Those of you who know me personally will know that above all other things I am a greedy reader. I am also a fast reader and can munch my way through a book in double-quick time. When I knew I was going to China for several months, one of the things that really concerned me was having access to enough reading material. Books, even paperbacks, are heavy and the weight limit on flight baggage meant that I was limited in what books I could bring out with me. In the end I managed to bring 14, plus some much needed reference books about China, and another 2 novels mysteriously found their way into my hand luggage thanks to the Heathrow book shops!
Soon after arriving I went on a trawl of all the bookshops in Beijing that stock English language books. There are not many, but two are particularly good. The Beijing Foreign Languages Bookshop in Wanfujing, which has a really wide selection of English language books both fiction and non-fiction, and The Bookworm in Sanlitun.
The Bookworm is, for my money, one of the best bookshops in the world. Not because it is particularly large, it is not, but for someone like me in a city like Beijing it is akin to finding an oasis in a desert. The Bookworm has a very decent selection of new books for sale (fiction and some non-fiction, and has a special section devoted to books set in – or about – China. Plus it has a good sized lending library with a really eclectic stock, and as if that weren’t enough, it has an excellent café/restaurant/bar* and it is open until really late, seven days a week. What more could one ask for!
I took out a six-month library membership almost as soon as I arrived and it has been my saving grace. I can borrow two books at a time and keep them for up to two weeks – not that they never last that long with me!
Once a week when they have been read I have the pleasure of going to change them, and wandering around the shelves, a glass of cold white wine in hand, as I decide on what I will borrow next. The fiction books are shelved floor to ceiling round the sides of a large room and are roughly (and I mean roughly) in alphabetic order by author – it is all rather
The Bookworm hosts lots of events, a weekly quiz night, talks by authors – Cherie Blair visited last week to publicise her autobiography – and much more, its quite a community.. The Bookworm has been such a success that the owners have opened branches in Chengdu and Suzhow.
* With an amazing selection of malt whiskeys!