Yes. Jackass. They do. Seriously, this isn’t the BFE for crying outloud.
Finding books in English can be tough when you live abroad.
In Poland, I had to scrounge for books. I read all sorts of crap that I wouldn’t normally read because I was so desperate to get my read on. I spent excessive amounts of time online because I was running out of options. Although some bookstores in Poland sell English books (Empik had an ok selection), I was watching my pennies, and those books didn’t come cheap. Most of their English selection was either from the U.K. or old.
Before I left Poland, I resolved that my next big purchase would be a Kindle. Might as well. I live abroad and hauling books from country to country isn’t feasible. What’s the point of buying a bunch of crap I neither need nor can take? I’m glad I live in a time in which regardless of where I live, with the right technology, I can have all the comforts of home.
Occasionally, I’ll hit the bookstore and spend a ridiculous amount of money on books I’ll probably only read once.
I know of two major bookstores in Taipei that sell English fiction: Page One (in Taipei 101) and Eslite (located all over town). Take my word for it: don’t waste your time on Eslite. It fucking sucks. All their English books are shelved with the Chinese books and it’s impossible to find anything without the maximal amount of irritation. I cannot fathom the logic that inspired this brilliant marketing strategy. Thanks, Eslite, you stupid douche bags. So much for your awesome 24-hour bookstore.
Page One is cool. They have a fair amount of English fiction and are up to date on the most popular authors. If Taipei 101 wasn’t such a drag to get to, I’d go there more.
Consequently, I’ve resorted to the old time-honored method of scavenging through my friends’ collections.
Luckily, last February, I made a couple of friends who loved reading and happened to house their own mini-library. Thanks to them, I’ve been introduced to both great new books and old classics I would never otherwise have read. Still, I feel guilty when I hold ten of their books hostage for months at a time.
A few months ago, I was informed that certain libraries in Taipei have English book sections. I couldn’t believe it! My dreams come true. I realized then that the main library didn’t have a metro nearby so I never got around to visiting it. Months passed. Dongmen Station eventually opened near Da’an Park, not too far from the main library. By that time, I had forgotten about the library. I had a borrowed stack of books taking up space at home, and a new stack from Page One that I was ready to dive into. Who remembers the library anymore anyway? Although I spent countless joyful hours at the library in my youth, by my late twenties it had become more convenient to buy books at the bookstore. The temptation to buy the specific books I wanted was greater than browsing through shelves full of authors I didn’t know, and I forgot about the library.
Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago. I was talking to a couple of friends at dinner, and they suggested the library. I knew I should go. They asked if I wanted to get together and make a trip out of it later that weekend. Well, fuck yeah, I did.
So we all met on Sunday to embark on our dazzling library adventure. By the time we met on Sunday our little group had grown from three to six. I had no idea I had so many nerdy friends. After a Dim Sum lunch we booked it across the park to find the damn thing.
I wasn’t sure what to expect. Do Taiwanese people read? Would there be strange Asian art on the walls? Little Japanese-style tables and cushions? Would they hassle me for not having two forms of ID and refuse to give me a library card? My stomach was a bundle of nerves as I waited with breathless anticipation.
As soon as we walked in, I could smell the scent of old ink and paper. It looked like a library. It smelled like a library. A bunch of irritating kids was running around to my annoyance. Yep. I was home.
We made our way up to the fourth floor where the English book section was housed. The place was packed. Well, that’s strange…I thought.
The floor has a large area in the center filled with chairs and tables, and damned if every single seat wasn’t taken. Tons of people were studying. It reminded me of hanging out in the university library when I was in college. During Finals week. Right before my exam.
We ventured into the English book section. I’m happy to report they have several aisles of pure fiction. I was impressed.
I knew finding the latest and greatest probably wasn’t going to happen, but I found a few new books published just last year. In short order I had a stack of eight books. My friends all looked at me like I had grown another head. “Are you really going to get ALL of those?” they asked. “Well…yeah. What the fuck? A girl can’t read or what?”
As a kid, every time I went to the library I would borrow seven or eight books, often more. I can easily finish a book in a day if I’m inclined to. And right now, I’m inclined to. It’s winter. The weather is crappy. It’s been cold and rainy out. Why tramp around in the rain when I could be reading nice and dry at home?
We hung around for a couple of hours and I started reading my first prize: Sh*t My Dad Says by Justin Halpern. I had it finished by the next day.
For those that actually live in Taipei, here are the facts: Only an ARC is required to get a library card. You can borrow books for five weeks, you can extend the due date on line as long as no one has put in a request for it and best of all…regardless of where you borrow the book, you can return it any location. That’s something the libraries at home should look into.
This, my friends, is the beginning of a new era. If you’ve been wondering what I’ve been doing for the month of January, you have your answer. My head’s been stuck in a book all month. I’m only surfacing now because I need to make a return trip already.