• Books
  • Ocelot bookstore: “Come in and be surprised!”


Ocelot bookstore: “Come in and be surprised!”

Last year, Cecilia Drain took over the reins of one of Berlin's best loved bookstores. We caught up to talk about everything Ocelot.

Photo: Makar Artemev

Since its founding in 2012, Ocelot – tagline: not just another bookstore – has established itself as one of the city’s most iconic places to read, talk and buy. Not only is the store immensely photogenic, with a stylish café area, close proximity to both Mitte and Prenzlauer Berg and big windows overlooking the Volkspark am Weinberg, it also has an impressive multilingual collection with an emphasis on indie presses and diverse voices (and plenty auf Englisch).

We caught up with Cecilia Drain, who took over the reins of Ocelot last year after longtime leader Maria-Christina Piwowarski decided to move on.

How long have you been working at Ocelot?

I arrived in 2018 and did my bookseller training – my Ausbildung – here. I was originally living in Hamburg, and I followed Ocelot on Facebook because I always thought it was a great bookstore. Then, when I saw they were announcing an Ausbildung opportunity, I decided I had to try. Since 2021, I’ve been working as a full-time bookseller. Last summer, I began to share the leadership with Maria-Christina Piwowarski, and then took it on entirely last December. 

We like to give the smaller publishers a platform… books that are perhaps a bit more off the beaten trail.

Piwowarski is something of a book celeb around these parts. What is it like to take over her seat?

Yes, of course, I’m following in some pretty big footsteps (laughs). I want to keep leading the place how we ran it together last year – in that sense, the succession has been rather smooth. Above all, it’s a great honour, and a great pleasure.

What’s the concept of Ocelot, for you – what are you trying to keep going?

Well, the main concept is that we are a bookstore that primarily sells Belletristik – literary fiction and poetry. But we also want to feature books from independent publishers, from smaller publishers, that you might not find elsewhere. What we want is for people to come in and be surprised. We want to create a place for exchange about literature, especially in the café area, and then simply to be a place for literature where people feel comfortable – where they want to spend some time, discovering new books and new ideas.

Discovery – that’s something special about physical bookstores, isn’t it? Places like Amazon just give you whatever you were already looking for…

Yes, I think so. We like to make things visible that aren’t necessarily advertised everywhere or all over Amazon. We like to give the smaller publishers a platform so that their books can be discovered, including books that are perhaps a bit more off the beaten trail. For instance, we stock everything that is published by two fantastic Berlin indie publishers: Guggolz Verlag and the poetry press Verlagshaus Berlin. 

And you sell books in English, too! 

Yes, we have a very well-stocked English-language section. It includes fiction in translation and smaller books, too. And, as of last year, we also sell children’s books in English. So it is quite a wide spectrum. 

Do you have any exciting plans for the rest of 2024?

Well, we are always running events, typically about once a month. These are usually in German, but sometimes in English –  all the information is on our website. In June, we will have an event in English with the French author Constance Debré for her book Love Me Tender. It’s a work of autofiction. The protagonist has a secure job, a secure life – and then she leaves it all behind to become a writer, and to find herself in a new queer life. We are very excited about that one.

And we also host a reading group, which meets every six to eight weeks. It is open to anyone. At each meeting two books get discussed, but you don’t have to have read both of them – or even one of them – to take part. And at the end, the group decides what they are going to read next; there’s nobody in charge. Everyone makes suggestions, the people vote, and off they go.

Last question: Things seem to be going very well for Ocelot. Do you have any wild dreams for the future of the store, in five or 10 years?


Or is it already a dream?

Yes, exactly! (laughs) I mean, firstly, that it keeps going like this. One thing I very much like is the fact that our audience and our customers are so diverse in terms of age. That’s something that I really hope we can sustain.

  • Ocelot, Brunnenstraße 181, Mitte, 10-20, follow on IG @ocelotberlin