World Book Day

Lola Picks a BookToday is World Book Day. Every day should be World Book Day! Whether paperback, hardback, or ebook (eback?), books are wonderful things. I tend to read mostly ebooks at this point, due to convenience, but at heart I still prefer physical books. I like the feel of them and the way you can flip through them at will, marking favorite passages and such with pen or even random scraps of paper or anything else that can be used as a handy bookmark.

So when I saw yesterday that De Slegte was selling all of its books for €2 each, I knew I had to go. De Slegte is a wonderful bookstore on the Oudegracht, but sadly, like many bookstores, it’s closing. As I said, there’s a certain convenience to ebooks, but you can’t browse ebooks the way you can browse real books. I’ve found so many great books, just by browsing in stores.

By the time I made it to De Slegte this morning, it was clear that a lot had already been purchased, but there was still quite a lot from which to choose, in multiple languages. As you can see from the photo, we managed a decent haul. I picked up an art book on Annibale Caracci, an interesting illustrated history of Pennsylvania Avenue, and a book on some of the flora and fauna of Florida. I also picked up a couple of thrillers, including Gorky Park. I read the book years ago, but with current events, I thought I’d give it another read. Oh, and we picked up the massive Van Dale Dutch-English dictionary. We have a decent dictionary, but it’s not a Van Dale, which is THE name when it comes to Dutch dictionaries.

Everything must go at De Slegte and you’ve got through Saturday to take advantage of the €2 pricing. Still, the sooner you go, the better. After all, tonight is koopavond (shopping evening when stores stay open later) so there’s no telling what will be left if you wait until too late. Although the Norwegian Shipping News, in multiple volumes, is still available, if that’s your thing. It’s on a top shelf down in the kelder.

And now, a picture of a beautiful Doberman. It’s relevant in that the dog is sitting outside another book store.Waiting Patiently

Where To Buy Books

Boekenfestijn
Yesterday we ventured over to the other side and town and went to our first event at the Jaarbeurs convention center: the boekenfestijn (book festival). This is a travelling book sale that sets up in cities all over the Netherlands, as well as Belgium. It runs for three or four days in each city, before packing up and moving on. It’s not fancy, just row after row of books. Pretty close to heaven for a bibliophile like myself! Even better, the books are generally fairly inexpensive.

I knew they would have English-language books on hand, but was pleasantly surprised at just how many. On the other hand, overhearing some of the Dutch people there made me think they weren’t so pleased. However, there were other sections that were predominantly Dutch; I think they just hadn’t worked their way over there yet. In the end, we bought five or six books for about €20, and could have easily bought more if we hadn’t limited ourselves to that budget. There were some interesting cookbooks, but they were a bit pricier, as cookbooks inevitably are, so I resisted. Good practice for the diet I’m on anyway. I didn’t need that big book full of chocolate recipes.

Fixed Location

Voorstraat 55
If you’re in Utrecht and looking for a stable source of inexpensive books in English, I recommend Antiquariaat, located at Voorstraat 55, a short walk from the Neude. This used-books store has a regularly changing supply of English-language books that take up the front left corner of the store. They also frequently have special discounts where you get a third book for half price, or a discount on books displayed on the shelf outside. They’ll almost always tell you if there’s a discount, without you having to ask.

It’s a friendly shop and it looks like they have some more interesting — and probably more expensive — used (rare) books in the back. When we were in last week, we ended up chatting with the owner who had just finished speaking with a rare-books collector who deals in some lofty price ranges! On the other hand, the owner of the store also buys regular paperbacks to sell to those of us with shallower pockets. If you have any books to sell to him, the best time to go is Tuesday afternoon. He’s most likely to be in the shop then. [Edited to add it is now closed]

Other Options

There are a few other spots I go to for my book needs here in Utrecht. On Saturdays at the outdoor market over at Vredenburg, there’s a stall that sells used books. They also tend to have a section devoted to English-language books, as well as some in French and German. Of course, if you want something newly released, you can always go to Selexyz Broese over on the Oudegracht across from the Stadhuis. The library is conveniently — and amusingly — located next door.

Bookstore and Library
Bruna has both online and brick-and-mortar shops. There’s a Bruna in the train station that comes in handy with magazines and books (in Dutch and English) for those times when you realize you might need something to read to pass the time.

Finally, Bol.com is an online shopping option, similar to Amazon before it started selling everything and the kitchen sink. They’ve got books in multiple languages, both new and used, as well as music, games and various electronics.

[Edited to add that there is now an Amazon.nl that is almost solely books right now. 12/2016]

If you’re in Utrecht and looking for some book shops, I hope this helps. If you know of any other good sources of English-language books here in the city center, do please let me know.

[20 April 2013: See my updated list of bookstores here.]

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The Written Word


It’s 3 p.m. and -3 C, and I’m thinking about having my third cup of coffee. Despite the sun making an appearance today, glinting off the light dusting of snow we got last night, I’d just as soon stay inside where it’s warm.

Since I haven’t been inclined to spend much time outdoors, with or without my camera, I’ve been getting a bit more thoughtful indoors with my subject matter for Project 365. Instead of just shooting whatever catches my eye, I’ve been thinking about arrangements and groupings. Yesterday, I did a collection of some of my glass and ceramic figurines, inspired by Tennessee Williams’ story, The Glass Menagerie. As I was pulling out my copy of Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire, to serve as a base for the figures, I thought of an idea to do for today’s photo. Today, as you can see above, I went with a grouping of some of my favorite Southern writers. Neither photo is a favorite, or particularly strong, but I am learning through my mistakes, which is one of my main goals with this project.

I had multiple bookcases packed and stacked with books before we moved. Leaving behind the bulk of my books was one of the hardest things to do. I had lots of memories associated with so many of those books and just simply being surrounded by them was often enough to make me happy or calm. I brought such a small segment of my collection when we moved; mainly my art/art history books, a few small sets of books by certain authors, and a handful of individual favorites. I try not to dwell too much on all the ones I left behind, or I start regretting my choices.

Perhaps I should have thought a little more carefully about leaving so many books behind. It’s not as if there are lots and lots of English-language books here, after all! While The Building of Renaissance Florence is quite interesting, it’s not necessarily the kind of book you reach for when you just want to relax. That goes for a lot of my art history books. They also tend to be a bit big and unwieldy for reading in bed late at night.

Fortunately, we’ve found a few used-book stores here in town, which are good for picking up thrillers and such in English, and there’s usually a used-book stall at the market on Saturday, but obviously, the selection is a bit limited. Amusingly, we’ve actually been rebuying some of the books that I left behind in the US. I seem to be rebuilding my Elizabeth George collection these days. Still, now that I’ve pulled out this handful of books, I think I might start rereading some of them. It’s been a while since I read A Confederacy of Dunces or any of my Lee Smith books. If only I could find a copy of Smith’s Black Mountain Breakdown. I knew I should have picked up a copy before moving!