March’s International Bookshop of the Month – Athenaeum Bookstore in Amsterdam, Netherlands

Founded in 1966 in the centre of Amsterdam on the iconic Spui square, Athenaeum Bookstore is housed in several connected old Amsterdam houses. We are an independent bookstore with a focus on literary books in several languages including Dutch, English and French. We have an academic focus in our non-fiction sections, including a great variety of books on history, classical antiquity, philosophy, politics, psychology, gender, science, and art and have a magazine department that specializes in independently published magazines. We have three more shops in Amsterdam, one within the Rijksmuseum and two others known by their own names, Martyrium and Van Rossum, and we have a shop in Haarlem. Soon we will open a new shop near the Amsterdam Arena as well. Read on to find out more!

1. If you could give one reason to go into Athenaeum when visiting the Netherlands, what would it be?

Our bookstore on the Spui is like no other in the world, both because of our fine selection of books and magazines both mainstream and specialised, and because of the characteristic build-up of our shop, which occupies one of the most beautiful spots in the city centre.

2. Are there any exciting new trends in what people are buying currently? Any unexpected genres or particular books doing better than you thought?

We see that people, including Dutch people, like to read in English if possible. In earlier times we were mainly a Dutch language store, but nowadays English books make up a much greater part of our selection. Specifically, we see a lot of interest in topics related to gender and diversity, and also we see young people coming in asking about titles circulating on TikTok.

3. You have a really strong relationship with the Rijksmuseum, are there any upcoming exhibitions that you are excited about?

The Rijksmuseum bookshop is run by Athenaeum, so we are always excited to see what they come up with, especially now the museums are open again after being closed due to Covid regulations. The next exhibition is called Revolusi! and will be about opposition to Dutch colonial ambitions in Indonesia and the consequent political and military interventions and abuses. This is a very important topic about which we in the Netherlands are just beginning to see what truly happened. Next up will be an exhibition on the great Dutch master Johannes Vermeer, which is also very exciting!

4. Athenaeum had a vibrant events programme before the pandemic. Given the easing of restrictions and general optimism towards the year ahead, do you have any plans to bring this back? Do you have plans for other social gatherings?

We do. In normal times, we host a lot of book launches and magazine launches, and also we program interviews, readings and book clubs. As soon as Covid regulations permit, we will start up our programming again. We also have a partnership with the academic-cultural centre Spui25, located opposite our store, that hosts a variety of programs throughout the academic year in different locations in the city centre.

5. Are there any Yale books which you and your customers consider a favourite? Why is that?

Yale University Press offers a great selection of books and each season we really look forward to seeing what new books will be published as we are huge fans. Favourite books include those by historian Geoffrey Parker, his biography of Charles V (Emperor) is a bestseller, and also titles like Against the Grain by James Scott or The Bookshop of the World by Andrew Pettegree and Arthur der Weduwen. All are well-researched history books, written for the learned as well as the general reader, that’s why we like them so much. Today we received some of the newest books by Yale University Press, The Normans by Judith Green and A Blue New Deal by Chris Armstrong.

To learn more about Athenaeum Bookstore, you can visit their website, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram page, or pop into their shop in Amsterdam:

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