The book lover's guide to Taipei

The street food culture in Taipei will never leave you hungry, but if it’s food for thought you’re after, check out this list of best indie bookshops.

  • Angeline Tse
  • November 2018

From hole-in-the-wall bookshops with niche interests to sprawling 24-hour book malls and quirky lifestyle spaces that combine books, coffee and art exhibitions, Taipei is one of the most exciting cities in Asia for book lovers. Pick any place from this list, and you have the perfect excuse to while away the time with your face buried in a book.

1. VVG Thinking

Tucked away within Huashan 1914 Creative Park is VVG Thinking, a restaurant and treasure trove of cooking, craft, interior design, photography and coffee table books that are just as pretty and charming as the interiors they are in. The dim lights, vintage chests with piles of books and little nooks of old-school toys and curios means it’s easy to lose track of time as you uncover great finds.

2. Whose Books (Gongguan branch)

Whose Books is a chain, and this outlet off Roosevelt Road is the one Joe frequent because it carries old English editions, complete with the heavenly smell of musty old tomes. ‘Last time I scored a decades-old copy of Swiss Family Robinson and another of The Golden Lotus Vol. 1,’ says freelance writer Joe Henley. ‘You have to dig around a bit to find what you’re looking for, or let something you didn’t know you were looking for find you. That, for me, is the magic of book shopping.’

Agatha’s.

3. Agatha's

Agatha’s, formerly known as Murder Ink, is a cosy bookstore that specialises in the crime genre. ‘When you’re reading about people doing very bad things, you don’t want to do it in a [slick, shiny bookstore]. You want to do it somewhere private and intimate, so as not to lose that vicarious thrill,’ says Joe, who likes to order an espresso from the in-house coffee bar with a side of murder and mayhem, before grabbing a snack in nearby Ningxia Night Market.

4. Mollie Used Books (Heping East Road branch)

Down a flight of steps leading into the basement of a building is Mollie Used Books, which mainly sells Chinese books but offers a small English selection, thanks to the expats who come to offload their stash. ‘Used bookstores are always beautiful because they’re never the same way twice,’ muses Joe. The atmosphere here is peaceful, with soft music playing from an inventory of old CDs, also for sale.

5. Moungar Traces of Books

Moungar Traces of Books is located in the historic Wanhua district and captures the zeitgeist of old Taipei. Enter through an old wooden doorway that’s reminiscent of the ones that used to stand guard over Taiwan’s traditional three-sided family homes, and you’ll be greeted not just by books, but also artefacts such as old red clay teapots and Chinese calligraphy.

Pon Ding.

6. Pon Ding

Pon Ding is a café/bookstore/gallery/event space that was set up by a group of friends across three countries bound by a common love for independent publishing. With over 200 magazines from all over the world, it’s a dream spot for creatives.