Gone are the days when your best bet for picking up an English novel in Beijing was browsing through the limited selection at the Foreign Language Bookstore in Wangfujing. With the availability of online bookstores and kindles, accessing foreign books has never been easier. Call us old fashioned but, we prefer the feeling of flipping through a real book; no kindle can ever replace that satisfying sound of flicking over a crispy, new page and lining your bookshelf with your latest literature conquest. Luckily for us, the availability of books in the English language – both fiction and non-fiction – has mushroomed exponentially in recent years, with gems available for the taking at a growing number of newly opened bookstores, cafes and even books on the curb. Here’s a basic guide on getting your literary feed in the capital.
Page One 叶一堂
In our opinion, the best resource for foreign books in the capital and the closest thing to a Waterstones or Barnes & Noble in China, Page One has become an indispensable resource for anyone wishing to stock up on fiction, non-fiction and reference books in the English language. There’s been much buzz and anticipation over the opening of Page One’s Sanlitun branch, and its recent new opening has not disappointed. Spread over two floors, the store’s book collection consists mainly of classic and contemporary novels, non-fiction and reference books including a huge selection of cooking and art books. If the store in Sanlitun is a little too crowded for your liking, head over to the Indigo branch (another branch also available at China World Mall in Jianguomen), which although smaller, also stocks a very decent selection of foreign reads.
Add: Building 2, Sanlitun South Village, 19 Sanlitun Lu, Chaoyang District, Beijing
Tel: 010 6417 6626
Opening hours: daily 10:00 – 22:00
The Bookworm 老书虫
Another favorite amongst expat book lovers, is The Bookworm. Located in Sanlitun just half a block from Sanlitun Village, The Bookworm has it all: (slightly overpriced) food, frequent author talks, an annual literary festival, a few shelves of well selected China literature, and a giant lending library. An individual 6 month membership costs 200 RMB or 300 for one year and allows you to borrow two books for up to two weeks at a time. The selection of borrowable books is impressive and amusing; you can find everything from the Bourne trilogy to dated psychology books. Even when there aren’t readings it’s usually packed with foreigners drinking wine and pecking away on their MacBook Pros.
Add: Building 4, South Sanlitun Lu, Chaoyang District, Beijing
Tel: 010 6417 6626
Xidan Books Building 西单图书大厦
Although this giant bookstore (the biggest one in Beijing) features an overwhelming selection of Chinese-language books, the basement level has an area dedicated solely to English-language books. The selection is nothing to write home about – classic English literature abounds – but you may be lucky enough to pick up the odd gem from time to time. Perhaps noteworthy to mention, the English-language section stocks a number travel guides and reference books. Only recommended if you happen to be in the Xidan area or are also looking to buy a few Chinese-language books, English-teaching material or dictionaries.
Add: 17 Xichang’an Jie, Xicheng District, Beijing
Opening hours: daily 8:30 – 21:00
Tel: 010 6607 8477
Wangfujing Foreign Language Bookstore 外文书店
Very over-rated due the fact that the building’s name is “Foreign Language Bookstore”, this store is fine as a last resort if you’re a newcomer and haven’t yet figured out how to get to Page One or Bookworm. That being said, the third floor stocks a similar collection of English-language books as the Xidan Books Building, with a heavy emphasis on classics and easy reads like the Twilight Saga.
Add: 235 Wangfujing Dajie, Dongcheng District, Beijing
Opening hours: daily 8:00 – 17:00
Tel: 010 6513 2842, 010 6525 2592
Beijing Star Kids Children’s Bookstore 北京市佳星孩趣儿童书店
This store, with branches in Wangjing and Shunyi, is a great resource for the young ones. The store features a good selection of imported children’s books, with everything from hard and soft cover picture books to novels suitable for kids up to the age of 16.
Add: Rm. 2803, Bldg D, Xingyuan International Apartment, 222 Wangjing Xiyuan, Beijing
Tel: 010 8472 7131
Opening hours: 9:00 – 18:00 (Mon – Fri); 10:00 – 17:00 (Sat – Sun)