Updated: May 16
When I moved to Basel, I left almost all my books behind. I wanted to travel lighter and thought that I would likely be reading fluently in German in no time (ha!). After about a month I realized I needed to find some English books - and fast. If not for me, then for my daughters who had devoured all the books we had brought. I quickly went on the hunt and found a few good sources.
Brick & Mortar Stores
Basel has a few bookstores that have a decent English collection. Bider & Tanner offers the largest selection of adult and children’s books and Orell Füssli offers a smaller, but still sizeable and well curated collection. You can also order books directly from these two stores if you have something particular in mind. Another source to note for children's books in particular is the Magical Cafe, which sells a nice selection of Usborne books.
If you are looking to buy second hand, Bücher-Brocky has a significant English section of mostly adult fiction and non-fiction, with some children’s books as well. If you like second-hand shopping in general, you can try out your hunting skills in one of Basel's numerous Brockis, many of which have small, eclectic English offerings.
If you prefer to buy online, Amazon is your best bet and are actually one of the easier things to get delivered to Switzerland.
And although I personally have not converted, I know many people that have given up paper books altogether for the ease of a Kindle, where you can instantly have access to as many e-books as you like, usually at lower prices that the paper versions. It also has the added advantage of having a built in German-English dictionary, which come in handy as you get more advanced into your studies.
Libraries and More
Basel has a strong network of libraries throughout the city, some of which offer books in English. In particular, the St. Johann JUKIBU and Library Basel West are known for having decent English selections. A basic membership is free for children and there are a variety of membership options for adults based on your borrowing preferences. Or check out Centerpoint Basel. This welcoming local organization has a large English book library. (Centerpoint also offers a variety of programs and events that may be of interest.)
Not satisfied with local libraries? Look into whether your old 'home' library will let you continue to borrow e-books. (Often if you still have your old library card you can do this under the radar.) EPIC is also a great e-book option for children with over 40,000 titles to choose from.
Lastly, for those treasure seekers out there, there are the Offender Bücherschrank or the Little Free Libraries (pictured above) that you will see all around the city. These adorable library boxes are a delightful addition to any neighborhood. Yes, the books are mostly in German, but on more than one occasion I’ve come across a handful of English books so it’s worth stopping to check!
I hope this aids you in your hunt! Know of any other good sources? Post it in the comments below!