By the book: Score rare gems at these charming bookstores across Asia
IF you fancy a good read when you’re travelling around Asia, make note of these bookstores.
Most of these places are more destinations than just shops and you may spend more time (and money) than planned.
Tsutaya Books @ Daikanyama T-Site, Tokyo, Japan
No doubt one of the best bookstores in the world, Daikanyama T-Site is an upscale experience like no other. Its modern design and structure by the award-winning Klein Dytham Architecture alone is worth the trip to the affluent neighbourhood of Daikanyama.
It’s easy to feel like you’re in a state-of-the-art museum than a bookstore. The space inside is a treasure trove of rare-edition fiction and non-fiction, art tomes, independent magazines and a large range of music and DVDs.
Bosu-Dong Bookstore Alley, South Korea
The Bosu-Dong Bookstore Alley is less a book store than it is a narrow four-foot alley comprising of multiple shops along . The street is a haven for those interested in rare second-hand books, some whose pages are yellowed and tattered, adding to the alley’s charm.
Books of all kind are crammed and stockpiled into corners and nooks, making it a real adventure for you to hunt down a good title. About 50 bookstores are in business at present time, and you can easily make a day out of exploring the little book caves, one at a time, page by page.
College Street, Kolkata, India
Kolkata is one of India’s intellectual centers and to connect with the crux of it, head to College Street, where second-hand bookstores are lined along a 1.5km stretch.
Bookstores are not so much ‘stores’ as they are makeshift bamboo stalls where books hang off in canopies. Many Indian publishers including Ananda Publishers and Dey’s Publishing are located along this stretch.
College Street is known as the largest second-hand book market in India, and the second largest in the world.
Randy’s Book XChange, Hoi An, Vietnam
Run by an American expat, Randy’s is a large bookshop selling mostly English language books in Hoi An. The shop contains used books for exchange or purchase and is located on Cam Nam Island with a kind of library feel to it with carpets, air conditioning and even free Wifi.
All books are original, not copies, and Randy’s won’t accept any copies for trading. Given Hoi An’s seaside location and general laid back vibe, a good book or two is perfect for the ambiance.
Connaught Place, New Delhi
If you’ve got an afternoon to kill in New Delhi, a visit to Connaught Place should satisfy the most ardent of book lovers.
This colonial era area has an incredible number of book stores including Oxford, Bookworm, Midland, Rajiv Book House, English Book Store, Jain Book Depot and Vishv Books, just to name a few. There’s a list of them here.
The great thing about Connaught is that if all that reading gives you an appetite, there’s an excellent selection of restaurants and entertainment on hand.
Dasa Books, Bangkok, Thailand
If you’re searching for a good used book that doesn’t cost too much, Dasa is your place. They offer 16,000 books in many languages, many of which cost about US$4-6.
There’s also a coffee corner and music playing to add to that all-round feel-good book store vibe. A monthly book club meeting is held here.
Bohr’s Books, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Located near the Ounalom Pagoda, this bookshop is well-priced and has a fine array of titles that are both used and copied. If you’re curious about the shop name, it’s worth noting that it’s named after the renowned Danish physicist Niels Bohr.
Subjects cover travel, classics, non-fiction and bestsellers. You should be able to find something here for your lazy cafe reads or trips up the Mekong River. Most titles go for about US$3-4. Customers could be foreign, Khmer, expats, travelers or even Buddhist nuns and monks.
Pagdandi – Books Chai Café, Pune, India
There is no better accompaniment to a book than a good cup of tea, and a bonus if the tea is of the spiced variety. At Pagdandi – Books Chai Café, you can curl up with one of the many books by independent publishers, available for rental or purchase.
The space is made comfortable with lots of mixed prints, throw cushions, and to pair with tea, many homemade cakes. A gallery walls adorns the enclave which features artwork by some of India’s budding artists and photographers.
Cambridge Book Depot, Mussoorie, India
If you can manage to fit into the store and squeeze between the rows of books, you’re doing well. Such is the volume of material in this space. Cambridge is undoubtedly Mussoorie’s favorite bookshop and a place I visit and purchase from each year.
It first opened back in 1952 and has been providing literature to residents and visitors ever since. It’s also a popular place for local authors such as Ruskin Bond, who you may see popping in when you’re there.
The owner, Sunil Arora, has a space devoted to local Mussoorie authors and seems to know every book in his store. He will also order in books for you if you’re around long enough. Final tip: Combine it with a visit to the restaurant, Rice Bowl, nearby.
BooksActually, Tiong Bahru, Singapore
Quaint and quirky BooksActually was the dream of Kenny Leck and Karen Wai who wanted to feature books you might not find in major book stores.
They specialize in fiction and literature with poetry, essays, rare editions and obscure titles in subjects such as history, travel, food, music, film, human sciences and more. Kenny and Karen also publish their own press and hand-stitched notebooks.
You may also spot Cake, a cat, who lives inside and is a sight to behold when sitting majestically on a pile of books.