For me, this kind of allure never lasts long. Paulo Coelho said it best in The Alchemist: “I’m an adventurer, looking for treasure.” The treasure I seek has nothing to do with diamonds or pearls. I tend to find my treasures in books… particularly in second-hand bookshops.
There is something about being in a space filled with books that used to belong to someone else; books whose stories go far beyond the words they contain; books that are about to embark on a new chapter of its life with a new owner…
There’s a sense of mysteriousness and magic I feel terribly drawn to. One girl’s trash is another girl’s treasure — the truth in that phrase couldn’t be more palpable than in a second-hand bookshop.
When I was in Bangkok earlier this year, I popped into its largest second-hand bookshop, Dasa Book Cafe, and I fell in love right away. The books — neatly shelved, properly sorted by genre, and alphabetised by author — are treated with the respect they deserve. Dasa is also a café that serves good coffee, by the way. What’s not to love?
That day, I walked out of Dasa with eight books* in my hands and a big smile on my face, and I couldn’t wait to go on new adventures with these precious oldies.
For the benefit of all you book lovers who share a similar love for second-hand bookshops, Karman and I rounded up a few of our favourites from around the world — we think you should absolutely pop in when you’re in these cities. We sure will!
Singapore: The French Bookshop
Everyone knows the Bras Basah Complex to be the “City Of Books”, and Sans Bookshop was our favourite childhood haunt. But if you’re looking for something slightly off the beaten path and more specific to your interests, say French everything, then The French Bookshop at Tiong Bahru is your wonderland. Sure you could buy online via their e-shop, but this quaint space, which hosts exhibitions, workshops and live performances, is definitely worth a visit.
Sydney: Sappho Books, Café & Wine Bar
This place boasts a huge range of books from classics (which, like LBDs, I can’t seem to get enough of) to books that are out of print. Three floors of packed bookshelves with a courtyard café and wine bar at night? A book lover’s dream come true! sapphobooks.com.au
Berlin: Ocelot, Not Just Another Bookstore
No kidding. Ocelot is not just another bookstore. Founded in 2012 by German designer Martina Zeyen, this modern, capacious, oak-accented store offers a mix of old and new books. There’s amazing variety, too — comics, graphic novels, design and art tomes, you name it. While the books are predominantly in German, you will find a good selection of English reads. Other reasons to pop in? They have talks, concerts, readings and films in-store. And yes, of course there’s a café in there, too — is there another way of enjoying your book?
London: The Slightly Foxed Bookshop
This well-known bookshop on Gloucester Road has customers from all over the globe as they offer an array of books, and it’s highly recommended as a peaceful respite from the hustle and bustle of London. foxedbooks.com
*In case you were wondering, the eight books I bought were… The Goldfinch, Eleanor & Park, The Philosophy Of Aristotle, Hard Times, Driving With Plato, Jane Austen Education, And The Mountains Echoed, and This Book Will Change Your Life.