For the native English speaker, one of the drawbacks of living or traveling in a foreign country for any extended period is finding a good English bookstore where one can stock up for those long train rides or nights when the only thing to watch on TV is a mediocre Hong Kong film with no English subtitles.
Luckily, Beijing is chock full of good bookstores and accessible libraries, and even has an occasional large open-air book sale. The problem lies in finding them. And you can forget relying upon your dog-eared copy of the Lonely Planet, because most of those stores won't be there.
So, for your perusal, here are the 10 best English bookstores in Beijing:
1. The Foreign Languages Bookstore (Waiwen Shudian)
This store in Wangfujing has been a mainstay for foreigners in Beijing for many years. It contains a large collection of books on Chinese art, history, literature, language, medicine, economics and art books, post cards, all in English, the majority of which have been published by Chinese publishing houses. It also carries some classic Western novels and a selection of imported books on Chinese history, religion, philosophy, and a couple of dozen Western travel guidebooks (Lonely Planet and Fodor's).
Hours: 9 AM - 8:30 PM
2. The Wangfujing Xinhua Bookstore (Wangfujing Xinhua Shudian)
The second floor of this bookstore contains a very large collection of classic English and American novels, short story compilations, books on Chinese culture and language, imported novels, and some discounted imported fiction and nonfiction hardbacks. On the first floor is a large array of reference books, English dictionaries, English teacher resource books, and various Oxford guide books (to sailing, geography, history, linguistics, philosophy, etc). The third floor has an erratic selection of magazines.
Across from McDonald's and next to the Oriental Plaza
Hours: 9 AM - 9:30 PM
3. Haidian Foreign Languages Bookstore (Waiwen Shudian)
This foreign languages bookstore has a wide and interesting selection of books on Chinese culture, economics, literature, standard classic American and British novels and a small selection of older imported books. In addition, the street this bookstore is on has several used bookstores, some of which have small selections of English books.
At the Zhongguo Haidian Tushucheng, just south of Beijing University
Hours: 9 AM - 6:30 PM
4. The Export Books Bookstore (Waiwen Jinkou Shudian)
Owned by and located next to the Wangfujing Foreign Languages Bookstore, this store has a large collection of imported classic and new Western novels, biographies, best sellers, language teaching resource and computer books, imported books on Chinese history and culture, Western dictionaries, and a surprisingly large selection of children's books.
Next door to the Wangfujing Foreign Languages Bookstore
Hours: 9 AM - 8:30 PM
5. Beijing Books Center
The Beijing Books Center at the Xinhua Bookstore is new and simply massive, with a large collection of English books on the second floor dealing with all aspects of Chinese culture and some Western classics.
17 West Changan Ave.
Hours: 9 AM -8:30 PM
6. The Friendship Store English Bookstore
Inside the first floor of the Friendship Store is a small bookstore featuring Western magazines, lots of imported books on Chinese history and culture, current Western novels, and travel books. (A hint about buying books at this store: if you find something here that is published in China, it is better to instead pick it up at the nearby Wangfujing Xinhua Bookstore or the Wangfujing Foreign Languages Bookstore, since the markup at The Friendship Store is at times quite steep).
17 Jianguomenwai Dajie
Hours: 9 AM - 9 PM
Tel: 6500-3311 ext. 312, 311
7. The Beijing Language and Culture University Press Bookstore
This is the best place in Beijing to buy Chinese language learning books of all levels, tapes, dictionaries, phrase and grammar books, slang books, and even famous Western books on linguistics.
The Beijing Language and Culture University Press Bookstore
Next to the south gate of the Beijing Language and Culture University
Chengfu Lu, Haidian
Hours: Mon-Fri 9AM - 5 PM, Sat 9AM - 4PM
8. The China Bookstore
This store has a small collection of English books but it is THE place in Beijing to buy Chinese art books, books on calligraphy, post cards, and photography books. The selection is impressive. Alongside both East and West Liulichang Street, which runs in front of the main entrance to this bookstore are several other good art bookstores. This famous area has sold books and art supplies in Beijing for more than 300 years. And while it is now touristy, it is still the place to get some excellent and cheap art books.
115 Dongxi Liulichang Jiedao
Hours: 9 AM - 6:30 PM
9. Yansha Tushu Tiandi
On the 6th floor of the Lufthansa Shopping Center is the Yanshatushutiandi Bookstore. It has a large collection of imported books on China, bestseller Western novels, and even Western art and photography books.
6th Floor, Lufthansa Shopping Center
Hours: 9 AM - 9 PM
Tel: 6465-1188 ext. 675
10. China Economic Bookstore
The China Economic Bookstore has a limited number of general interest English books, but a good selection of material dealing with economic and business related matters in China, including reference books and dictionaries.
China Economic Bookstore (Zhongguo Jingji Shudian)
301 COFCO Plaza, Jianguomennei Dajie
Hours: 9 AM - 9PM
Plus: Embassy libraries
Few people realize that many Western embassies have libraries, some with circulating material, containing novels, magazines, non-fiction books, and reference materials. Here are four of them:
It has a collection of around 1,000 books, this includes novels, books on literature, economics, psychology and history as well as some magazines. People of any nationality can check out books but you need to bring a photocopy of your passport to do so.
21 Dongzhimenwai Dajie, Chaoyang District
Hours: 9 AM - noon, 2PM - 4:30PM, Monday through Friday
Tel: 6532-2331 ext. 227
American Center for Cultural Exchange
The center has a collection of over 3,000 books dealing with American politics, laws, and economics, government reports, and subscribes to 100 periodicals. Cannot checkout materials.
Room 2801, Jingguang New World Hotel, Chaoyang District
Hours: 9 AM - noon; 1PM -5PM, Monday through Friday
Tel: 6597-3742, ext. 207
Hosts a small collection of primarily novels.
19 Dongzhimenwai Dajie, Chaoyang District
Tel: 6465-1188, ext. 3268
Hours: By appointment only, for Canadian citizens.
British Embassy Annex
The information center has a good collection of books dealing with British education and universities.
Cultural and Educational Section, Landmark Tower, 4th floor, 8
East 3rd Ring Road, Chaoyang District
Hours: 9 - 5, Monday through Friday
Tel: 6590-6903, ext. 200, 201
Twice a year, (usually in May and September), over 400 Chinese publishing houses Have a enormous 10-day book sale on the grounds of the Working People's Palace of Culture, which is located immediately south of the Forbidden City. Although most of the Books are in Chinese, you can find classic Western novels, good art and architecture books, and books in English on Chinese culture. It is also an excellent place to buy very inexpensive chops, CDS, and calligraphy materials, and maps.
Also, during the Chinese New Year, if you wander around some of the big temple fairs, you occasionally can find some vendors selling English books.
Fuzhou Road is famous for its book stores. On it there are a Shanghai Book Town, Ancient Book Shop and a store exclusively selling foreign books and foreign-language textbooks, which are listed along the road.
Shanghai's City of Books (Nandong)
Address: No.345, Nanjing Road. E. near Shandong Road N.
Opening Hour: 9:30 - 21:30
It is a branch of Shanghai's City of Books. It doesn't sell any foreign language books, but you can buy computer games and software.
Traffic: Metro Line No.2 (Nanjing Road E. Station)
Shanghai's City of Books
Address: No.465, Fuzhou Road
Opening Hour: 9:30 - 20:30
This is the biggest book store in Shanghai with six floors. Each floor has different kinds of books, but most English books are for Chinese students preparing for exams.
Foreign Language Bookstore
Address: No.390 Fuzhou Road
Opening Hour: 9:00-18:00
You can find many English novels on the ground floor, as well as dictionaries. There is a corner on the ground floor for foreigners who want to learn Chinese.
On the higher floors, you can find some professional books in English. Of course, many of the books are for Chinese students.
Shanghai Culture Commercial Building
Address: No.355 Fuzhou Road
Opening Hour: 9:00 - 17:30
This store has a variety of stationery and painting materials. If you are a major in painting or art, this is a good place to find professional material.
Source: Shanghai Daily
(China.org.cn January 15, 2007)