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From borrowing to buying: English books in Rome

books

All the details on Rome’s English-language library as well as some great spots to buy books in English

I have a problem. Okay, I have several problems, starting with my inability to stop eating carbohydrates once the weather drops below 75 degrees Fahrenheit, but let’s stick to the subject at hand. My problem is the lack of English-language libraries in Rome. Sure, you can buy books in English, and they are much easier to find now than in years gone by, but if you’re like me and devour books somewhat speedily, you might find a few reasons why this isn’t always the best solution.

  1. Sometimes you’re just flipping through a book and decide you want to give it a try, but that doesn’t mean you necessarily want to commit to having it in your library at home. You’re curious and open-minded about said book, but what if it’s clingy? Or not as funny as you thought? What if it’s just not what you expected, or not what you feel like being involved with at the time? Are you just going to buy it before even getting to know it?
  2. Sometimes you want to read a book – no, no, you must read it, it’s imperative that you do so – and then you do, and it’s just, eh. It’s never a bad idea to have read it but it didn’t change your life and you could have gone without owning it. Which is really just what comes with not paying attention to point 1. Some books change your life, and you have to own them, want them sitting on your bookshelf. Some books you just want to read and then bring back. It doesn’t have to be that serious.
  3. There are occasions where you want to read a series, but it has so many books in it that you’d have to take out a bank loan to be able to afford buying them all brand-new, i.e. Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series, which just came out with its 40th book and is still going strong.
  4. Sometimes you just want to be around books.

I hear you telling me to get a Kindle already. And, truth is, I already have one, complete with a bright pink cover and its own little light. I don’t like it. The Kindle, I mean, not the light (the light is quite cute). I find Kip the Kindle convenient when I absolutely can’t find a title in English in any of the normal spots I hit up for my English book fixes (list below) and I really don’t feel like reading the book in Italian (I’m a big believer in reading books in the language they were written in, if at all possible), but I love the heft and feel of a real book, underlining phrases (no, the underlining feature on the Kindle is not the same thing), and randomly opening up an old favorite book and reading it from whatever page it opens to. Last but definitely not least, I like nothing more than sharing the books I love with the people I love, and lending them out – and this is just not something one does with a Kindle. Also, I’m sick of little electronic devices ruling the world.

I have a solution for you (and for me!), and that solution is the Santa Susanna English-Language Library. This literary treasure trove is adjoined to the Church of Santa Susanna, right by Piazza della Repubblica, and while it may not be the place to find the newest books, it has a surprising amount of great titles available (almost 20,500, and if you can’t find something you’d like to read in the midst of thousands of books then I just don’t know what to do with you right now).

Details!

What: Santa Susanna English-Language Library

Where Am I Going: Via XX Settembre 15 (right by the Church of Santa Susanna), 2nd floor

When Can I Go:

  • Tuesdays and Thursdays 10 AM – 1 PM
  • Wednesdays 3 –6 PM
  • Fridays 1 -4 PM
  • Sundays: 10 AM – 12:30 PM

Keep In Mind: The library has reduced hours during the summer months, and is closed during the Christmas holidays, as well as on American or Italian national holidays. It also won’t open if there’s a transportation strike, not like you can blame them, because scioperi wreak havoc all over the city.

What’s It Gonna Cost Me: A lot less than what it’s costing you now to keep up your imported book habit, trust me, and your membership fee is what keeps this library running, so it’s totally worth it. A 3-month membership will run you 27.50 euro, a 6-month one 35 euro, and a year membership 45 euro. There’s a deposit of 40 euro, and you can then borrow up to 8 books for 2 weeks (2 more if you renew, which you can even do by phone).

What Will I Find: What won’t you find? Books span all genres, and there are even some out-of-print gems. Explore away, it’s half the fun! The library has quarterly used book sales, and you can even ask them to notify you of them via email, so you know when to bring your wheelbarrow to cart  all your books home.

Really Important Point: Although the library is not currently accepting donations of books, they are always on the lookout for friendly volunteers! Volunteers are asked to be either mother tongue or have a very high level of spoken English. If you’re interested, please feel free to reach out to Ms. Tonia White, Library Coordinator, at susannalibrary@gmail.com. You know you wanna!

How Can I Reach Them: Their email addresses are library@santasusanna.org and susannalibrary@gmail.com.

All of this being said, if you’re ready to take the plunge and commit to that book (I’m not even going to go into how many comparisons can apparently be made between books and relationships – I had no idea until I started writing this post), here are a few good spots for buying:

  • Scout out Borri Books in Termini train station, with entrances both upstairs and downstairs in the station. There is quite a large section of English books on the very top floor. The downside is that books aren’t organized all that well here, but if you’re looking for a particular title, ask one of the staff to look it up on the computer and see if they have it in stock – if so, they’ll know exactly where it is, which might save you some time if you’re about to miss the shuttle for the office but you really want that Asimov and can’t find it for the life of you. Just hypothetically.
  • Any Feltrinelli in Rome will have an English section, and again, if you’re looking for a particular title, just ask. They can order it if they don’t have it. Actually, nowadays, almost any bookstore is likely to have at least a small section of books in English, so it’s always worth it to pop in and have a look.
  • Anglo American Book Co. on Via della Vite 102, right by Piazza di Spagna, has quite the collection, and is also used by many of the American universities in the city for ordering textbooks. You can find all sorts of books here, and the collection is quite extensive and includes children’s books.
  • My personal favorite is the Almost Corner Bookshop on Via del Moro 45 in Trastevere, just a stone’s throw from Piazza Trilussa. It’s a cozy little nook owned by a family that loves books, and whoever is there will be more than happy to make suggestions or advise you on a good read, as well as order anything they don’t have. If you’re in the area, it’s definitely worth going in, even if just for the atmosphere.

If you have a favorite place to go for books in Rome, please let us know! We’re always looking for new suggestions and places to explore. I want to insert a line about walking around with your nose stuck in a book, but I’m going to hold back. I am.

Happy reading, everyone!

4 thoughts on “From borrowing to buying: English books in Rome

  1. What a great list – some new to me ones that I will have to check out. What about the international Feltrinelli just off Repubblica? That is my go to place for English books as they have a huge selection.

    • Hi Sophia! Thank you, so glad you enjoyed the list! Absolutely, the Feltrinelli International stores are always a great bet – the Feltrinelli right at Largo Argentina is one of my go-to spots as well, also since they have a great little bar upstairs!

  2. This is such an awesome tip– thank you for posting this! I’ve been “borrowing” books from my library back in the states, but would love to start reading actual books again, instead of electronic ones.

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