If the sight of books spilling off tables, down steps and into the street makes you happy, visit Kadıköy immediately. There are many things to like about this Anatolian side neighborhood of Istanbul, but I’m going to start with the vast number of booksellers. There are people selling books on the pavement, in doorways, in the Akmar Pasajı, and in proper good old fashioned stores. While most of them are only selling Turkish books (naturally) there are some foreign language book sellers who have some real gems.
It was a pleasure to poke about these places as there’s something about bookstores of just about any kind that is deeply satisfying. In fact, I spent a few years working in them between high school and college, first selling remaindered books, mostly marked down Penguins in a run down shop, where I spent most of my day behind the cash register on a stack of squashed cardboard boxes, reading interesting finds. Then I moved to a proper bookstore where the books were alphabetized and shelved rather than stacked and spread across folding tables. After that I moved onto one of the chains, which eventually ended my enthusiasm for working in book stores altogether. That’s another story.
Anyway, back to Kadıköy. Among the various booksellers is one real treasure: Rafi Kitap. Thanks to a tip from Istanbul Daily Secret, I decided to check out the store which has a good selection of English books, and specializes in Ottoman and Byzantine history, culture and art books. The owner, and his wife—who according to IDS speaks excellent English are happy to help customers track down rare editions. Their current stock is definitely worth a peruse, located in a corner shop on Sarraf Ali Sokak No: 17/A, just off Moda Caddesi.