While English language book sales have plummeted in the US and UK following the recession, the appetite for English language books in China is booming like never before. About 300 million people in China speak English and the number of foreigners moving to the Middle Kingdom has been increasing rapidly in recent years. This is all good news for those of us who crave English books as the availability of English books is on a steady increase. Last year the English language version of the Chinese bestseller Wolf Totem was the top English language title in China, while books like The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini were also strong sellers, boding well for the potential expansion of more English language novels in Chinese bookstores.
However, in second tier cities like Chengdu, bookstores selling a comprehensive selection of foreign language books are still few and far between. Most English books in Chinese bookstores are used as a foreign language tool by Chinese wishing to improve their language skills, and as a result we often find ourselves less than impressed at the selection of English reads on the bookshelves. Below, we’ve attempted to trace the best spots for finding foreign language books.
The Bookworm in Chengdu is the sister branch of its larger counterpart in Beijing. The venue is famous for its wide selection of foreign language books, membership club, talks, festivals and more. One of the greatest things about Bookworm is that it is not an ordinary bookstore, but functions much like a library too. Individual members of Bookworm can take out two books every two weeks and family members can take out 6 books for 2 weeks. Members also have a wide choice of books and genres to choose from. The Chengdu branch currently stocks about 16,000 books with categories ranging from art, history, current affairs to children’s books, novels and more. Six month individual memberships costs 200 RMB and one year costs 300 RMB.
The bookworm also gladly takes unwanted books off your hands and hosts regular events such as quiz night every second Thursday at 19:30 and live music performances. You won’t get hungry or thirsty here either as it serves a great selection of coffees, tea, cocktails, beers, fruit shakes, wine and a delicious range of food including salads, sandwiches, pasta, desserts and more. If you are a bookworm yourself then you really shouldn’t pass up the membership here. More info can be found on their website (details below).
The Bookworm Chengdu 老书虫View In Map
Add: Yujie Dongjie 2-7, 28 Renmin Nanlu, Chengdu
Tel: 028 8552 0177
The Chengdu Foreign Language Bookstore is the next best place to go for foreign language books in Chengdu. They stock a wide selection of books and music though the content is much more limited than at Bookworm. Many Chinese use this bookstore as an English learning source so you may struggle to find the gripping novel you so desperately long.
Chengdu Foreign Language Bookstore 成都外文书店View In Map
Add: 5 Zongfu Lu, Jinjiang District, Chengdu
Tel: 028 8675 0437
Opening hours: 9:00-21:00
Another alternative for finding foreign language books are the international youth hostels scattered throughout the city, though books are usually only available to guests in the hostel. One hostel stocking a wide range of foreign language books is Sim’s Cozy Garden Hostel. According to the proprietors, they stock the largest foreign language library out of all hostels in Chengdu. However, don’t expect to see any of the goods if you’re not a registered over-night guest!
Sim’s Cozy Garden Hostel 老沈青年旅舍View In Map
Add: 211 North Section 4, First Ring Rd., Chengdu
Tel: 028 8197 9337
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