Yours for a euro

   Paupers become book billionaires thanks to Tasso’s magic number.

Are you a student? A read-a-holic? A polymath – of course you are. Now read this sentence; you’ll never be the same again:

There is a cafe which sells books for one euro each.

One. Euro. I have bought a novel for a euro. A travel guide to Vienna for a euro. And even when I picked up a big red book with all of Brecht’s plays in it (37 plays plus one essay) and brought it dubiously to the counter, I was only asked to hand over one single euro. Every book in Tasso (for that is the name of book-heaven on Earth) costs one euro.

OK, I lied, not every book. The tiny yellow Reclam editions cost 50 cents.

I could start my own library for €20.

Now at first I was simply a poor student made happy. But since graduating last summer, I’ve made several trips to Tasso without scrolls of reading lists. After being told what to read and learning how to be picky about what I read for the past four years, handing over cash for a book which I’ve never heard of before is pretty terrifying. (You could say I set the bar for ‘terrifying’ pretty low… yes, I’m sheltered.) But the thing about one euro books is that you can afford to take risks. Literally. What really did it was when I looked at my piece of homemade Tasso cake. Look, I said to myself. You paid €2.50 for that piece of cake. That’s two and a half books. How many more hours of enjoyment (and how many fewer calories, fatty) will you consume for €2.50 worth of books instead of cake? Since that little mathematical epiphany – a rare life event – I went back at least every two weeks and got around 4 books a go. But still got the cake and tea. Oops.

C’mon, you’ve got to have a tea and a sit down to check them out first, right? 

Although it wasn’t really denting my purse, I realised that buying books faster than I could read them was pushing it. But before you judge me, I have read some of them! My favourite random buy so far was an eye-opening account of the Tsunami that flattened a tiny Thai island; eye-opening because of the brutal yet matter-of-fact descriptions of all the things a wall of water can do to an unsuspecting holiday resort (Phi Phi Island: Ein Bericht – Josef Haslinger). There have been books that were not so captivating, like Ich Ich Ich by Robert Gernhardt; essentially a self-pitying and self-hating failed artist’s monologue which was both hilarious and painful to get through. But do I regret any of my erratic purchases? NEIN, because each of them cost me less than a bottle of water. On top of that, I can finally say that I’ve read more than what I’ve had to read. (Low standards noted for the second time this post…)

Tasso is not only a cheap source of fulfilment. The cakes are good, and there are seasonal fruity punches to warm the soul, or cool it down if it’s too hot. Everyone competes quietly yet ruthlessly for the sinkiest of the sinky armchairs in the corner, and there are light window seats for the losers. Acoustic bands, writers and improv groups take over for late nights.

Douchebag in the middle got the best seat.

Need anything else? If the answer’s WiFi then what you really need is a book; Tasso has plenty of those. Or maybe a friend, but that’s more on a bring-your-own basis, unless you prey on poor, unsuspecting strangers like me.

Cafe Tasso
Frankfurter Allee 11
Friedrichshain

Mon-Sun: 9.30am – 8pm

Note: Basement with literature, English & foreign languages, music, art, sociology and philosophy closed on Sundays. But travel guides, cookbooks, maths, IT and children’s books are all on the ground floor.

One Comment Add yours

  1. Carl Bennett says:

    Bookshops like this are a rare thing nowadays. There is still one in Aldeburgh, but books are always £3 minimum. I got a proof copy of Nicola Barker’s In The Approaches (written now about 1984 and something that happened in 1972 involving parrots, shrines and a Thalidomide saint. Not involving Ian Drury) for £2 off a stall under the Wobbly Bridge last week. V. good. Ish.

    Liked by 1 person

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