Often referred to as the “Oriental Venice”, Suzhou’s abundance of canals and gardens makes the city the ideal place to sit outside on a sunny day indulging in a good book. But with airlines’ increasingly stingy luggage allowances, most of us can’t afford the luxury of lugging our library with us to China. While in many smaller cities across China, finding English-language bookstores is challenge that often fails miserably, the good news is that thanks to a handful of places nobody has to be deprived of English language books in Suzhou ever again. Read on to find out where best to pick up a good read.
Our vote for best English-language bookstore goes to the Bookworm, not only because it is the best stocked independent bookstore in the city, but because it traverses the boundary of being a mere store and is actually much, much more. A cultural institution in its own right, Bookworm is already a name synonymous with the best literary events and book talks in all of Beijing, a reputation that is likewise echoed in its Suzhou branch.
Bookworm develops relationships with international writers, which means that many of the world’s hottest literary titles make it to the shelves. Unlike official Chinese bookstores that usually have a very restricted and small book collection (much like the twenty foreign films that make it onto the Chinese silver screen every year), Bookworm’s breadth of shoes is astounding and remarkable for China. Avid readers can become members which allows them to borrow up to two books every two weeks. At 300 RMB per year for individual annual membership, it really is a bargain. Bookworm also serves freshly ground coffee and a mouth-watering range of food. The venue also hosts weekly events such as quiz nights, live music, book talks and book clubs. All you need to know is on their website.
The Bookworm Suzhou 苏州书虫View In Map
Add: Guanxiufang 77, Shiquan Lu, Suzhou
Tel: 1391 5589 753
Getting there: Take bus no. 261 to Wuqueqiao stop, walk back over the small bridge, passing Shiquan Jie.
Suzhou Foreign Language Bookstore is next on the list, but if you’ve visited Bookworm before this one then you’re likely to be disappointed. The main books you’ll find here are English language classics, foreign language dictionaries and English teaching materials. Though the English language books are more expensive than the Chinese for obvious reasons, it’s still considered a reasonably priced bookstore.
Foreign Language Bookstore 外文书店View In Map
Add: 580 Renmin Lu, Suzhou
Tel: 0512 6519 7355
Opening hours: 09:00-19:30
Finally, though the store I’m about to mention hasn’t opened yet, it does sound like a promising undertaking, definitely to be taken note of. Phoenix International Book Mall, which is currently under construction, is set to be the biggest bookstore in Asia. Construction officially began in May 2009 with an investment of 1.2 billion yuan. Located in the core of the CBD area, the site covers a total construction area of 205,000 square metres. Though the planned completion date isn’t until around 2012, it’s definitely worth writing down in the calendar. In the meantime enjoy the few, but good foreign book sources that are available in Suzhou.
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