Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Bookspotting: Week 19, Taipei Edition

This weekend my bookspotting adventures took place in Taipei, Taiwan. It was magical. Earlier in the week I spotted three different people reading English books in Hong Kong, but I could not see any of the titles. I even sat across from a reader on the MTR for almost half an hour, but I could never see the title of her book. On Friday afternoon, I flew off to Taipei for the long weekend celebrating the Dragon Boat Festival. I asked for help finding my way to the subway from a young Chinese engineer, who told me there are lots of bookstores in Taipei.

On my first day, I took a pilgrimage to the original Eslite bookstore. It is open 24 HOURS A DAY! The picture above was taken at 10:00 on a Saturday morning, and the place was already packed.

The bookstore was huge and beautiful. There were people standing around reading everywhere.

I rarely see people sitting and reading like this at bookstores in the US, much less in Hong Kong.

There were even people sitting on the floor reading in every nook and cranny of the bookstore! They were mostly reading Chinese books, though Eslite had a nice selection of books in English. I bought a copy of 100 Years of Solitude (English translation) as a souvenir, and had to refrain from buying a beautiful Chinese edition of Emma because I really don't have space in my apartment for lots of books.

When we weren't spotting books, we watched the dragon boat races...

...ate tons of street food...

...and even saw a few temples.

And of course, we saw more bookstores. This one was still packed at 9 pm.

I snuck this picture through the window of the big bookshop in Taipei 101, the second tallest building in the world, just after it closed for the night. In all, I counted eight people reading in Taipei this weekend, not including the bookstore readers. All of them were reading in Chinese. In Hong Kong, I usually see Westerners reading in English, with an average of 3-4 Chinese readers per week. So, apparently the rumours are true: Taipei seems to be a very literary city, and leisure reading appears to be part of the local culture.

So, what are people reading in your town this week?


  1. On the train from Shenzhen, I saw a teenage boy reading a Chinese novel with a front cover portrait of a Regency style Western woman, all powdered wig and big gown.No idea what it was, but not a cover a Scottish teenage boy would be seen reading! Also, as it was on the University Line, many were reading textbooks with diagrams, charts, etc, but all in Chinese so no idea what subjects.

  2. I always love to read your posts! Seeing proof that people all across the world enjoy reading makes me see that the world is a lot smaller than we think! Here's an idea--peace through reading; put aside our differences and pick up a book
    :) Rae

  3. Wow, what a bookshop! Loved reading about the trip - great glimpse into another culture, as always. (Or is it so very different...?)


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