Utrecht 4 Books 4 Life

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I love a bookshop and Utrecht is lucky to have so many as befits a UNESCO City of Literature. I also love second hand books and Books 4 Life is the perfect place to browse and smell the works of so many authors! I interviewed John Rijnbeek about the shop which is very much part of the community and also benefits the community at large through its’ work.

Tell us a little about yourself
I am John  Rijnbeek, chairman of Books 4 Life Utrecht.
Books 4 Life Utrecht is a second hand bookshop, run entirely by volunteers.
We sell books, CD’s, vinyl records and movies of good quality. All the books we sell are donated by people or companies who support our goals.
90% of the profit goes to charity. Half of it goes to Amnesty International and Oxfam Novib, the other half to local charity, chosen by our volunteers.
Our shop is located at Koningsweg 2 in Utrecht, in a part of the Red Cross building and is open from Monday until Saturday from 11am until 5pm.


 How long has the shop been open?

Books 4 Life was originally an initiative of students from the University of Tilburg.

The first bookshop was opened in 2009 in Tilburg. At the moment there 6 bookshops in Amsterdam, Eindhoven, Groningen, Nijmegen, Tilburg and Utrecht.

Although they all share the same concept, the shops are fully independent.

Books 4 Life Utrecht has existed since 2012 and has been located at different locations.

Since June 2018 we are located at the Koningsweg 2.

Why did you open the shop?

We have several goals:

  • Contribution to human rights and the fight against poverty;
  • Contribution to protection of the environment by giving books a second life;
  • Giving people a possibility to a meaningful contribution to a good cause trough volunteers work.

John thinks that for anyone interested in working in their shop they don’t have to be a book specialist, but should have a love for books and of music movies and socials skills to help the customers.
Some volunteers have adopted some subjects they are interested in and take care of the books on their subject.

Do you hold literary or other events at the shop?

We haven’t done that so far, but maybe in the future. But we do hook on to the events that are going on, like the national books week, Christmas, King’s Day and Poetry festival.
You can also find us at markets and events where we fit in. Last year we had a market stand at the International Literature Festival and the Christmas Market, among others.

Are you mainly stocking Dutch books or are their English language ones?

Mainly Dutch, but we also have a big collection of English books, both fiction and non-fiction and a few shelves with books in German, French and Spanish.


John has lived in Utrecht since he was 3 years old and never left.

What is your favourite place in Utrecht?

My favourite place is the southern part of the city centre with its beautiful canals buildings, museums, pubs and shops, just outside the crowded part of the centre.

What would be a perfect day in Utrecht for you?

To speak with the Kinks: Lazing on a Sunny afternoon

Does Utrecht inspire you?

It always does. It never bores me. It has the class of Amsterdam but in a cosy way, not too big and crowded and I hope it stays that way.

The final message from John is that you are very welcome in his shop to buy or donate books!

So my specialist advice would be to get along there and enjoy the aroma of second hand books and contribute to the good causes they support.

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Jon Wilkins

Jon Wilkins

Jon Wilkins is Welsh and lives in England. He is a writer. A Europhile and Remainer, he is a regular visitor to Utrecht and has set his crime novel series in the city.

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