Without a proper bookstore, a city is nothing more than a ‘random’ collection of people. Luckily for the inhabitants of Rotterdam there are quite a few bookshops. The biggest, and my most cherished, is Donner (Coolsingel 119).
Revived from the dead
Let me take you back to the first months of 2014. Things weren’t looking too bright for bookstores and the book business in general. Donner, then under the name Polare, was having trouble to survive. The store was housed in a massive building just around the corner from her present-day location when its parent company went bankrupt. That seemed to be the end of Rotterdam’s finest bookshop. But five heroes, employees of Donner, put on the shoes of Melisandre and revived Donner from the dead. They started a crowdfunding campaign and more than 1750 people donated money. Together with a few private investors the foundation was laid for a resurrection.
Before we continue: the five heroes (Suzanne Hammecher, Jan Lutjeboer, Marjan Schoonderwoerd, Leo van de Wetering and Eelco Zuidervaart) need a statue. Silver or gold will do just fine. Those heroes had to find a new suitable building in the city center. The search let eventually to an iconic building at the Coolsingel. Built in 1941, just after the bombardment of Rotterdam, this building served most of its days as a bank building. It’s easily recognizable due to its green copper roof, statues on the side and classical columns. Whether the building is your cup of tea or not, it offered enough space for a new shop. With the help of volunteers the store opened for business in no time.
Kid in a candy store
Donner has a lot to offer and even more. As could be expected of a book store: there a books. Plenty of them. Novels, thrillers, school books, poetry, children’s books. Too many to mention. Books aren’t the only things Donner sells. Board games, world maps and even (classical) music are part of the inventory. In the antiquarian bookshop some hidden treasures can be found for a fair price. One last thing (before I lose myself in an endless enumeration): Café Donner is a nice place to recover one’s breath from the book overkill and enjoy the homemade pie.
One of the best things to do in Donner is attend one of the lectures in the middle of the shop. Mostly in the weekends writers, researchers or famous people visit Donner to give lectures for those who are interested. Not too long ago Karl Ove Kausgard visited Donner, which attracted a lot of excited housewives. Although the lectures are interesting, the audience is mostly old, with white hair or no hair at all. That’s a shame. To stroll on a (hung-over) Sunday in Donner and listen to the interesting stories is my favorite thing to do. And when I sit amongst the old people I realize: I want to be like them when I’m old.
New and improved Donner
In March 2016 Donner announced they were staying just where they are: at the Coolsingel. Yay for us! At first the building was supposed to serve as a temporary place while the searched continued for a definite space. In consultation with the developer Donner made a plan for an extensive reconstruction. At this moment the shops only occupies one floor of the building. After the reconstruction Donner becomes yet again the largest bookshop in the Netherlands, including an fancy atrium and grand entrance. This should be finished in 2018, so just a little more patience. In the meantime visit the current Donner and buy some of the many things…