Taipei City is a popular destination for food and shopping, but besides night markets and the Taipei 101 Mall, bookstores have become a popular attraction in recent years.
The 24-hour Eslite Bookstore on Dunhua S Road and its flagship Xinyi store are among the top tourist destinations in the city. In addition to the large bookstore chain, independent bookstores are thriving around town, offering bookworms a great variety of unique collections.
Tucked away in a small alley in the city’s eastern commercial area, VVG Something (好樣本事), a bookstore opened in 2009, was listed as one of the 20 most beautiful bookstores in the world by US entertainment Web site Flavorwire.com.
Books in the store center around cooking, interior design, photography, travel and pop-up illustrations that are brought back by store owner Grace Wang (汪麗琴) from around the world.
“The books are part of my personal collection which reflects the lifestyle I want to share with people. When I travel, I always go to bookstores and bring back books that are special in content and beautiful to look at,” she said.
Great reviews of the bookstore surprised many of Wang’s friends who had warned her about the shrinking market.
Taking advantage of the success, she and business partners opened a new store in Huashan Cultural and Creative Park last month, turning a hundred-year-old factory into a restaurant/bookstore lifestyle shop.
The two-story VVG Thinking (好樣思維) has a much larger book collection with rare and expensive books on display for customers to flip through. For example, placed in front of a birdcage is a herbarium compiled by a Japanese elementary school that Wang found in an antique store in Japan.
“People who love books will cherish them, so I am not worried about books being damaged. It’s the best thing to see people opening books and reading them in my store,” she said.
Not far from VVG Something is another bookstore specializing in children’s picture books. Sitting behind the MRT Zhongxiao Dunhua Station, Shimarisu Picture Books (花栗鼠繪本館) has over 8,000 children’s storybooks and illustrations from around the world.
The bookstore has a rich collection of children’s picture books in Japanese and English, as well as illustrated and pop-up books from Taiwanese authors, including the well-known Jimmy Liao (幾米).
There is also an area devoted to antique picture books, and books on parenting can also be found in the store.
Owner Ted Hayashi (林忠正), a Taiwanese who has lived in Japan for over 30 years, left the electronics industry and opened the bookstore in 2010 to share his childhood memories of bedtime stories and to provide a platform for parents to interact with their children.
For people who are fond of foreign cultures and languages, Librairie Le Pigeonnier (信鴿法國書店) near Yitong Park is a good option with over 20,000 titles in French, from language books, children’s illustrated books and French fictions to selective works from well-known French authors.
The bookstore was opened in 1999 by Fracoise Zylbergerg (施蘭芳), a professor of French studies at National Taiwan University, because of growing demand for French books from her students and French expatriates.
Store staff Lin Hsin-chiu (林幸萩) said that the store has a great variety of books in French and also takes special orders from customers.
People with passion for music will enjoy the rich collection of music books in Taipei Musiker House (台北音樂家書房) on Zhonghua Road. Owners Liu Dong-li (劉東黎) and Wang Zi-zhi (王子芝) are musicians who want to make music more accessible to the general public.
The bookstore features thousands of music-related books and music works, as well as a comprehensive collection of materials, including the reproductions of original manuscripts by composers such as Debussy, Chopin and Verdi. The store has attracted customers from around the world.
Bookstores around National Taiwan University and Shida area, such as Mollie Used Books (茉莉二手書店) and Standard Bookstore (水準書店) may appeal to people on a budget as theyoffer second-hand books or books with great discounts.