We might be living in a digital world, but the art of the printed page isn’t dead quite yet. Not only is Asia hosting four major literary festivals this autumn, but cities like Singapore, Bangkok and Hong Kong are studded with indie bookshops and community reading rooms. Ahead of the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival (23-27 Oct), Singapore Writers Festival (1-10 Nov), Hong Kong Literary Festival (1-10 Nov) and Bangkok’s first-ever International Literary Festival (16-17 Nov), we round up the best indie bookshops in Asia.
Littered with Books
Tiong Bahru’s longstanding indie book shop draws clued-in literary types from across the city with its eclectic edit of titles, friendly staff offering personal recommendations and unexpected but compelling can’t-live-withouts lurking around every corner. It also stashes a neat range of made-in-Singapore stationery and whatnot. Combine with a visit to the truly lovely children’s book shop Woods in the Books a few doors down – you won’t leave empty-handed. litteredwithbooks.com
Located smack-dab in the middle of pic-perfect Duxton Hill is this powerhouse masquerading as a cute little bookshop. Possibly Singapore’s favourite bibliophile bolthole, Books Actually is packed to the rafters with local and int'l fiction, poetry and classics, occasional rare editions and a top selection of Singaporean lit. There’s a retro-ish stash of knick-knacks for sale at the back, and a decent stock of kitsch stationery. booksactuallyshop.com
Lok Man Rare Books
Step beyond the palm-shrouded facade and travel back in time via of old-fashioned, leather and wood-clad bolthole, Lok Man Rare Books. Peruse proprietor Lorence’s myriad shelves of stunning signed, first edition and hard-to-find vintage covers, then pull up a worn and welcoming Chesterfield for a closer read. Titles range from children's tales to books on philosophy, economics and ancient China, plus there are also handy sourcing and restoration services for that elusive or faded favourite. lokmanbooks.com
Bleak House Books
An unassuming industrial building in San Po Kong in New Kowloon is not the likeliest of locations for Hong Kong’s freshest bibli-oasis. Opened in 2017, this evocatively-named trove is worth crossing the harbour for its exquisitely curated eclecticism, ranging from fiction and comics to children’s books, books specialising in Hong Kong and China, some lovely old paperbacks, and even sheet music. Check the Facebook page for events, talks and readings. bleakhousebooks.com.hk
Kubrick at Broadway Cinematheque
Given it’s named for one of the C.20th’s most revered screenwriters and directors, and housed next to indie Broadway Cinematheque, it’s no surprise that library-esque Kubrick is in possession of arguably the best stash of film-related books in town. But that’s not all on offer, there’s also a memorabilia gallery and cafe for perusal sustenance. The community-driven venue also plays host to regular seminars and workshops with local industry players. Camera, action! kubrick.com.hk/index.php/en_us
Open House Bookshop by Hardcover
Reading like a low-key modern-day Bodleian or Livraria Lello, lofty, mezzanine Open House shelves an impressive selection of design-leaning titles, covering photography, children's books, cookbooks, and fiction, plus rare out-of-print, collector’s and limited editions. A good spot for eyeballing fellow bookworms. hardcovershoponline.com
Siam Rare Books and Collectibles
Chatuchak Market’s booky trove specialises in Thai and South-East Asian ephemera, including rare books, maps, trade cards, postcards, posters, paintings, stamps, and other fascinating flotsam. Check out the Facebook page for current highlights. @Siamrarebook
A small but perfectly formed nook tucked alongside the verdant semi-private regal compound Chakrabongse House, this is the physical shop-window of River Books publisher and residence owner Narisa Chakrabongse. Pop in for an iced coffee and leisurely browse of the collection, which spotlights Thai history, royalty and culture. Chakrabongse is also hosting an exhibition on the history of Thai printing and the closing night dinner of the Literary Festival. 396/1 Maha Rat Rd, Phra Nakhon
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