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Thursday, November 4, 2010


You may remember that I love books. When I was getting rid of all my stuff so that I could be a world traveler, the hardest part of it was giving up my books. Even after several yard sales & book donations, as I was getting ready to go to Vietnam, I packed one entire suitcase full of books. Of course, that suitcase was way over the airline weight limit, so I had to leave most of those books with my brother at the airport in Los Angeles.

In Vietnam it was really difficult to find books in English. For weeks, I read & re-read the five books that survived the book purge at LAX. I felt like I was wilting without mental nurishment - I needed more books! One of my happiest days in Vietnam was the day I got a package from my friend Debra filled with dozens of books. She knew exactly what I needed.

Here in Shanghai, it's much easier to find books in English. There are several foreign language bookstores in the city with a wide variety of current titles. However, those books come with Western prices. The average novel costs around 200 RMB (about US $30), & since I go through so many books, that's out of my price range.

Instead, I prefer to buy books from the copy book sellers that show up on the street corners at night. Their offerings are much cheaper at around 20 RMB (about US $3) each, & they're surprisingly high quality printings - you have to look close to even tell that it's a copy. But there isn't much variety on the book carts. I can normally only find one or two books there that I want to read. The rest are usually how-to books about business & marketing. Yuck.

So I was excited to stumble across Shanghai Secondhand. They buy & sell everything an expat might need, from furniture to pots & pans to bicycles - & they have tons & tons of books!

The day that I went there, I realized that the address was someone's apartment. I called to confirm the location, & the owner Jane said to come on up. She kindly showed me into her home, & when I told her I was looking for books, she pointed around the corner to a room where she had three tall bookshelves filled with books in English. What a sight! 

By the time I was finished looking through her collection, I had made a tall stack of books to take home with me - 16 in all, including Foreign Babes in Beijing, which I've been looking for for a while now. The total bill came to 340 RMB (about US $50).

I should be good on books for a while now, but if I finish all of these too quickly, I know where to go for more.  

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