In Thailand, you can find good selection of English-language books at Asia Books, a local chain with retail stores in popular areas of Bangkok. Except for the ones in Siam Paragon and Central World (two main shopping malls), most of its branches are small and stock a limited but nevertheless interesting range of fiction and general interest titles in English. I especially love their sections on Thailand and Southeast Asia, where you will find novels, history books, coffee-table books set in the region written by both foreign and local writers. Fiction wise, Thailand imports UK editions so there is a much better chance to locate paperbacks that are yet to be released in the USA. And for the same reason, the selection reflects a greater emphasis on European titles. The non-fiction is just as fulfilling. Here you will find off-the-beaten-path books about prostitution, prison tell-all, homeopathic cure. For me it’s always a great place to start when I only bring enough readings to accompany my flight to Thailand—I know I’ll always find something here. Between Asia Books and its Japanese-owned rival, Kinokuniya, which also carries titles in English language, I fill up my luggage with books to be read after I return home.
Eslite, the swanky new Taiwanese mega bookstore in Causeway Bay, Hong Kong does not live up to my expectation. The selection, at least in English-language books, doesn’t measure up that of Page One. Eslite boasts the ample space for readers to enjoy the books. But from my experience, while the three-storey powerhouse is packed to the rafters with almost every tome imaginable, it’s not poised to become my favorite stop to buy books. It’s more a lifestyle store than a bookstore—they have a tea shop, stationery annex, and boutique. None of the books on my list are in stock at Eslite, despite a third of its collection is in English language. Eslite also groups books in Chinese and English under the same category, which I find confusing. Eslite provides a great reading ambiance, but not necessarily the most eclectic titles. If you are looking for a place for casual, after-work reading, Eslite is not it. After all, most Hong Kongers aren’t avid readers. It’s also true that the minority who do read probably won’t go to Eslite.