I read somewhere that a city which is truly great and cultured is judged not by its museums or ancient monuments or heritage or mounting tourism incomes or its rising GDP figures but by the number of second-hand bookshops in the city itself! I have yet to understand the significance of this piece of nugget.
I had barely warmed up my seat on the Malaysian Airlines flight from Kuala Lumpur when the plane touched down on Penang soil. I thought it was the shortest flight I had ever been on and was pretty tickled by it. I could do this more often.
Here they are:
1) mph bookstore at the Gurney Plaza
2) Popular bookstore at the Gurney Plaza, the Queensbay Mall, Komtar and Tesco Penang.
3) Borders at the Queensbay Mall
You have just got to visit the Chowrasta Market second-hand bookstall if you are in Penang. Stacked from floor to ceiling in every crook and cranny are books, books and more books. There is only enough space in between the thousands of books to walk single-file. My, what a wonderful sight to behold.
Whatever you are looking for, the Indian owners can find it for you. They are very savvy about books. Even though I do not see any signs of new book releases but their stock is pretty much up-to-date and they know where most books are located. They buy. They sell. Their prices are usually RM10 cheaper than chain bookshops and most of their books are in good condition. Do haggle with them if you are there. Do not ever take their selling price at face value.
The bookstall is open daily from 12 noon to 8pm.
5) Leo Books at Island Plaza, Jalan Tanjong Tokong
"Cheap Books for the Hungry Minds" is Leo Books' business focus. Founded on 1 December 2009, this independent bookshop sells used, bargain as well as new books. They can be found on the first floor and are opened daily except Mondays. For more information and updates, you can click on the above link to go onto their website or you can like their Facebook page.
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The first three are the ubiquitous bookshops in Malaysia. All of them stock the same books, local and foreign, and the prices are similar (from RM35.90) so where you buy your books from is a matter of personal preference, proximity and accessibility.
Popular Bookstore has a Mystery section as opposed to the Crime and Thriller section but in my opinion, there is no need for one because the selection on the bookcase is pitiful and most of the crime mysteries are stacked in alphabetical order in the fiction section anyway. I wonder why that is so.
The bigger bookstores have a cafe area so if you feel like a deserving cuppa, do look out for those. Personally, my favourite bookstore in Penang is the mph bookstore. Second choice is Borders. And I have the deepest respect for the last two.
If you are in Penang, happy browsing, booking and reading.