Finding English-language books in Sofia can be frustrating. Unlike food and clothes, book prices do not reflect reduced Bulgarian purchasing power. Vendors have also not learned the difference between attentive service and "customer stalking". Traders in the UK, by contrast, know that the most lucrative enterprise is the most comfortable one. Let people browse and read books on soft sofas – preferably with a coffee close to hand – and they'll come back.
Lovers of the classics, trashy novels and glossy travel books will have no problems in Sofia. Several bookshops in the city centre cater to your needs, although the same titles re-appear everywhere.
If you're looking for a more comprehensive range of biographies, you will be disappointed. For example, I looked in vain for Christopher Hitchens' popular autobiography Hitch 22. Sofia's biography section is weak. You're better off ordering these books on Amazon but be advised that giving the name of a company with a conspicuous building is better than a private address.
The Knigomania chain remains your best bet for English-language books. The same chain has a franchise with the Orange centres which, in addition to selling books, also sell videos, toys and games. The excellent Penguin Yalta bookshop in the university metro station is also part of the same stable.
Knigomania's best outlet is on Vassil Levski Boulevard. It has a fine range of classics (at the far end of the store) and popular fiction (to the right of the entrance). It houses Shakespeare and Dickens – as well as 20th century icons like Camus, Hemingway, Orwell and Roth. It also has the most updated collection.
For example, it was the first to stock Tony Blair's autobiography. It also has a good choice of reference works, children's books and books about the arts, although if you're looking for in-depth books about cinema – other than the ubiquitous titles on Ray Winstone, Daniel Craig and Jordan – you'll be disappointed. There's a good travel section, albeit at extortionate prices. Booktrading has a good choice of reference books and dictionaries.
Although all these shops have English-language sections, you'll find some good English books interspersed among the Bulgarian ones, so you need to hunt around.
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