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Directions: off Nguyen Thai Hoc st, near DOME, Red Apron, not far from Temple of Literature and German Goethe Institute.Phone: +84 4 37478778
There's something thrilling about browsing the realm of 2nd hand fiction. Somehow you feel you’re handling the stuff of dreams. Other people's dreams; old tram tickets, betting slips, wine stains, minute traces of narcotics, pornographic doodles, love dedications; some annotated and expanded, others bitterly scratched out; and the odd snot encrusted on the page like a punctuation mark.
Then there's the writing itself of course. Personally I find it instructive to peer in there when considering a purchase. The paragraphs at the end and at the beginning of chapters can prove fruitful for separating the
Kerouac/Ginsberg from the dross and for finding out if you’re handling a mixed bag of clichés or a glittering masterpiece! If I discover myself confronting a Jily Cooper-style little number I usually zoom in on the penultimate sex scene, just to see what kind of twisted shit is out there. Last, but not least there’s the brief author biography, always good for a little reminder of the unconquerable achievements of the past and my own abiding irrelevance.
So, it was with relish that I learned of the existence of Bookworm. I idly day-dreamed for a number of weeks about the treasures I would find there, first editions once owned by Graham Greene, soldier's Bibles with chilling notes penned during wartime.. sticky copies of "Riders". Eventually one "quiet" afternoon I resolved to go and after a dizzying search around town in close heat I finally caught the hook and made my way inside.
Unfortunately, instead of a safe haven I found a little jumble shop of horrors. At Bookworm the cobwebs of the mind have been well and truly dusted off and the books painstakingly sheathed in squeaky plastic covers. With the novels compartmentalized thus like so many test tubes in a lab the scrutiny of the patron is limited to the cover and the blurb. Like a paperback version of safe sex the titles on display rub up against each other in a sterile fashion and no words sing.
From the depths of my literary frustration I was reminded of Flann O’ Brien’s third policeman, for all eternity keeping the bicycles in his parish under lock and key to prevent them from committing acts of 2-wheeled copulation. In any case I felt deflated at that point and, distracted by the sinister squeaking sounds coming from the direction of another customer who was hectically fingering the books I hastened towards my exit.
After about 6 desperate minutes more of looking for that diamond in the rough I already knew I wouldn’t find I left the shop, truly unenlightened and relieved to be gulping in the soupy air.
Bookworm, Pah. Can you imagine what it would be like to be a worm stuck in one of those plastic sleeves? Then you have some idea of the sensations that a trip to this bookshop affords.
The weather was nice that day, I remembered. Cutest book store location I've ever seen! Unfortunately, their Fiction selection seemed to lean on the contemporary and classic side as I'm more for the modern lit. Though they make up for it with a Wowie worthy selection of non fiction! Great lookin art books and the like, as well as a cute selection of children's books. Alas, my brokea** couldn't/can't afford any of it..
This place is a real gem of a bookshop. I've never failed to find a decent read here and I've always been impressed with the range on offer. All the books are wrapped in clear bags, which is a nice touch and shows the professionalism of the owners. The classical music is also a pleasing diversion from the crazy traffic noise outside.
The staff here are unquestionably friendly and helpful, and I always stop to chat when I come in.
The prices are a little high for Hanoi but I think it's worth every dong spent. The fact that they buy your books back (as well as any others you have lying around) is a sweet deal and I've brought so many books here that its almost a secondary income after teaching :).
At the minute the shop is on a very unlikely-looking alley off Nguyen Thai Hoc, but they have just announced that they will be moving to 44 Chau Long shortly. Good Luck to them in the new place :)
As far as I can tell this is the best english language bookstore in Hanoi. If there is a better one I'd like to know. Really.
The selection is okay and it's certainly nice to see books that don't fall into the romance/thriller/recent best seller categories on the shelves, however, as previous posters have noted this is a small bookstore so don't go in with your heart set on buying some obscure work.
They have postcards, some cookbooks, and a lot of coffee table books on Hanoi and VN that look rather interesting if you're into that sort of thing or have presents to purchase for those back home.
Oh Hanoi, you are a wasteland for us bibliophiles
A good place to have a look around, and you can relax and have a read without being bothered.
Great selection of children's books, but unfortunately, not that much cheaper than Aus. You can find a couple of kids English book's produced in India that are quite cheap (but can be found in Trang Tien bookshops).
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