Horay for the Wanfujing Bookstore!

Being the rookie that I am, I had left Sydney thinking that I could easily find a bookstore and pick up a read once I was in China. Bzzzzzzzzt! FAIL!! I don’t know why I thought the common Beijing bookstore would all have books in English -of course they are all in Chinese!

After being in China for 2 weeks, I was STARVING for a good read. You have to understand, I really put myself in what seems like the depths of downtown Beijing, in the Hutongs, where I’m surrounded by locals and the occasional traveller who can speak some english, and that some english is broken, badly.

In my room I have available 106 TV channels but there’s only one in English which is the looping news channel (I swear looping is what happens in Hell). So while I’m up to date with current affairs, I’ve been lacking in free-flowing conversation filled with wit, intellect and humour – all the things I’d get back home over a meal with friends

So I went on the hunt for the largest bookstore in Beijing, and found it in the Wanfujing Bookstore which host 7 floors of books, the 4th floor being Foreign literature – JACKPOT!!

I had been meaning to read Shantaram, by Gregory David Roberts for some time, and had been saving it for my trip, however, in all the 3 bookstores I ended up finding that hosted English literature, Shantaram, the book that I really truly madly wanted, was all sold out.

So, to keep me sane, I chose 3 books.

The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho – for insightful encouragement (Mark I know you have this book but you could never find it..)

Committed, By Elizabeth Gilbert – I’m curious to learn more about the ideology, and reality, of what marriage and committment is. (don’t get any ideas!)

And Sex and the City, by Candace Burnshell – for laughs and kicks.. and a healthy dose of cynicism.

Now all I need to do is find a second-hand bookstore to swap and restock – being a book-a-day girl, I’ve already gone through 1 1/2 of the 3! So if anyone can recommend a fantastic read, I’d really appreciate it, just email me, or comment.
Thx , T 🙂

4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. ryan o
    Aug 15, 2010 @ 14:06:54

    blast from the past 🙂
    nice effort with the beginnings of your trip t.
    just a thought though, if you want stimulating company and conversation, you’d be best to give hostels another shot. nothing beats meeting up with travellers from all over the world (and you will meet people who can speak proper english so says the law of averages), making lifelong mates and trading stories of where they’ve been and where they’re going. sure cleanliness may not always be up to scratch, but that’s part of the adventure, and considering where you are, it does get you out of your sheltered bubble and let you glimpse on how other locals do have to slum it in real life over there. just do a proper search to make sure the hostel is rated well for that city and you should be good. failing that, you can try couchsurfing to meet ppl. hotels are for people who are (a)old-retired + lack a pulse, (b)married+/-kids, (c) already in an autonomous social group, or (d)looking for a bit of privacy after just recently hooking up in a bar-club; either way the odds of meeting ppl that way is slim to none.
    as for books, when in china read wuxia. don’t know if you’ll dig it, but if you like crouching tiger, hidden dragon then you should like wuxia. just google a few famous authors and there should be english translated books especially in a big city like the ‘jing.


  2. Tiara in Transit
    Aug 16, 2010 @ 12:37:26

    Hi Ryan!
    I hear what your saying, only thing is, I love it where I am! It’s not really a hotel, it’s an Inn in the hutongs, which are like a maze of small streets and alleys that make up a lot of the traditional housing areas of Beijing. So in part I disagree about the backpacker hostel being out of the bubble as I think staying in the hutongs amongst the locals is completely out of my bubble. Don’t get me wrong, I have met many, many lovely, really nice people here (and at least one life long friend in Sharon!), and even though communication is a challenge and a lot gets lost in translation, it’s also kinda cool – they try to talk to me, I try to talk to them, we don’t understand each other, and then they laugh at me ; ). I intentionally stayed out of the backpacker circuit because I wanted to be with the chinese people rather than other travelers. However, in saying this, when I was in Xian, in one of the most popular hostels there, we were talking to a german traveller and all agreed that in China, because there are so many chinese nationals touring their own country, hostels, and hotels have like 90% local clientele. Which is unlike the backpacker circuit in say south east asia..

    There are certain cafes and bars I know where i can easily strike up a conversation with travellers (and have done), so if the need for flowing conversation gets bad I’ll just hang out there. But right now I’m happy with my local chinese hangouts, and the books will keep me satisfied at least for another week.

    I’ll try to find wuxia, and let you know how I go, thanks for the tip = )


  3. Jax
    Aug 19, 2010 @ 02:42:50

    Aw, the Alchemist. One of my favourites but easily chewed through in a day. I hope you find your personal legend. You may have already read these but they are a few that I’ve most certainly enjoyed – The Time Traveller’s Wife, The Lovely Bones, Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman, and The Kite Runner. I haven’t yet read the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo but I hear it’s a pageturner and a book that you could dip in and out of whilst travelling, although, you might end up spending more time reading than originally intended. xo


  4. Tiara in Transit
    Aug 19, 2010 @ 06:28:05

    Thanks Jax, those are good ones! I have trouble sleeping so I spend a few hours reading every night. You’d think being on a holiday would resolve any bad sleeping habbits, tsk.. Kimmy also recommended The Time Travellers Wife so I think that’s next = )


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