Three unusual bookshops​

    Spotlight 4/2023
    College Street
    © S.Wichitaphornkun/

    There’s something very special about books. That wonderful feel and smell of the paper as you pick up a brand-new book or turn the softer pages of one that’s been opened many times before. Who read these pages before me?​

    Let’s take a look at three rather unusual bookshops you may like to visit yourself. Each of them sells books in the English language – and, like the books on their shelves, each has its own, very special story to tell.​


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    Transcript: Three unusual bookshops​

    The Singing Wind Bookshop

    Near Benson, Arizona, US

    “Old school” – that’s the best way to describe the Singing Wind Bookshop in Arizona. This bookshop really is off the beaten off the beaten trackab vom Schuss​track or, in this case, off a bumpyholperig​bumpy dirt roadunbefestigte Straße​dirt road just a few kilometres away from the town of Benson, Arizona. It’s hidden away, right next to the ranch house, in the middle of the 200-hectare Singing Wind cattleRinder​cattle ranch, which Winifred (Winn) Bundy and her husband bought in 1956.​

    The Singing Wind Bookshop really has been a labour of loveHerzensangelegenheit​labour of love. Winn Bundy completed a master’s degreeMasterabschluss, Magister​master’s degree in library scienceBibliothekswissenschaften​library science and opened the bookshop in 1974. To begin with, it housed only 600 books. The focus of the shop has always been to celebrate America’s Southwest, an area that’s full of fascinating history. While Winn was still alive, visitors to the bookshop had to ring a bell when they were ready to pay, for she would usually be outdoors, working somewhere on the ranch.​

    Nowadays, the Singing Wind Bookshop has 30,000 new and used books covering all genres. Part of its charm is that there’s no website, no social media and no promotionhier: Werbung​promotion. There are no labels on the shelves because it’s never been necessary to have them. People hear about the bookshop through word of mouthMundpropaganda​word of mouth and, over the years, it’s become a famous tourist destination. Book lovers travel to Arizona specially to experience the bookshop, where one of the staff will help them find what they’re looking for.​

    Sadly, Winn Bundy died in 2020, but her daughter, son, granddaughter and volunteerEhrenamtliche(r)​volunteers are there to carry on her literary legacyErbe​legacy. So, the next chapter of the Singing Wind Bookshop is in good hands.​

    College Street

    Kolkata, India

    Imagine a 1.5-kilometre stretchStrecke​stretch of road in a historical area of Kolkata (the official name of Calcutta since 2001), crowd it with bookshops of every description, add the wonderful chaos of India – and you have the famous College Street.​

    The biggest book market in India and the largest market in the world for second-handhier: antiquarisch​second-hand books, College Street has every kind of bookshop you can think of – large shops, small shops and what look like temporaryprovisorisch, kurzzeitig​temporary stallVerkaufsstand​stalls at the side of the road. You’ll find new books, second-hand books at a reasonable price, academic books of every sort and even very rare books that are out of printvergriffen​out of print.​

    It’s known as College Street because it’s home to many historical educational institutions – colleges, universities and schools. Some of these are among the oldest in India, such as the Hindu School, the University of Calcutta, Calcutta Medical College and Presidency University.​

    There’s a special atmosphere on College Street, where time seems to stand still so that you can feel the history around you. Walk along the street and you’ll meet tourists, students, professors, film-makers, writers and academics, as well as people from all over the world and of every age who simply love books. You’ll also see people discussing books with great enthusiasm over a cup of tea or coffee on street corners.​

    The Indian Coffee House, another landmarkWahrzeichen​landmark on College Street, has played an important part in the city’s cultural history. Founded in 1876 and located opposite the Presidency University, it has, through the years, been a regular meeting place and intellectual battleground for students and people from the cultural world, including such famous names as Satyajit Ray.​

    John K. King Used & Rare Books

    901 West Lafayette Boulevard, Detroit, Michigan

    More than a million! That’s the incredible number of books at John K. King Used & Rare Books. It therefore comes as no surprise that you’re given a map of the shop when you enter, to help you to find your way around.​

    King had always been to be passionate about sth.eine Leidenschaft für etw. haben​passionate about used books, even as a schoolboy, and in 1965, he made his start in the book business, selling them from his car. He set up his first bookshop in Dearborn, Michigan, in 1971 and then, in 1983, bought the abandonedverlassen​abandoned, four-storey Advanced Glove factory, a famous building in downtown Detroit. The bookshop’s website tells the story of how it was “picked up and moved in the late 1940s to make way for the freeway (N. Am.)(gebührenfreie) Autobahn​freeway being built nearby”. The original floor matFußabstreifer​floor mat of the glove factory still lies at the entrance. Later, John also bought the building next door, which now houses the Rare Book Room and the bookshop’s offices.​

    There are no new books at John K. King Used & Rare Books, but it does have more than a million second-hand books housed on four floors of apparently endless bookshelves. The books cover every subject, from art, history and romance to the classics – and everything in between.​

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