Anyone who fondly recalls the Shakespeares & Sons on Krymská Street will likely lament its passing not just for the shabby-chic cafe experience that is slowly disappearing in a city dominated by slick coffeehouses, but for its shelves of gently-loved paperbacks.
The good news is that used books — sold in cozy surrounds — have returned to Prague’s most bohemian street. And all it took was a little Polish ingenuity.
Ula Jankowska (a.k.a. Miss Bookseller) a native of Warsaw, opened her pop-up shop specializing in secondhand books in English at Bougainvillea Concept Store & Wine Bar in May. “Shop” may not be exactly the right word as the books are packed into shelves and stacked on every available nook and cranny surrounding a small bar serving coffee from French roasters KB and light bites.
Visitors will find that it’s more like browsing a friend’s personal collection — and in a way it is:
“Shortly after moving to Prague a year ago, I met this guy Radovan, who was closing his Secret Bookshop, which was a few blocks away from our place. He had an office rented in a beautiful building, with Bernard Black’s name on the doorbell and a fantastic selection of second-hand books in English there. He was moving out of the city and made me a very good offer.”
Jankowska, who added to the current collection of just under 1,000 titles by ordering additional inventory from a warehouse, is no stranger to the business of books.
“I worked in small bookstores in Poland for around 14 years. I started in a bookshop in Warsaw which was named for Bohumil Hrabal’s The Gentle Barbarian. That was my first contact with his writing and that was how my love affair with the Czech Republic and Prague began.”
Afterward, she moved to Wrocław to help start a bookshop there and later to Kraków to work in a bookshop/café. Eventually, she landed back in Warsaw selling picture books and books in English while working with publishing houses to organize events and fairs including a weekend devoted to indie bookshops in the Polish capital. Jankowska also contributed book reviews to Polish design magazine Futu Paper and other publications.
The selection of books at Miss Bookseller’s certainly reflects its proprietor’s eclectic pedigree: Charles Dickens, Vladimir Nabokov, Michel Houellebecq, Alice Munro, and Zadie Smith can all be found amid handmade pottery and crafts by local artists also available for sale.
Book prices range from 150-250 CZK (rare copies run up to 400 CZK); prices for new books are converted into CZK from the original prices.
Other notable touches include bookmarks handmade from strips of vintage paperbacks and hand-embroidered handkerchiefs by local stitcher Markéta Monhart to accompany particularly gutwrenching reads.
In association with Bougainvillea, a Vršovice venue known for its Spanish wine and tapas, Miss Bookseller’s has been hosting evening events, screenings, and workshops. Jankowska hopes to expand her inventory to include children’s books as well.
“My goal is to encourage people to read books and to help them find the right one for them…and to encourage everyone to buy from independent bookshops and also support local independent businesses.”
Judging from our visit to her inviting shop, Jankowska is definitely on the right page when it comes to doing both.
Miss Bookseller’s Bookshop
(Closed on Mondays.)