Book meets and learning about a community

Oh no, here I go again. Hearing about unrequited love, quantum physics, getting lost/missing trains and grabbing wonders from the hand of time. We always assemble to discuss what we read , but I end up learning so much more about how the themes in the books relate to the reader’s lives in a city where each generation experiences a faster change compared to the previous one.

From the “What are you reading these days” meet in Saigon.

Information hacks for people who like to read

Let me share one of my ”information consumption” hacks. I often come across books at a library or while reading an article. I am intrigued by the book, but I may not have the time to buy/borrow and read the book right then. I search for the name of the author or book on the iPhone Podcast App. There is a good chance that I will find an interview featuring the author. I can listen to the audio later on and get a gist of the authors' idea. The audio also helps me decide if I want to read the book. If you are on Android, you can use the excellent listennotes.com site to search for audio clips related to a particular keyword. This hack has helped me make my commutes and queuing up fun.

The cutest bookseller in the world

A part of my heart is lost in Rangoon, somewhere between street 27 and 28, across the Scotts market on Montgomery Street. This is where I met the world's cutest bookseller. Every visit to her bookshop ended up in me finding a book on Burmese history, and trying to negotiate the price down, and the cutest bookseller always winning. Don't tell her that I let her win, just to see that victorious smile. One more week, and I would have ended up as the leading authority on the nation's history.  You can travel half the world but there is no point, if you can't make a little girl smile.

Good Day Books, a delightful little English bookshop in Tokyo

We love small independent bookstores. And this one is special as I find that they have a dedicated espionage section. This bookstore is centrally located just a couple of minutes walk from Gotanda station. I was happy to find a 1960s travelogue on Russia. 

Walking direction from Gotanda Station. Keep walking along the train line towards Meguro and you will see the building. 


Time travel via outdated travel guides

While some may celebrate the current state of travel  – with the nets and webs and the convenience of maps on mobile telephones, I miss the days when the world was young. The days, when closer to the equator,  we were told to avoid taking photos in the noon lest we overexpose the camera films – the days when you wrote postcards in Herat, and send a telegram when you needed something urgent.  One of the ways I recreate the magic is by trawling used book shops for old travel guides.

Rangoon and Calcutta were the favorite cities for book hunters – home to large used books stores where the owners seem to know where exactly a particular book is. Now those cities have changed their names and they would rather sell pirated DVDs. Here is one of last remaining joint for book lovers  in Asia –  Junk bookstore in Kuala Lumpur.

Two floors of treasure for us to dig in. The owners seem to know the books and often they will be able to tell you where the books on a particular topic are.

My find this time round is a travel guide from 1974 – almost as old as me. The days when you could bus from Iran to Afghanistan, on to Pakistan, across India and to Nepal. And you had to buy a pass for alcohol consumption for India. And when our Djakarta was so compact. And back when Cholon was the budget accommodation hub of Saigon, not the evil Phạm Ngũ Lão. Anyways, if you are looking for some time travel, here is the address of the bookshop. It is not too far from the central market and the Chinatown area.