English Language Bookstore Roundup on Asia


The book scene in Thailand may not be great but it gets better all the time with over twelve Asia Books stores, well over 18 Bookazine (Distri-Thai) stores, three Kinokuniya stores, way over 100 B2S stores, and lots of used bookstores as well.  Dasa Books has opened on Sukhumvit, a good used bookstore, not far from the Elite Used Book Store, also on Sukhumvit, near Villa Market.   It may seem as if the cluttered but interesting Elite shop has been at that spot since the time of the founding of the Chakri Dynasty but it has been a bit less than that: 19 years!  A very long time for a used bookstore to survive indeed.  Dasa Books goes from strength to strength.

Chiang Mai has better used bookstores than new and more of them.  Two of the best are the Lost Bookshop on 34/3 Ratchamanka Road, and Gecko Books at 2/6 Chang Moi Kao Road.  Another excellent one is Backstreetbooks at 2/8 Chang Moi Kaw Road which has been there for several years.  They have six very large rooms of books, one of the largest selections of titles in Chiang Mai.  Tel: George O'Brien, owner, to check if they have a title: 053 874143.   For new books there is the Bookazine at the Chiang Mai Pavilion Night Bazaar, the Book Zone at 318 Tha Prha Road, and Duangkamol (DK) Chiangmai Group's store at 79/1 Kotchasarn Road.   There is also Suriwong Book Centre at 54 Sridonchai Road.


Asia Books (which bought Bookazine chain in 2007)

Branches in Bangkok: 

Sukhumvit near soi 5, Peninsula Arcade, Landmark Hotel Arcade, Thaniya, Times Square Building, World Trade Center, Central City Bangna, Seacon Square, Siam Discovery Center, Emporium Shopping Complex. And many more.


Bookazine (now owned by Asia Books in a non-cash merger deal)

Branches in Bangkok:

Patpong (CP Tower), Ploenchit (Sogo Dept. Store), Silom Complex, Silom (Dusit Thani) Siam Center, Sukhumvit (Nai Lert Bldg.), Bookazine at soi 49, Wireless Road (All Seasons Place), Bookazine Gaysorn (Gaysorn Plaza), Bookazine Samitivej (Soi 49 inside the Samitivej Hospital), Bookazine Zuillig, Zuillig House, Silom Road, Terminal 21 (and growing).

Branches outside Bangkok:

Bookazine Nichada, Samukkee Road, Nonthburi; Pattaya 1 (Royal Garden Plaza), Pattaya II (Big C), Jomtien Beach Bookstore (2 stores); Hua Hin (opposite Sofitel Hotel); Chiang Mai (Chiang Mai Pavilion Night Bazaar); Phuket (2 stores in Phuket), Samui (3 stores in Samui).   More being added all the time.


Kinokuniya head office is 10th floor, unit 10A Vanissa Building 29 Soi Chidlom, Ploenchit Road, Pathumwan, Bangkok 10330on Soi Chitlom. 

Branches in Bangkok:

Emporium Shopping Complex, World Trade Center, Siam Paragon.  Largest bookstores in Thailand, some seats for customers to sit down and read.  Most pleasant bookstores for those who like to browse.



In Bangkok, many smaller independent bookstores are run by industrious individuals such as Books@ 53 (Sukhumvit soi 53) and Passport Books, 142 Pa-Athit Road, Chanasongkarm, Pranakorn, Bangkok 10200.  Nearby Khao San Road also has bookstalls such as Shaman (huge stock, a bit pricey).  There are also DK bookstores and a few other small ones in Bangkok and Pattaya. 

Dasa Book Café opened in Bangkok in June 2004. The store boasts a stock of 10,000 secondhand books, both paperback and hardcover, on two floors of a shop on Sukhumvit Road. The majority of the books are in English, but they also stock French, German, Swedish, Danish, Dutch, Spanish, Italian, and Russian language titles. Dasa will pay cash for used books or accept titles for trade credit. Customers can also enjoy a downstairs coffee shop which, in addition to fresh brewed coffee and tea, also sells homemade cakes and cookies. Dasa Book Cafe has also begun a book club and all are welcome to participate.  Contact them for details.  Dasa Book Café is located at 710/4 Sukhumvit Road, between Soi 26 and 28. It is about a 5-minute walk from the Emporium Shopping Center and the BTS Phrom Phong Skytrain station. They are open daily from 10 am – 9 pm. All books are kept on the store database, which can be downloaded online at: www.dasabookcafe.com


Tel: 02 – 661 2993

Fax: 02 – 661 2994

E-mail: info@dasabookcafe.com

Web Site: www.dasabookcafe.com



Kiwi, co-owner of Skoob:  "We have moved to the 7th floor of Double A Book Tower on Sathorn road.  It's right next to Health Land (near Surasak BTS station).  Here's its wetsite  www.DoubleABookTower.com I believe they have free shuttle buses picking up customers from different locations nearby as well.

The whole building is filled with Thai bookshops except for the 7th floor which will host English and other foreign languages shops.  I was told that the Asia Books outlet will be there too.  However, (as of mid-2008) this new floor was just opened so it's not operating at full capacity yet.

Quite naturally Bangkok has plenty of Thai-language bookstores but there are also areas with several book shops selling both Thai and English or else English-language vendors cheek-by-jowl with Thai-language vendors.  For example, there are about 12 to 14 used book vendors selling their wares on the "B Floor" (Basement) of Fashion Island Mall on Ram Intra Road.  The easiest way to find them is to locate the main (lower) entrance to Big C.  Then, if walking out of Big C, bear left and go down the first escalator.  You will be right where they start when you get to the B Floor.  Some only sell Thai books but about half of them also have English language books and magazines ranging over a wide selection of topics, both fiction and non-fiction.  Prices are erratic but, overall, fairly reasonable.  Don Watson, a bibliophile who can often be found browsing here, found one of my out-of-print photobooks (Images of Thailand) for only US$5.  A bargain.

The Bangkok Book House, specializing in books on Thailand, owned by publisher George Gensbichler and his lovely wife Sarika is now open at Nana Square, ground floor, Sukhumvit soi 3.  Unfortunately, the Bangkok Book House closed its doors in early 2007.  Another book store bites the dust.  George now publishes Bangkok Books and publishes a lot.




The Khao San Road "backpacker" area has been expanding greatly in sprawl and in up-market hotels, bars, etc.  And bookstores are now scattered about the area including Shaman Bookstore, 71 Khaosan Road (also one store in Chiang Mai), Aporia Books, 131 Tanao Road (just off Khao San), Wisard Books, S.D. Bookshop, Alleycat Books, Saraban Books, and more.  The stores and shops have new books or used books or a mixture.

Folks living in Pattaya are fortunate to have several bookstores such as DK, Soi Post Office, several used bookstores tucked away here and there, two or three Bookazine stores in Pattaya and one Bookazine store in Jomtien Beach (near the police post).  There is also now one of the B2S bookstores in the Royal Garden Plaza right in the heart of Pattaya.  B2S is a chain of nearly 180 stores which offers Thai language books but some English language books as well.  The chain is owned by Central Retail Corporation and its large flagship store (4,500 square meters) has opened at the newly refurbished Central-World complex.  You can also mail letters there at their small postal counter.

Alas, many smaller or more remote towns even with some farangs living there do not have any English-language bookstores.  So, if, for example, you live in Nakorn Phanom, what do you do?  You trade literature between one another of the small resident farang gang living nearby.  It probably gives you a healthy respect for the printed word (although not to the level of some Chinese dynasties in which they had to burn rather than throw away anything with writing on it.  They also had special containers into which anything with writing was to be placed.  Ah, to have been a writer in those days.)

You thought nightlife in Bangkok was all about watching pretty girls in skimpy bikinis shuffle about and look bored up on stages, didn’t you? But, believe it or not, hansum man, there is now a film festival, poetry readings at the Goethe Institute (which attract quite a crowd), clubs with lots of jazz, heavy metal, and all kinds of things happening. And, shiver me timbers, there is now a Bangkok Book Group, made up of a group of expats who need a break from the rigors of Bangkok nightlife and crave a bit of the other kind of stimulation – mental, that is.

The group reads both fiction and non-fiction and is currently looking for a few more members. Membership is open to both females and males of any nationality with the only requirement being that you are a full time Bangkok resident willing to commit to reading a book a month.

The BBG meets the second Wednesday of each month, for dinner and discussion, at a restaurant of the book selector’s choosing. They also have an email list for discussion. They are also planning to attend films together as well, especially good caliber films shown at theaters like House Rama 2 theater at RCA and other choice locations. If you are interested contact their group leader Tommie at: tjrd12@excite.com

Yet another book club has formed at the Dasa Book Cafe and used bookstore, located on Sukhumvit Road not far from the Emporium.  Don Gilliand, the owner, says the book club is open to anyone interested in reading and discussing recent novels, non-fiction books, or even old classics.  Male or Female, young or old, Thai or Foreigner: everyone is encouraged to participate.  The group will meet once a month at a time and date agreed upon by the book club members. For more information, contact Don or Kiwi at Dasa Book Café.


Dasa Book Café is located directly on Sukhumvit Road, between Soi 26 and 28. It is about a 5-minute walk from the Emporium and the BTS Phrom Phong Skytrain Station. The shop is open daily, from 10am until 9pm. And I have found a lot of interesting titles there.


And yet another book club has begun in 2007:

A new book exchange group called Bangkok BookCrossers.  The group is inspired by www.bookcrossing.com, a website that allows readers to pass their books on to others and track where the books travel.  The group will be getting together once a month to chat and swap books they've already read and want to pass on.   It's completely free and anyone who loves books is welcome to join. 

They've just set up a yahoo group to get organized: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/bangkokbxers/ .  If you'd like to know more about how the group will work, here's a link to an article from the Shanghai Star about a similar group the founder started in Shanghai when he lived there: http://tinyurl.com/2q7c6r .  Just write to Erin Golsen.


And the Bookazine chain in Thailand (now merged with Asia Books) is expanding as well:


Latest openings include a new store in Samui on Chawaeng Beach Road opposite Starbucks.  Another just opened in Sumedivet Hospital on soi 49 in their new wing connected to Starbucks.  Their Phuket store has re-opened after the previous one was lost to the Tsunami and according to all reports is doing great!  On June 20 a third Bookazine opened in the Silom area inside the new Au Bon Pain in the Zuellig House on Silom next to the Dusit Thani Hotel.  And they took back the Chiang Mai franchise and opened their own store in the Chiang Mai Airport Plaza on June 10.  A second store has been added in Jomtien.





Bangkok Rare Books is a rare bookstore on the second floor of Amarin Plaza, Ploenchit, Bangkok.  They specialize in literature, poetry, history and several other categories.  They are next to DTAC, their sign can be seen from the central Snax coffee shop.  Telephone number 02 2529011.  They are most likely the  only rare bookshop in Southeast Asia, their stock includes first editions of famous authors such as: Graham Greene, Ian Fleming, W. Somerset Maugham, Agatha Christie, & etc.  They also stock a good range of History & Travel rare books, especially on the immediate region of Siam, Burma, China etc., also in stock are fine leather bindings, lovely illustrated books by Edmund Dulac, Arthur Rackham, Kay Neilsen.  Their oldest book in the shop at the moment is an edition of 1546.  Books range in price from a few thousand baht to 50,000 baht.  They also have some lovely antique maps.  Their website is www.bkkbooks.com.  E-mail: books@bkkbooks.com.


Orchid Books Expands Shop


Don't forget should you be in the Patpong area, Orchid Books still exists and is going strong.  They specialize in books on Asia, culture, history, religion and the arts, and  the selection is very interesting.  The shop is located at the Silom Complex, 4th floor, shop 411, directly off the Saladaeng BTS Skytrain station.  The books seem to be a mixture of old and new.  It has been there for quite a while so I am always pleased when a bookstore manages to survive the rent.  They are closed on Sundays, Tel: 0-2231-3300.  This store has added another room and is now not small at all; and has some great books; not cheap, but good hard-to-find books, especially non-fiction on Asia.  I don't believe they have any of my books there so it must be a high-quality place.  shop@orchidbooks.com www.orchidbooks.com




I had heard of Hornbill Books up in Nong Khai practically overlooking the Mekong and Laos but had never been there.  It is a small shop with an interesting collection of new and old books and is run by the affable Saranya Senaves.  They even had a copy of The Go Go Dancer who Stole My Viagra for sale so that shows you it is a top quality hi so shop!  They also have a computer cafe in the back room.   There are also a few stores in Chiang Rai and a quite good used bookshop in Pai called Siambooks, the largest in that town.




Northern Thailand: Chiang Mai Bookstores

by Sean Bunzick

    Greetings from Chiang Mai! Up here, we do things a little differently than you folks do down in Bangkok or Pattaya and one thing that I myself think has really improved up here over the years has been the ways one can get either a brand new book or a used one for their reading pleasure. As a writer and a book-reading junkie myself, this is a damned good improvement!


   One of the best places to go for brand new novels is the store I first encountered here in 1988 on my original visit to Chiang Mai. This large store is called Suriwong Books and it is on Sri Donchai Rd. They have a large English language department with both international and local expat authors. It's one of the few bookstores in Chiang Mai where you can get the latest novel by Chris Moore or David Young. In fact, it's where I recently bought Chris's latest Vincent Calvino novel, Paying Back Jack.


   Another chain that has been helpful is Bookazine. There are new branches of this store at Thapae Gate, on Chang Klang Rd (in the Night Bazaar), at Airport Plaza and at Carre Four on the Superhighway. The staff in all of these stores couldn't be any friendlier. If you can't find a certain book, they'll help you track it down. The branch on Chang Klang Rd is where I got Dean's latest novel, Identity Theft. Once again, Dean has shown why he's a bestseller. If you haven't gotten this book yet, do so lao-lao!


   One private store that I've loved for years is called The Book Zone. It's on Thapae Rd, not far from where I live, and the two guys that run it do whatever they can to help you out. This store is where I always buy the latest Stephen Leather novel.


   Then there is something that continues to get larger and larger here all the time but that I see damn little of on Sukhumvit Rd: used bookstores!  The biggest chain is called Gecko Books. This commercial colossus is run by a Canadian named George Goldberg. He has new books for sale but his market is primarily used books. In Chiang Mai, there are five branches of this store and all of them are loaded with plenty of titles to choose from. Likewise, they offer a fair price for any books one might want to sell. Their main branch is on Thapae Rd's Soi 1. The second one is right nearby, across the street from Thapae Gate. There is a third segment on the corner of Chaiyapum and Chiang Moi Rds, a Gecko Books on Ratchamanka Rd and their latest version is called Night Bazaar Books. This branch is one Loi Kroah Rd, not all that far away from the majority of our open-air bars so you can run off to get a novel before heading to a pub for some drinks and lots of yummy 'ying Thai! As a connoisseur of books, booze and broads, I myself personally find this to be a welcome combination!


   Also on Ratchamanka Rd is a private used bookstore called The Lost Book Shop. The Thai owner and her cat couldn't be any nicer with their greetings and one thing I've always loved about this place is the odd-ball selection of titles you can discover on the shelves. Last year I found a Jimmy Buffett novel in great shape for a fair price. I suspect Mr. Parrot Head would take quite nicely to the sexual lure of Siam...


  Last on my Book Shop Promotions List is one owned by a long-term friend of mine here in the Rose of the North. It's called The Irish Rover and it's on Moon Muang Rd's Soi 6, right next to the Somphet Market. The owner, John McCoy, is a well-traveled, well-read Irishman who has an interesting selection of titles for sale. He'll offer fair prices for incoming books and is a very outgoing man I'm happy to be mates with. Best of all, even if you don't find anything you want to read, you can still have a great time chatting with John. He's lived all over the world and when he isn't running his bookstore, he's off teaching English in Saudi Arabia or China.


   Should any of you want to partake of my stuff, Missing In Asia and Air Thermae--the first two books in my John Harwich Adventure series--can be found at the Airport Plaza branch of Bookazine. Dangerous Junk For Sail and Zero Trust In Zamboanga can be ordered by them. Genuine Thai Copies, my nutty little tale about a bargirl being cloned, is published by Bangkok Books and can be found in most bookstores in Thailand. Give it a shot--you may even like it!

   In the meantime, if you're upcountry in Chiang Mai looking for a read. try all the places I've mentioned--at least one of them will have something you'll want to read when you're not climbing Doi Suthep, smoking opium, getting on the piss or enjoying a "quality massage" at Sayuri Massage Parlor!





Monument Books: Office and main store: No. 111 Norodom Blvd. Phnom Penh, Cambodia.  Monument Books also has a store at Phnom Penh's Pochentong Airport and a very quiet one in Siam Riep downtown (no longer at the FCC Angkor).    There are also secondhand bookstores not far from the FCCC such as Fantastic Planet Books and Comics at #22D, St. 278, Boeng Keng Kang I, and the far more extensive London Book Centre at House #51, Street 240 (between Norodom & Royal Palace - although I think this one became a D's Books).  You can simply exchange books here as well.  There are some books for sale out at the backpacker hotels along Boeng Kak lake.  You might also try the International Stationery and Book Center for maps and some books at #37, Sihanouk St. and near the post office there is the Mekong Libris with newspapers in French and English as well as some books.  There is also Bohr's Books which has secondhand books in English, French, German, Swedish and Dutch at House #5, Sothearos Blvd, very near the FCCC.  And of course D's Books, which has several used book stores (one by the lake in the backpacker area), three in Phnom Penh and at least one in Siem Reap (in photo at right).  


Bookstores in Cambodia are improving with Monument Books in town and at the airport, three or four D's Bookstores, one just around the corner from the FCCC (Foreign Correspondents Club of Cambodia), and Bohr's Books on the street just behind the FCCC.  And, of course, if you sit outside at a cafe near the river you will be asked many times by many kids selling books from their baskets.  They get the books from a market early in the morning and their prices are not bad.



Vientiane, Laos:

Basically, lots of small used bookstores around the town and almost all buy, sell and trade books.  They are within walking distance of one another and include Kosila Bookshop on Chanthakoumman Road near That Dam chedi; Kosila Bookshop on Nokeokoummant Road near the Douang Deuane Hotel; Vientiane Book Center at 54/1 Pangkham Road, very near the river, which boasts a stock of paperback novels, guidebooks, maps, postcards, stamps and antiquarian books. Eng Books is an interesting one.  They rent out books, rather than sell them.  It is particularly interesting because it is upstairs over The New Wave Hair Studio which you must walk through in order to find the small room of books.  The room is divided but when you are browsing someone may be getting a permanent or whatever because there are shelves of books to look at in that cubicle as well. The address is 77/4 Pangkham Road. Nearby State Books on Setthathirath Road has some new books in Lao and English but no novels and, frankly, is not worth your time.

Click on photo to enlarge

Remember that in emerging countries like Laos many of the books at some so-called bookstores are actually text books and “how to learn English” books rather than novels, etc.  So if you’re the type who’d love to curl up before the fireplace with a book like “Mental Health Situation Analysis in Lao People’s Democratic Republic” then you are by all means not going to be disappointed.  That holds true for the so-called bookstores in the main morning market and for the shelves of books in the so-called department store within the morning market.

There are also a few shelves of coffee table-type books at the upstairs airport store where you can use the computers to check your e-mail during plane delays.

In nearby Nong Khai, on the Thai side of the river, is the Hornbill bookshop at 1121 Kaeworawut, which also buys, sells and trades used books (see above).



Hong Kong

This former colony has all kinds of bookstores and they are located just about everywhere from the Peak to the airport to various modern shopping centers such as One Exchange Square and Pacific Place.  There are two Kelly & Walsh stores, 7 Dimmocks, 6 Bookazine shops (not related to those in Bangkok), Swindons and several Page One bookstores (picture at right), but alas the rent is too expensive to support any great used bookstores.  Along such roads as Hennessey you might find an interesting shop selling books in both the Chinese and in the English language.  Most of the major bookstores have a Hong Kong-related section and a Chinese-culture section.   




Earl Weiman, a Chinese linguist living on Taiwan, says that Taipei's Number one bookstore is Page One (part of a chain in five Asian countries, I believe, with the owner based in Hong Kong). 

Yep, that's the top bookstore in Taipei these days.  One of its stores is located in the Taipei 101 Tower--you know, the world's temporarily tallest building.  Taipei also has another good book store chain, a local outfit named Eslite.  At left and at immediate right is the flagship store of Eslite in Xin Yi District of Taipei and is open 24 hours a day.  Eslite has a large chain of bookstores, numbering over 48 branches.  Below right is the interior of one of their stores in Taichung. There is also a large chain of Kingstone Books throughout the island.  There is also Caves Books but the five branches of this outlet are mainly for Chinese-language readers as are the Eslite stores.   From my own experience I would say Page One has the most books in English so if you're short of time I would recommend these stores for browsing.  

Page One store inside Taipei 101 Tower.





National Bookstore/Power Books/Fully Booked are three chains selling a variety of English-language books both about the Philippines and everything else.  Mostly everything else!  Asian Rare Books  used to be in NYC and were very active Asian-studies antiquarians, these days they have relocated  to Manila (late 2006) with a smaller stock but website maintained.  And business "by appointment".   Stephen Feldman, Owner.




Still working on getting more information on this one but it seems Hanoi has a bookstore called Bookazine (no relation to Thailand's Bookazines) which has old books, old postcards and more.  So if you find yourself in Hanoi do try to check out this store.  There is a store called Bookworm which has been in business since 2001.  Bookworm has Vietnam's only English bookstore selling new and secondhand books.  It is located in the French quarter, a few streets south of Hoan Kiem Lake and the Old Quarter.  They have 3,000 titles including kids books.  The address is Bookworm, 15a Ngo Van So (off Ba Trieu & near Ham Long Street).   84 4 9437 226 .  As censorship can be strict, it might be best to buy anything about Vietnam outside the country.  There is a small gallery at the rear of the store featuring exhibitions from local artists.  One-third credit is given for books purchased from Bookworm.


"As good almost kill a Man as kill a good Booke...hee who destroyes a good Booke, kills reason it selfe..."

John Milton, Areopagitica 1644

Got a favorite bookstore in Asia?  Let me know and I'll add it. 


Writers' Interviews

Writers on Thailand & Laos:

David Young

Colin Cotterill