In this blog post Dannah Dennis, a PhD candidate in Anthropology at the University of Virginia, shares her favourite bookshops in the mountain-surrounded capital city of Nepal: Kathmandu. 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.
Kathmandu has small bookshops on every corner and a strong tradition of selling and re-selling books on the street. However, if you’re looking for places with a wide selection of books available in English, your best options are Pilgrims Book House and Mandala Book Point.
Pilgrims Book House has been a landmark institution in the Thamel area of Kathmandu for over 30 years. In May 2013, a fire destroyed much of the building and its inventory. However, the store reopened quickly in a nearby location, next to Kathmandu Guest House, and continues to provide a wide range of books, stationery, movies, and gifts.
While Pilgrims tends to cater to the interests of the steady stream of trekkers and Dharma bums flowing through Thamel, the store also offers a selection of academic books in such subjects as religious studies, art and architecture, anthropology, and political studies. Some Nepali-language and Hindu-language books are also available. The two-storey shop is broken into a number of smaller rooms and is decorated with an eclectic collection of paintings and statues, which adds to the fun of exploring.
Located just north of Rani Pokhari, Mandala Book Point is the best academic bookstore in Kathmandu. It’s a great place to find out about upcoming talks, conferences, and other events around the city. Though their shop is relatively small, it’s well-organized and stocked with an impressive array of literary, research, and reference works. For readers interested in contemporary South Asian society, Mandala offers a wide range of books on political and cultural issues, along with journals such as Studies in Nepali History and Society (SINHAS) and Himal Southasian.
They also carry some fiction titles and children’s books; I bought my Nepali translation of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone at Mandala. The staff are friendly and knowledgeable. After you visit the shop once or twice, don’t be surprised if they recognize you and start to offer recommendations based on your prior purchases!
I just visited Ekta Books in Thapatali for the first time last weekend, and I’m sure I’ll be back many times. Their store is remarkably spacious in comparison to most Kathmandu bookshops, and the open layout is very inviting. There are lots of windows providing natural light and several places to sit and page through your new selections. Across four floors, Ekta offers textbooks for all university subjects, classic and contemporary fiction, academic titles, reference works, magazines, stationery, an impressive children’s section, and much more.
A tip for book-hungry scholars: academic books in Kathmandu are sold for considerably less than they are in the West. While the available offerings are heavily weighted toward South Asian issues, visitors can get titles from major publishers like Oxford and Routledge for prices in the $5-$10 range. So if you’re planning a trip to Kathmandu anytime soon, leave some room in your suitcase!
Dannah Dennis is a PhD candidate in Anthropology at the University of Virginia. She currently lives in Kathmandu and conducts research on political transition, citizenship, secularism, and education. You can find her on Twitter @dannahdennis.
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: email@example.com
Vajra Books and United Books in Thamel are amazing too! Cannot recommend Vajra enough, Bidur is great!
I’ve just acquired a book stamped with “traveller’s book centre / jhochhen dhu / kathmandu. The book is The White plague by Frank Herbert, paperback. I know that much of that area was destroyed in the recent earthquake, but cannot find (google) any information about the bookshop mentioned. any ideas? Just casually interested, Clearly it must have existed at some time. How it got from there to Wales is also a mystery.
Anyway, just another data point for those interested in such things.
Regards Mike Evans
Hi Mike (Evans). I went on an expedition to Everest in November 1985. During our acclimatisation in Kathmandu our party made several visits to the Traveller’s Book Centre which had a super (if basic) cafe as well as a very well- stocked second-hand bookshop. In those days the Traveller’s Book Centre was THE place to go for trekkers and climbers looking for something to read during the evenings on their expeditions. I went for a PG Wodehouse (“Summer Moonshine”) which kept me, my fell-trekkers and our Sherpas and porters in a state of hilarity for 3 weeks. It’s still on my bookshelf – albeit dog-eared! Best wishes, Robin Wickes, Edinburgh.
Comment…yar is there any shop where film script writing and film directing books found in KTM ??? I m searching for such book is Any body help me to find these books plz
do you have any travel guide on srilanka and bhutan
Unfortunately we don’t have a bookshop guide to these countries – yet! We would really welcome any contributions on this.