Six of Crows, however it was much more expensive and I had already broken my one-book rule by this point, so went for the Dutch edition of Shadow and Bone in Scheltema.
Rebel in de Woestijn – Alwyn Hamilton
The photos do not do this beauty justice – it’s shiny! Plus, at only €5, I just had to get it. I loved Rebel of the Sands, and got to interview Alwyn last year, so it seemed like a good choice! I got this one from Boekhandel van Rossum.
Harry Potter & de Gevangene van Azkaban – J. K. Rowling
I found this pre-loved Dutch edition of my favourite Harry Potter book at Boekenmarkt Oudemanhuispoort. I love Potter, but I’m not too bothered about collecting all of the books, just Azkaban, so this was a definite yes!
Okay, so upon reflection, I’ve realised that… all of the English books I bought are editions of Sherlock Holmes. I collect (or ‘rescue’, as I refer to it) different editions of the Sherlock Holmes books from charity shops and used bookshops, as they are some of my all-time favourite books. The Book Exchange and the Boekenmarkt did not let me down...
The Hound of the Baskervilles – Arthur Conan Doyle
The Penguin Complete Sherlock Holmes – Arthur Conan Doyle
The Bedside Conan Doyle – Arthur Conan Doyle
So concludes the end of this guestpost, and the end of my Amsterdam bookish ramblings! I hope you enjoyed this post – I am going back to Amsterdam very soon, and have a list as long as my arm of bookshops I have yet to visit, so let me know if you’d like to see more of this in the blogsphere!
Huge thank you to Katie for hosting me! And, if you haven’t already, do check out my posts on Fi’s, Lois’, and Sarah’s blogs.
When not prattling on about books on other people’s blogs, I can be found podcasting about books with my bookish partner in crime over at A Tale of Two Booksellers. I can be found on Instagram at @coffeeeyesandblankstares (where I pretty much post exclusively about books and cats), and twitter at @kimiallover. You can also follow our podcast on social media: @ataleoftwobooksellers on Instagram, and @TwoBooksellers on Twitter.
Have you been to Amsterdam or read any of these books?
Thanks for reading,
Katie & Kimi x