Unleash Your Inner Literati
No one can deny that reading is important. Reading enriches our world, expands our vocabulary, stimulates the imagination and can increase the attention span in children who might otherwise be distracted by electronic games, TV and the Internet.
At a glance it might seem that the reading culture here is non-existent and that people would rather disengage into a game on their mobile rather than literature. But if you dig deeper you will discover that Hong Kong’s inclination for books and reading is far from dead; it’s actually emerging and this city has a lot to offer in terms of the quantity and selection when it comes to its bookstores, mainstream and speciality. This is the ultimate guide to unleashing your inner literati.
The book that keeps on giving – secondhand bookstores
Where the true bibliophile hangs out. Browse for hours and revel in that tell-tale used book smell, trawling through the piles and shelves of dog-eared copies (the place has a feel of a jumble sale at times). The shop is very chill, inviting you to relax with a tea or coffee in cosy surrounds.
Address: 10 Park Road, Mid Levels
Opening Hours: Monday-Sunday 11.00am – 7.00pm; 2559 5199
Readers can shop online or visit BooksMart’s Sai Ying Pun shop for a selection of both new and used books. Books are relatively inexpensive; the website even offers a category of $20 steals. Delivery is free with orders over $250.
Address: Flat 212, 11/F, Glorious Commercial Building (sign outside building in Chinese only “浩榮商業大廈”),No. 210-212 Des Voeux Road West, Sai Ying Pun
Opening Hours: Monday-Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday 11.00am – 6.30pm (closed Wednesday, Sunday and public holidays); 2620-5035
The YWCA on Macdonnell Road has a small selection of English second hand books for sale and accepts donations. The small second hand book shelf features a mixed genre of all kinds for both children and adults. A book costs $20 and goes to YWCA charitable donations.
3/F No. 1 Macdonnell Road, Central; 3476 1340
Something for everyone – All-purpose bookstores
One of the oldest booksellers on the block, Swindon Book Co has been helping Hong Kongers happily flip through the pages since 1918. Approachable staff will help you find the more obscure titles, and if they can’t get it off the shelf, you can order online.
Address: 13-15 Lock Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon
Opening Hours: Monday-Saturday 10.00am – 8.00pm; Sunday and public holidays 12.30pm – 6.30pm; 2366-8001
Affiliated with Swindon Book Co and Kelly & Walsh, Hong Kong Book Centre is in good company in the local book scene. It offers a diverse selection of special interest books, covering art, design, business and travel. You can also find the latest best sellers here, and the little ones will enjoy the kids’ section.
Address: 25 Des Voeux Road, On Lok Yuen Building Lower Level, Central
Opening Hours: Monday-Friday 9.00am – 6.30pm; Saturday 9.00am – 5.30pm (closed Sunday and public holidays); 2522-7064
Independent bookstore in Wan Chai specialising in English books mainly from the UK for young and old, but with an emphasis on children’s books. It’s also a good one stop shop for cool gift ideas, like brightly-coloured Penguin book bags. Delivery is also available, with charges waived on purchases over $800. They also offer online shopping on their new website.
Address: Shop 1706-09, 17/F, Hopewell Centre, 183 Queen’s Road East, Wan Chai
Opening Hours: Monday-Saturday 9.00am – 8.00pm; Sunday and public holidays 10.30am – 8.00pm; 3527 3560
Good little bookshop in Stanley over two levels selling English books, magazines and stationery on the ground floor, with the top floor reserved just for the kiddies.
Address: Shop A1, G/F, No. 80 Stanley Main Street, Stanley; 2813 8266
A very dependable selection of English language books, magazines, stationary and gifts. In their biggest store they stock over 900 magazine titles and over 20,000 book titles. All shops have a children’s section and in some they will host book readings, puppet shows, face paintings, competitions and other events for children of all ages.
Landmark Prince’s: Shop 326-328, Landmark Prince’s Building, 10 Chater Road, Central; 2522-1785
Discovery Bay: Shop 104B, 1/F Block A, DB Main Plaza, Discovery Bay, Lantau Island; 2987 1373
Ifc Mall: Shop 3092C, Podium Level Three, Ifc Mall, 1 Harbour Street, Central
Lyndhurst Terrace: Shop 1, G/F, Oriental Crystal Commercial Building, 46 Lyndhurst Terrace, Central; 2970 3999
Repulse Bay: G/F, Shop 107 C-D, The Repulse Bay Arcade, 108 Repulse Bay Road, Repulse Bay; 2750 1136
Exchange Square: Shop 305-07, One Exchange Square, Central; 2542 1133
Pacific Place: Shop 4, Level B3, Three Pacific Place; 2997 3018
Founded in 1989, ESLITE is a bookstore chain that hails from Taiwan. Originally their focus was on art and humanities but the company has since expanded their selection. The shop in Causeway Bay opened in 2012 and has 3 floors chock full of good reads. ESLITE also has a children’s book section, in both English and Chinese titles. It’s also the only bookstore that caters to night time book browsers and shoppers leaving its doors open on weekends till 2am!
Address: 8/F-10/F Hysan Place, 500 Hennessy Road, Causeway Bay; 3419-6789
Opening Hours: Sunday -Thursday 10:00am – 11.00pm Friday, Saturday and eve of Public Holiday 10.00am – 11.00pm
Previously Dymocks in Sai Kung, Kidnapped takes its name from the timeless adventure classic by Robert Louis Stevenson. Store owner Urusla Huber, is passionate about sharing books as a way to captivate the imagination and take readers on an adventure and spirit of discovery. The store offers a wide range of children’s books including those by local Hong Kong authors.
Address: 7 Man Nin Street, Sai Kung, New Territories; 2791 9110
Opening Hours: Monday-Sunday 9.00am – 7.00pm
Bleak House Books is one of Hong Kong’s newest English language bookshops. They specialise in vintage fiction and comic, classic children’s books and quality contemporary fiction and non-fiction and their inventory is hand-curated and wide ranging. Founded in early 2017, they sell books out of their brick and mortar shop in Kowloon, online via their website and occasionally participate in street markets. More than just a retail operation, Bleak House Books is a space for the community where folks can go read a book in peace and quiet, listen to a poetry reading, or browse its growing collection of works by Hong Kong’s own writers and artists.
Address: Unit 2705, Welltech Centre, 9 Pat Tat Street, San Po Kong, Kowloon
Opening Hours: 12-5 pm Sunday and Monday, 12-6 pm Wednesday and Thursday, 11 am -6 pm Friday, 11 am – 1 pm and 2 pm – 7 pm Saturday; 3705 0251
For the wee-ders – children’s bookstores
This colourful and large store (3,000 sq. ft.) is a great way to spend a rainy day with the kids and stock up on a variety of reads. Although billed as the largest and most specialised English language children’s bookstore in Hong Kong, mom and dad can get informed with a good selection of parenting and early learning books, and teens will no doubt find the latest trending novel in the young adult section. Lots of fun toys, stationery and gifts too.
Address: Shop A, Square on 9/F, Times Square, 1 Matheson Street, Causeway Bay
Opening Hours: Monday-Sunday 10.00am – 10.00pm; 2154 1339
With stacks of discount books at two locations, not to mention a space large enough for the kids to wander, this shop is a favourite with local parents. Mum and dad are spoilt for choice with affordable English language books for babies, kids and teens, along with creative games to keep their imagination ticking.
Kwun Tong: Unit 806, 8/F, Hewlett Centre, 54 Hoi Yuen Road, Kwun Tong; 3105-3588
Causeway Bay: Unit 1703-06, Causeway Bay Plaza 1, 489 Hennessy Road, Causeway Bay; 2895-0006
Opening Hours (same for both locations): Monday-Friday 11.00am – 7.00pm; Saturday, Sunday and public holidays 11.00am – 6.30pm
This whimsical shop, with three locations in Hong Kong, has something to delight princes and princesses of all ages, from infant storybooks right up through reference materials and novels suitable for teens.
Lee Gardens Two: Shop 217-218, 28 Yun Ping Road, Causeway Bay
Ocean Terminal Harbour City: Shop OT G45, Ground Floor, Ocean Terminal, Harbour City, Kowloon
The Pulse: Shop 201F, Level 2, The Pulse, 28 Beach Road, Repulse Bay
Lee Gardens: Monday-Sunday and public holidays 10.30am – 8.30pm; 2915-6228
Ocean Terminal Harbour City: Monday-Sunday and public holidays: 10.30am – 10.00pm; 2737 2343
The Pulse: Monday-Thursday: 10.00am – 7.00pm; Friday-Sunday and public holidays: 10.00 – 8.00pm; 2698 1090
Book Buddy goes above and beyond with a fun range of storybooks, Novelties, Pillow Storybooks, Workbooks, Flash Cards, Educational Games & Materials, Puzzles, Infant Toys, Stickers and stationery.
Stanley Plaza: 23 Carmel Road, Stanley, 3197 0388
Windsor House: 311 Gloucester Road, Causeway Bay, 2376 2230
PopCom 2: 9 Tong Chun Street, Tseung Kwan O, 2737 2343
Windsor House and PopCom 2: 11.00am – 7.00pm Daily
Stanley Plaza: 9.00am – 8.00pm Daily
For the love of…art! – Design, photography, film, architecture, fashion & advertising books
Most likely named after Stanley Kubrick . When it comes to film and music Kubrick takes the crown; a visit to this shop will inspire you to get matinee tickets for the next art house movie. Although mainly Chinese, there is a good selection of English language books, graphic novels and magazines. Their support for the arts can be seen first hand as they sell art, design and handcrafted accessories from local and foreign artists. You can linger at their nice café which has an all day menu at affordable prices.
Kubrick Yau Ma Tei: Shop H2, Prosperous Garden, 3 Public Square St., Yau Ma Tei, Kowloon, Hong Kong; 2384-8929
Kubrick APM: 418, APM 6, Shop L6-1A, 6/F, Millennium City 5 – APM, 418 Kwun Tong Road, Kwun Tong, Kowloon
Yau Ma Tei: bookstore: Monday-Sunday 11.30am – 10.00pm; café: Monday-Sunday 11.30am – 9.30pm; discs store: Monday, Tuesday, Friday-Sunday 12.00pm – 10.00pm; Wednesday, Thursday 2.00pm – 10.00pm; 2384-8929
APM: Monday-Sunday 1.00pm – 10.00pm; 3148-1289
Formed in 1876 through the partnership of two local Shanghai booksellers and then established itself as a local retailer in Hong Kong in the 1950s. [pendant alert!] This bookstore offers a well rounded selection of topics but mainly focuses on art, architecture, design and fashion. It also is keen on satisfying speciality interests by stocking a comprehensive and professional selection of cookbooks, books on automobiles, philosophy, travel as well as a fun children’s section.
Admiralty: Shop 204, Level 2, Pacific Place, Admiralty
Central: Shop B59-60, The Landmark, Central
Admiralty: Monday-Sunday 10.30am – 8.00pm; 2522 5743
Central: Monday-Sunday 10.00am – 7.30pm; 2801 6131
Into specifics – speciality bookstores
One of the more handsome stores on the list, with plush chairs to lounge in as you savour the wide range of rare books, first editions and important folios. A great place to hunt down the perfect gift for those hard-to-buy people in your life, as they also have signed books on hand. The inviting setting doubles as a party destination, where you can attend private cocktail gatherings, whisky or wine tastings and author readings.
Address: Ground Floor, 6 Chancery Lane, Central
Opening Hours: Tuesday-Saturday 10.00am – 7.00pm; Sunday 10.00am – 5.00pm (closed Monday and public holidays); 2868-1056
Most of the books here are in Chinese and academic-themed, however, it’s a great place to learn more about local culture as they often hold talks and community events in English. The bookstore was opened by an aspiring group of young people who wanted to provide a space for discussion, increase social and cultural consciousness, and promote reading. Drop in, meet some interesting people, and walk away with a rich read too.
Address: 7/F, 68 Sai Yeung Choi Street South, Mong Kok, Kowloon
Opening Hours: Monday-Sunday 1.00pm – 11.00pm; 2395 0031
It’s business as usual (pun intended) at this store which has a mammoth selection of books on law, business, human resources, finance and other professional titles. To switch gears it offers a brilliant selection of children’s books and other literary titles.
Address: Room 1202, 12/F, Chung Sheung Building, 9-10 Queen Victoria Street, Central
Opening Hours: Monday-Friday 9.00am – 7.00pm; Saturday 9.00am – 6.00pm (closed Sunday and public holidays); 2526-5387
Tai Yip has a terrific selection of books about Chinese history, symbolism and art including titles about archeology, lacquer ware, jade, snuff bottles, ceramics, costumes, tea ware, etc. This is a good place to look if you are planning to collect Chinese art or antiques.
Address: Room 1, 3/F Conwell House, 34-38 Stanley Street, Central; 2524 5963
*this is the address on their website but can’t find opening hours anywhere online
This store is dedicated to promoting French language and culture. It opened it doors in 1987 and since has remained the only French bookstore in Hong Kong. In addition to books the store sells comics, textbooks, dictionaries, travel guides, stationery and DVDs.
Address: 2/F, Duke of Wellington House, 14-24 Wellington St., Central
Opening Hours: Monday-Saturday 10.00am – 6:30pm (closed Sunday and public holidays); 2526-9215
Straight to your door – online book shopping
You’ll recognise this one if you’ve ever been on GeoExpat.Com or GeoBaby.Com, where it started life in 2004 selling baby and parenting books, toys and gift items to expats. Several years later, ShopInHK.Com has grown to offer around 3 million of the above products. Shipping rates range from $40-$90, depending on the total weight of the order. Orders over $388 are free Hong Kong-wide.
Lovers of art with a Hong Kong touch will revel in the selection at Asia One Books, which publishes and distributes books on the city’s developing art scene. Chic accessories and cute gifts for children are also available. Deliveries to Hong Kong addresses are free, and also no charge worldwide if you spend over $1200.
The UK’s largest dedicated online bookseller, the Book Depository site offers free worldwide delivery on an enormous range of titles. There is an option to shop (and pay!) in a variety of currencies including Sterling, Euros, and US or Australian Dollars, so no tricky price conversion is required.
A one-stop shop for competitively priced books, movies, toys, music, and more. Shipping is free; most orders arrive within 6-10 days. Requires (free) registration to browse the site.
Owned and operated by a British expat, this family-run online bookstore offers an affordable option for children’s books, toys and other products. The books and play things sold at Bookwise are carefully hand-chosen by owner Sara Young and only include things she would choose for her own children. As an added bonus, everything can be delivered to your residence at no extra cost excluding a few large items.
Something borrowed – libraries in Hong Kong
The Central Library (located in Causeway Bay) is a public library with English sections of books available on loan for adults and kids. English ebooks and audio books are also available. This branch of the library is also home to the Toy Library, an indoor play space for children aged 0 – 8.
Address: 66 Causeway Road, Causeway Bay
Opening Hours: Monday-Sunday 10.00am – 9.00pm (*opens at 1.00pm on Wednesday); Public holidays 10.00am – 7.00pm; 2921-0208
In addition to the Central Library, there are public libraries throughout Hong Kong. Here is a full list.
Nancy Matos is a lifestyle and culture writer from Vancouver, Canada currently based in Hong Kong and London, who refuses to buy a Kindle.