Oct 22, 2022
SOME PEOPLE LIKE BRINGING books on vacation. Others find that buying books during their travels makes the perfect experience or souvenir. Luckily for those in the latter category, Asia has, from the bright lights of cities-that-never-sleep to rustic streets, intriguing bookstores, shops and libraries that are—shall we say?—bound to suit every reader’s mood and all the best titles.
While there are numerous ancient and celebrated bookstores throughout Europe and the Middle East, Asia has taken a more modern, unique, and often stylish approach to the celebration and display of the written word.
Here’s a page-turning selection of spots fit for anyone who has fun book foraging. Along with exploring neighborhoods, funky shops, and unique architecture, a day among literature is enriching for the mind and soul.
In the art-hub district of Pier 2 in Kaohsiung (Taiwan’s second largest city), you’ll find the contemporary architecture edifice of Wugan Books. Mixed with nearly 300 wood-lined bookcases and cozy nooks for an intimate feel, the lights are turned down low, really low.
The books stand out through carefully designed lighting that illuminates each book individually, making them look as if they are floating on air.
While the darkness envelops all—bar the spot-lit books displayed like artistic masterpieces—you’re not allowed to bring a torch or use your phone light. The idea is for people to become intimate, honest, and bold about their book selections.
www.facebook.com/wuguanbooks; C7-6 Warehouse, 2-1 Dayi St., Pier-2 Art Center, Kaohsiung City; 886-7/531-8813
Seoul Book Bogo
Seoul, South Korea
Opened in 2019 in what was originally a warehouse, Seoul Book Bogo was created by the local government to specifically house used books. It provides a place to find out-of-print, or unique titles.
Seoul Book Bogo is separated into four spaces: “sharing” collections donated by intellectuals; “value” denotes older books; “experience,” meaning spots to relax and read; and “enjoyment” with various cultural book programs.
And it’s become so popular, thanks in part to it being used in the hit Korean drama Hotel Del Luna, that Korean celebrities regularly drop in to browse.
1 Ogeum-ro, Sincheon-dong, Songpa-gu, Seoul; 82-2/6951-4979
Koh Samui, Thailand
Having a beachside book-centric boutique hotel in Samui is a brilliant way to feed your brain, and relax with sand between your toes, simultaneously.
Along with 26 rooms, there are 20 private reading spaces throughout the grounds, with a library of more than 1,400 titles available in a variety of languages. The Writer is the most extensively book-stocked (and exclusive) villa on the property.
You’ll also find, scattered among the hotel grounds, unique human-esque statues, perusing titles in various playful poses.
thelibrarysamui.com; doubles from Bt4,000
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Silverfish is small and humble, and has no wall space other than shelves. Though the shop decor makes it look like the place is stuck in the ‘70s, you’ll find modern titles throughout the store.
Supporting local authors and subjects, Silverfish focuses on literature, philosophy, and Malaysian writing in English. Authors also regularly host talks and writing workshops.
This creative, art-filled book sanctuary in Manila can be found in a quiet, unassuming neighborhood. Far from the cookie-cutter mega-mall vibe, this store is managed by a group of artists and is stocked with books focusing on film, art, design and photography.
It’s full-sensory pleasure to soak in the original Filipino artwork while you browse.
As an antithesis to all things bright, new and shiny, College Street is a balm for the bookworm who values traction over convenience and relishes digging through piles of books to find an intriguing title. This is one of the best bookstores in Asia in a truly classical sense.
The world’s largest secondhand book market, at almost a mile long, is lined with everything from bamboo stalls, to independent bookshops, and publishers. It’s not unusual to find 250-year-old books here. Happy treasure-hunting!