Who We Are
Proprietor John Browner has 40 years experience as a bookseller. He started in the book business as a clerk at the original Barnes & Noble Bookstore in New York City, where he worked on and off from 1976-1981. While living in New York he published a novel, Death of a Punk (Pocketbooks, 1980) that enjoyed moderate success as the first punk noir novel. (It was published in German by the Heyne Verlag here in Munich under the title, Tod Eines Punk and in French by Gallimard under the title, ZZZ)
In 1981 John moved to New Hampshire and managed a secondhand book shop there. Three years later he opened his first shop, Johnnie’s Paperback Place, in Claremont, New Hampshire. After a few harsh New England winters, he began looking for a more temperate location, and in 1987 opened Bell, Book, & Coffee in Durham, North Carolina. It was a bookstore/café, one of the first in the United States.
In 1991 John moved across town to a larger space and opened Ravena's Restaurant & Bookstore, a business that grew to employ 25 people. After five years he burned out on being a boss, handed the reins to two managers and came for the first time to Munich, where he rented an apartment in Neuperlach for six months. He spent his days walking around Munich and his evenings writing stories and essays. He also began daydreaming of opening an English-language secondhand-book shop here.
Back in Durham, John decided to jettison the restaurant. He sublet the restaurant space and renamed the bookstore Books On Ninth. John has continued to write, and was awarded the 2003 North Carolina Arts Council Screenwriting Fellowship.
In high school Lisa Yarger had to take several years of a foreign language and chose German above Latin, French or Spanish. She did this for two very good reasons: 1) her older sister had taken German and 2) German had been the first language of her grandfather, Arthur Peter Hausmann, who grew up in a German immigrant community outside of St. Louis. (Arthur stopped speaking German when he entered school and was a bit shaken as an adult to learn that the German word for horse is Pferd; where he grew up, a horse was a Gaul.)
At Wake Forest University Lisa studied English literature but continued taking German classes. In 1989-90 she spent a year in Innsbruck, Austria, as a Rotary Fellow. Had she spent less time in Innsbruck searching for the perfect torte and more time attending classes, she would speak better German today.
Lisa has an M.A. degree in folklore and has worked as a museum curator, an oral historian and an editor.
Her narrative nonfiction book, Lovie: The Story of a Southern Midwife and an Unlikely Friendship, was published December 1, 2016 by the University of North Carolina Press in association with the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University.
Lisa and John met in Durham in 1999 when Lisa stopped by Books on Ninth to trade in some of her books. They were pleased to realize how much they had in common, including speaking bad German! They married in 2002.
In September, 2003, Lisa and John awarded themselves a writing sabbatical (underwritten in part by John’s screenwriting fellowship) and rented an apartment in Nymphenburg near the Hirschgarten. They loved living in Munich and decided to come back to open the best English-language secondhand-book shop Continental Europe has ever seen. They returned to Durham just long enough to have a baby (born in June 2005) and make plans to return to Munich.
The Munich Readery is the culmination of a book store romance and 40 years of book-selling experience. John and Lisa hope the shop becomes a gathering place for book lovers of all kinds, including expatriates, travelers, and Germans who like to speak and read English. Stop by and visit the shop and introduce yourself. They look forward to meeting you!