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).
2. The Wangfujing Xinhua Bookstore (Wangfujing Xinhua Shudian)
The second floor of this bookstore that opened late last year 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.
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.
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.
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.