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Reading in the world’s least favo(u)rite language.

Before cable television, before broadband Internet, before last-minute low-airfare holidays, before media events and international terror, there were libraries. Never centralized to the extent of the U.S. public library system, Prague’s collections are largely subject to a division along topical lines, leading John Q. Taxpayer to imagine that there’s nowhere to read English-language books in the city. Au contraire (or whatever that means in English)! The international language — no, not Esperanto — is alive and well in Prague. Here’s a sampling of the town’s specialty libraries — but, as Jacques Derrida would doubtless remind us, all lists are, by their nature, bound to be incomplete. Don’t ask us what that means. We read it in a book.

City Library
Mariánské Náměstí 1, P1
Tel. 222 113 338

Fiction from a long time ago, otherwise known as “literature.” Heavy on that thing called the Western Canon, Aesop through Zola. If you skipped school and huffed, this is the place to get your education on. Also has an extensive reference section, Internet access and accommodation for laptops. Open Tuesday through Friday 9 am-8 pm and Saturday 10 am-5 pm

Institute for International Relations
Nerudova 3, P1
Tel. 251 108 111
The library of the IIR includes 70,000 volumes focusing on politics and diplomacy and 500 scientific journals and newspapers, the majority of which are in English. The reading room is open Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 9 am It closes at 4 pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays and at 6 on Wednesdays. Drop by and relate — internationally!

British Council
Národní 10, P1
Tel. 221 991 111
Books in approved English — you know, the kind that’s more intelligent, the kind with extra vowels. Here you’ll find a wide array of Brit lit. A great place to five-finger The Guardian and other high-end pubs, the BC also has an excellent reference section, itself listed in the Encyclopedia Britannica, volume B-C. Now houses the formidable FAMU video collection. Open Monday through Friday, 10 am-6 pm

Gender Studies Library
Gorazdova 20, P2
Tel. 224 915 666
More than 4,000 titles (books, journals, magazines and articles) on a range of topics from feminist theory to fiction. Its porno section is also unbeatable (pun intended). A small, private study as well as free Internet access is available. The library catalog is available online at Open Monday, Wednesday or Thursday noon-6 pm and Tuesday and Friday noon-4 pm, or by appointment.

Prague Christian Library
Baranova 32, P3
Tel. 222 724 856
Can’t remember what Jesus said about something? Drop by and look it up. This place features a large, ecclesiastically oriented book and video collection, in addition to religious classes and counseling in English. Also features an extensive selection of children’s books. It even has the Bible! Open Monday 6-9 pm, Wednesday 10 am-6 pm, Thursday 2-5 pm.

American Cultural Center
Tel. They’re listening
This near-oxymoron shut down after 9/11 but will hopefully reopen inside the protective walls of the U.S. Embassy in Malá Strana after May, when the world is scheduled to be free of terror. Its old building on Hybernská was ground zero for heavyweight poli-sci tomes and the required reading of American-literature classes. Contact the embassy at 257 530 663 for updates.

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