No matter how enthusiastically we embrace the world of digital readers and online literature, a paper copy of a novel or magazine usually feels most natural and is easiest on the eyes. Bookstores are easy to find in Chengdu, and most (even the smaller ones) will have a few English books – though one may need to hunt for them. Most common are shuangyu (双语), or side-by-side/parallel-translation books with English and Chinese. Places with a larger selection of English books are rarer. For us who read English natively, and especially for the newly arrived traveler going through the disorienting experience of being suddenly illiterate in a new language environment, having a selection of English books to browse and peruse feels like a luxury. Below are a few corners of civilization we’ve wandered into lately where it’s possible to read or buy English books in Chengdu.
The Bookworm is a much-loved cafe and library/bookstore a short stroll from the Nijiaqiao subway station. There are enough books to keep a reader occupied for several lazy afternoons — walls upon walls of books, a kids’ section, and magazines to buy or to browse. The food menu lists popular comfort foods as well as some occasion-worthy dishes, and the bar serves both wine and cocktails. There are regular performances and events most evenings. The Bookworm is a good place to go solo or in a group, and it attracts a good mix of people from the area. The Bookworm has always been a hub of activity for the international community in Chengdu and they promote several charitable and cultural events, including the annual literature festival each spring.
This new bookstore is one of the hottest openings in Chengdu’s biggest and boldest downtown shopping mall, IFS Centre near Chunxi Road. The bookstore has a children’s section, a gift shop, and a few seats for people who want to relax with a book or two. There are plenty of new titles, large “coffee table” books, and a generous selection of design and art books. The books are well organized, and Page One is a great place for browsing or settling-down to flip through a book or two. They attract a lot of shoppers, as well as folks who are relaxing after work, or waiting to meet someone. There is also a restaurant attached – The Woodhouse -with a menu of drinks, snacks, and sweet stuff. Page One is likely to be your best bet for finding new releases and best sellers.
This small, street level coffee shop on the first floor of the Jinjiang Library has a staircase up the back that leads to a large library/café, with plenty of tables and comfortable chairs spread over two main rooms. All the wood veneer makes us feel like we are in a ‘70s era small town school library, which actually makes it a great, comfortable spot for coffee and a chat. Their coffee is billed as 7+7, which means fresh ground within seven days of roasting and with milk kept no longer than seven days. The food menu offers a selection of Chinese dishes, coffee, tea, and snacks. There are a couple of curries, and something called “African spicy chicken.”The set meals, which run around 28-35RMB, are a very decent value when one is looking for quiet sit-down lunch in a comfortable setting downtown. There are about half a dozen shelves of English and other language books in the foreign section, with a rather random mix of novels, classics, and how-to’s, and a smattering of recipe books. The WiFi is out of range near the foreign books section, but we came here to read anyway.
Winshare has several locations in town, but the Gaoshengqiao store is one of the largest, attracting book lovers from all over the city, and has the biggest selection of foreign language books among the Winshare outlets. On the fourth floor are books for learning English and various other languages — Russian, Korean, French, and German among them. There are also several shelves of English books, mostly novels with plenty of classics, new releases, a few popular biographies, and lifestyle books. The first floor also has a foreign literature section and it’s possible to find parallel-translations of some classic works and poetry. Winshare has some seating for those who want to while away a rainy afternoon with a novel borrowed from the shelves, and many book lovers nestle into a comfy position on the floor or window ledge. It’s surprisingly comfortable and good place to meet people.
Today Bookstore, Global Center
环球购物中心 3 楼
Today Bookstore is a chain with a few shops around town. The Global Center store is the largest and features an attached coffee shop (Today Coffee). Several tall shelves filled with English books cover the rear wall. Coffee shop customers are welcome to pick-out a book and read it while enjoying their brew.The bookstore also has a small selection of bilingual books which may be read in the cafe. The selection is mainly popular novels from recent decades, and browsers likely to find a particularly absorbing read or two on the shelves.
Fang Suo Commune
The Fang Suo Commune is an all-in-one venue selling not only books but food, drinks, clothes and conceptual housewares and gadgets. With an area of nearly 4,000s q.m, the Fang Suo Commune consists of several functional sections: a book retailing area, boutiques, a café and a reading & interaction zone. The layout and design of the bookstore were conducted by a group of renowned designers to represent the modern concept of space blended with classic European styles.
Foreign Language Bookstore
9:30am – 9pm
Times Xinhua Bookstore