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[The List]: 11 English-Language Bookshops That Have Survived This Long

Books and magazines! Here's where to get them in English, in Shanghai.
Last updated: 2018-03-12
The List is where we compile a few of the city’s best things, people, events, restaurants, KTVs, wine shops and whatever else we feel like putting into listicle format.

Bookstores. They're like Kindles in building form. Shanghai used to have a lot more, but these're the ones that are still around, and sell at least enough English-language books to keep a bibliophile occupied for 6-8 months.


Shanghai Foreign Languages Bookstore


This is your go-to. The ground floor is packed with dirt-cheap Signet, Collins and Bantam Classics, some more expensive Penguin Classics, a surprisingly up-to-date selection of recent releases, and some recent magazines. There're a lot of test prep-books on the 2nd floor, while the 3rd floor holds hundreds of pricy art and photography books. The 4th floor has given over nearly half of its space to a manga store called Animate. Wide array of Japanese-language manga volumes here, with a lot of those companion volumes that seem to be the book-equivalent of a behind-the-scenes feature. There's a cafe on the ground floor that seems to change owners every year, half-year or so.

Pricing: Signet, Collins and Bantam classic come in at a staggering 20-25rmb brand new. Penguin classics are little pricier, at 50rmb, while anything released this century is anything from 70-150rmb. The 3rd floor artbooks are in the 700-1,000rmb range, while the 4th floor's manga booklets are 100-200rmb. Recent magazines 60rmb.

Shanghai Book Traders Used Books


Tiny second-hand/thrift shop owned the Shanghai Foreign Languages Bookstore just around the corner. It's small, the service is brusque, but they stack lots of month- or year-old magazines, SAT prep books, design and coffeetable books, and paperbacks of varying degrees of shittiness. Absolutely everything is 20rmb, whether it's Shark Wars: The Battle of Riptide or She's Had a Baby & I'm Having a Meltdown. We found Cyrano De Bergerac, meanwhile, going for 10rmb. The selection is not huge but it's varied, great for a glance-through if you're in the area and craving a book. You might find a gem, or you might walk away with a dog-eared copy of Eat Pray Love because, yeah, it's 20rmb.

Pricing: Dirt cheap. Everything for 20rmb, and you could probably try haggling if it's above that, and you have rhinoceros skin.



Boocup, in the basement of Kerry Center Jing'an, looks like you'd expect a mall bookstore to look. They've got stationary, a whole wall of magazines, and tons of books. The English language ones, of which there are quite a lot, are placed on bookshlves framing an upward slope. At the bottom, the ever-popular novelization of Assassin's Creed. At the top? The Donald's Art of the Deal (110rmb). The selection is broad, but covers the usual breadth of classics, genre fiction, non-fiction, business, etc. They also have an extensive selection of children's books, among the better ones we've seen.

Pricing: Young adult and children's literature is in the 50-70rmb range, while others are 70-100rmb. Glossy magazines can go for as much as 200rmb, while English-language newspapers are in the 30-40rmb range

Old China Hand Style


The last remaining outpost of Old China Hand Press after Reading Room closed down, this street-corner cafe is where you'll find niche stuff, like photo collections and reference books on stamps and banks shares from old Shanghai etc. Definitely a vintage feel to the place, and the selection of books has a similarly nostalgic feel. Highlights: an album of Shanghai America School Students & Teachers from 1937-1949, albums detailing disappearing architectural styles in Shanghai, and lots of works by Shanghai veterans like Tess Johnston and Betty Barr. Plenty of work from photographer Deke Erh. They've also got a really nice space upstairs, good for events or study-circles.

Pricing: Photo books for 500rmb, otherwise between 100-300rmb for secondhand and new. But the staff seems almost befuddled when you go to buy, so gird yourself with a little patience.

Shanghai Book City (Fuzhou Lu)


A 7-floor book megamart from a Chinese chain, it has a tiny corner of English books tucked into a corner of the top floor. The large portion seems to be pulpy novelizations, thrillers, fantasy and sci-fi, with some treatises on design, business, architecture, etc. as well. The selection's not great up there, but hey, they've got the Mortal Instruments series and a Starbucks on the 2nd floor! On the 4th floor, you'll find resources for learning English, including easy-to-read books for young learners.

Pricing: The imported English language section is mostly in the 55-130rmb range, though we found some Woodsworth classics for like 20rmb. The 4th floor novels geared towards younger learners are in the 30rmb range.

Garden Books


A stalwart in the book scene, its selection of international best-sellers is a bit short, but it's got plenty of breadth. Lots of Shanghai-and China-focused books; dig around for the likes of Tales of Old Shanghai by long-time China resident Graham Earnshaw, The Good Girl of Chinatown by Jenevieve Chang, who wrote about her experiences as a dancer at what would become The Pearl, and several works by Rena Krasno, a Jewish immigrant who grew up in Shanghai. The second floor holds an array of children's books, including Dr. Seuss and Clifford the Big Red Dog. Plus, if you like, the staff can order a book for you, just ask at the desk. There's a little cafe at the back that's a decent place to sit and work, too.

Pricing: They don't put the prices on their books in RMB; instead, they use the MSRP on the back of the book and convert it using a roughly 1 USD = 10rmb conversion rate. That brings the average price into the 100-300rmb range, on the pricier side of the list.

The Mix Place


Three-floors of trendy, narrow, dark-wood bookshop, this spot has a ton of English language books, except they're spread throughout the store, in-between Chinese language shelves. They're also stacked two deep, so make sure to see what's hiding behind. It seems like they're sorted according to film genres, but the system is a bit esoteric. Just browse and you'll come across Marquez, Joseph Heller, Stephen King, and more. We even saw V for Vendetta for 211rmb, including a mask. Bold! There're about 6 spots at the store-front cafe, but the place gets pretty crowded so don't count on getting some quiet work in here. The second floor is all design books, going for the usual prices those books fetch. The third floor holds some indie magazines and an event space.

Pricing: Seems to be by author, not book. For example, all of Thomas Hardy's work, including Tess of the D'Ubervllles, was going for 68rmb, while all of Marquez, including Love in a Time of Cholera, was going for 130rmb. Prices around 100-200rmb. Photobooks go for 500-1000rmb.

Honorable Mentions

Technically bookstores, but the selections are less than stellar. Still, they all have their own appeal (and caveats). Check them out after you've been to the others.

1984 Bookstore is a hard-to-find coffeeshop with a significant selection of books. However, it's currently undergoing renovation. Check back in a few months.

Gelin is a good-looking collection of stalls inside the rejuvenated K11. Mostly it's art references books, but it does have a couple big, pretty children's fairytale books in the 100rmbish range.

Harbook+ almost exclusively stocks books on, about or by designers, photographers, and visually cool types. The sells backpacks, bags, coats, and brass sundries (?) besides. Most of books are pricy, we saw nothing less than 110rmb. But if you're in the mood for a coffeetable book, worth checking out.

Qiancai Shufang or Colorful Cafe only has a couple shelves of second-hand English paperbacks, but it deserves a mention since it's a nice spot, and it's in the old residence of famous Shanghainese author Zhang Ailing. Bit busy, but nice spot for a coffee and a read.