Monday, April 28, 2014

OT7: Flow Books

I recently took my first trip to Hong Kong and after spending the first two days doing all the touristy things, I decided to hunt out some of the more unique cultural offerings. On a recommendation from a friend, I checked out the Hong Kong Film Archive and started discussing books with a woman who told me there was a secondhand bookstore in Central that specialized in English books.

Even though Hong Kong is officially bi-lingual Cantonese and English, the majority of people speak Cantonese and use Chinese as the written language so an English bookstore is quite uncommon but they do exist. An English used bookstore, though, is downright unique.

After a quick search online, there appears to be a small handful of stores. One of primary ones, The Book Attic, sadly closed down a few months ago (a fact I didn’t discover until I was in the dark corridor of a sketchy building trying to read room numbers by cellphone light). The other main one, though, was still in business.

A Hong Kong bookstore.
Flow Books, located at 38 Hollywood Road in Central, is exactly what I pictured an English secondhand book store to look like in space-starved Hong Kong. Packed floor to ceiling with a mix of bestsellers, classic lit, travel guides, and art books, it easily consumed the better half of a day.

Could lose yourself for days.
Spent half the time digging for interesting finds and the other half chatting with the proprietor about the state of the used book market in Hong Kong. Bookstores have it rough nowadays and even heavily bankrolled stores like Chapters are folding left right and center. Used bookstores have it even rougher with erratic sales and relatively smaller selections. Used bookstores that carry books servicing the native language of 5% of the population is just ridiculous.

A labyrinth of literature.
Nonetheless, he was in high spirits and obviously genuinely loved books to run such a business. I ended up telling him about the Biblio-Mat and the Monkey’s Paw, which blew his and everyone else’s mind at the store with everyone looking at me skeptically until I pulled up pics of it. Hopefully he’ll make the journey to Toronto to check it out.

I did end the day with two awesome scores by one of my favourite authors. If you like digging for random books and find yourself in Hong Kong, I highly recommend making a trip out to the quaint lil store:

Flow Books
1A – 38 Hollywood Rd. (Wing On Bldg)
Central, HK

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