In the latest in our series on bookshops around the world that academics should visit, Birkbeck student Tim Chamberlain shows us around the most exciting bookshops in Taipei, the capital city of Taiwan. If there’s a bookshop that you think other students and academics should visit when they’re undertaking research or visiting a city for a conference, find more information about contributing below.
Taipei is certainly one of Asia’s most modern and forward-looking cities, a fact which interestingly enough seems to be mirrored in its two main bookstore chains: Eslite and Page One.
Eslite boasts over forty bookstores throughout Taiwan, with over twenty in Taipei alone. Its original Dunhua South Road store is famously open 24 hours, yet its flagship store in Xinyi District (just a 5 minute walk from the City Hall MRT Station) is a modern temple to the book, a definite place of pilgrimage which any booklover visiting the city simply must see. It is Taiwan’s biggest bookshop and holds in excess of some 300,000 titles in stock, with over a million books on its shelves.
Eslite mainly caters for the Chinese, Japanese, and English language readers, yet they also carry most other major European languages as well. These bookshops are noted for their clean aesthetic and relaxed atmosphere; they have a distinctly modern feel with wooden floors and artfully designed shelves, yet the atmosphere is very much generated by the clientele. Customers are encouraged to browse with some appearing to be permanently camped out at the tables and chairs of the designated reading areas, as well as sitting on the floor filling every nook and cranny afforded within the aisles.
Close by, and also near to the City Hall MRT Station, is Taipei’s most famous skyscraper, Taipei 101, which until 2010 was the tallest building in the world. This landmark is certainly well worth visiting for the view from the top which is akin the view you’ll get when landing at the city’s airport! But it is also worth noting that there is an excellent bookshop to be found in the shopping complex at the foot of the skyscraper. Page One is actually my favourite of Taipei’s bookshops. It is easy to lose track of time in here as the place is deceptively large, with every turn revealing yet more and more shelves stretching away. Again the store has a very modern feel, yet the labyrinth of narrow aisles give the place a much more intimate and cosy feel than Eslite. Page One caters mostly for the English market, though they do have books in Chinese and other languages. The books cover a very wide range of subjects, with lots of fiction titles too. To give an example of the diversity I once came away with one of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation novels as well as a somewhat less readily available title: Chiang Monlin’s Tides from the West.
Another decent-sized bookshop worth mentioning is Caves Books, on Zhongshan North Road near Yuanshan MRT Station. Caves mainly specialise in language books, making the shop very popular with English language teachers. There’s also a second-hand bookshop which I’ve heard is very good although I’ve yet to take a look myself, called Mollie Used Books (near Roosevelt Road, ZhongZheng District, nearest MRT Station is Gongguan). Popular with students this is apparently a good place to pick up or sell second-hand textbooks – they mostly stock Chinese books, but they do stock some English titles, plus comics and novels as well.
Tim Chamberlain is a student at Birkbeck College, University of London. He is about to complete a Masters in World History and is planning to go on to a PhD examining the themes of science and empire in China and Tibet during the early 20th century. He is also a project coordinator for international touring exhibitions at the British Museum.
Do you have a favourite bookshop? If there’s a bookshop that you think other students and academics should visit when they’re undertaking research or visiting a city for a conference, then now’s your chance to tell us all about it.
As part of a new weekly feature on LSE Review of Books, we’re asking academics and students to recommend their favourite two or three bookshops in a particular city, with the aim of building an exciting online series for our book-loving community of readers the world over.
Bookshops could be academic, alternative, foreign language, hobby-based, secret or underground institutions, second hand outlets, or connected to a university. We’d like to cover all world regions too.
If something comes to mind, we’re looking for around 100 words per bookshop, detailing why this place is a must-see. Our editorial team can then find suitable photos and links to accompany the piece, though you’re welcome to supply these too. We only ask that you focus on just one city or region, and two or three bookshops within it.
Email us now if you’d like to contribute: firstname.lastname@example.org