The bookworm in me will always find a happy place among the bookshelves of any bookstore. I find meaning and inspiration among the paperbacks and the hard bounds, I find stories of culture and fantasy, and every now and then I’d like to visit a bookstore of places I visit. It gives me a sense of what kind of reading culture a certain place has. In Hong Kong I really took the time to go out of my way to visit not one but two bookstores.
Swindon Book Co.
Along Lock Road in Tsim Sha Tsui is a near shop around the corner/ You’ve Got Mail type of bookstore. It has big windows with books in both English and Cantonese displayed for everyone to see. The words Swindon Book Co. adorn the front entrance and its old-world charm is certainly inviting.
Inside I realized that I am truly in a bookstore, there were no ball pens, stationary pads, or even a roll of masking tape. It was all books, books, and even more books…besides the Kobo Swindon was selling on one side of the shop.
As I moved from shelf to shelf, I couldn’t help but run my fingers across the spines of fiction books, take a whiff of all the open books without a plastic wrap greedily covering any book. The shop felt so oddly personal, intimate even, it felt like a real independent bookshop.
While in Swindon I looked around for some books in my to-be-read list and I was on the hunt for Kate Atkinson’s A God in Ruins (I know our bookstores also sell it). Despite the very well arranged and well-stocked store, Kate Atkinson was nowhere to be found. Even my consultation with the clerk produced no results. So I moved on and appreciated the simple pleasure of being inside a bookstore in another country.
Swindon Book Co. is located along 13-15 Lock Road, Tsim Sha Tsui. Swindon Book Co. is open Monday to Saturday from 10am-8pm and Sundays and public holidays from 10am-6:30pm.
Eslite Book Store
If Swindon is the indie bookstore then the commercial juggernaut would Eslite located on the 8th-10th floor of Hysan Place. Covering 3 entire floors with an elevator dedicated just for it, Eslite is where everybody goes to.
On one floor there is a book forum where shoppers grab a book, plop themselves on any one of the numerous couches and read. It was actually touching to see so many people reading instead of chatting. If there is no space for left in forum, the bookstore has benches and once again, shoppers reading to their hearts content.
While in Eslite I once again tried to look for Kate Atkinson’s A God In Ruins instead I found a lot of books that I owned and a lot of books that drew my interest. Now when it comes to browsing in Eslite, its important to stay in the English side unless you veer off into the Chinese side, which is just as interesting. The shelves for Chinese books had quirky titles like: World Literature Studies, World Poetry, Chinese poetry, American literature, and so forth. Based on my observation, the Chinese books were the real draw in Eslite rather than the English books which were fewer in number.
Giving up on any hope of finding a copy of A God in Ruins, I just went around the shop moving from one section to another. Whole sections devoted to Art, Photography, Collectibles/Hobbies made the experience even cooler.
Eslite Bookstore is located on the 8th-10th floor, Hysan Place, Causeway Bay. It is open everyday from 10am-10pm Sunday to Thursday and 10am-11pm Friday and Saturday.
Without picking up any book from any of Hong Kong’s bookshops, I bade my farewell to the city hoping that on my next visit there will be that ONE book that would catch my eye.