Bibliophiles are in for lean times in Hanoi—the selection of English-language books is limited and inconsistent. Cheap editions of Wordsworth Classics (Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, Jane Austin, Jules Verne and the like) are available around town, as are many books on Vietnamese history and culture, but there’s nothing even approaching a Borders or neighborhood bookstore with contemporary titles and recent releases.
For anything off the New York Times bestseller list, or otherwise unavailable in the bookstores around town, your best bet is to order from Amazon—the shipping takes about 10 days, and the customs taxes, prohibitive a few years ago, are no longer significant.
The Bookworm is a wonderful English-language bookstore in Hanoi, and stocks a selection of French, German and Spanish books as well. They will happily order titles for you, but it usually takes six weeks. The Bookworm also stocks used books, and buys books for cash or store credit. Open 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., every day of the week.
44 Chau Long street, Tel: 043 715 3711
Many of the travel agencies in the Old Quarter have a wall’s worth of shelves with used books for sale, usually inherited or traded from tourists passing through. These are usually light reading, but sometimes have unexpected treasures. The best place to try is:
Love Planet Travel, 25 Hang Bac street
A number of local bookshops are clustered on Trang Tien Street just east of Hoan Kiem Lake. These shops all have an English-language section, but consist almost entirely of Wordsworth Classics and books on Vietnam—Hanoi Bookshop, 34 Trang Tien has the best selection, but it’s worth browsing the others as well.