I love books. I loved books before I loved reading. I love the smell of old paper between hard covers, the colors of an illustration, the simple recipes and games in old children’s crafts books, settling down, listening and looking at the cartoon drawings of a story, the once upon a times and they lived happily ever afters.
I love reading. I love being alone and getting transported into a different world, to a place where no one can harm me. I love curling myself into a ball, listening to the falling rain and letting the book take me to far-off places, to meeting mythological beings, learning spells and wandwork, fighting a battle with an alien race one mission at a time, meeting the perfectly imperfect guy, learning new languages and the geography of a world behind a closet door.
It is this love of books and reading that have lead me to countless bookstores and libraries, spending an inordinate amount of time in them. Sometimes I come out empty-handed, sometimes I don’t. After all, the feel of a good book shouldn’t be rushed–I’m not the kind who buys for the sake of buying. To some people, a book store may just be what the word means–a store that sells books. But to biliophiles like me, bookstores are places of treasure. Here is a list (to be updated when possible) of my recommended bookstores in Metro Manila (in no particular order):
Fully Booked is home to the widest and most diverse range of titles, offering hard-to-find and exclusive books of every interest. With over 300,000 titles covering five main categories, namely Lifestyle, Children, Design, Humanities and Professional, Fully Booked has captured the loyalty of book lovers of all ages and walks of life. Discriminate graphic novel enthusiasts may likewise marvel at the country’s widest selection of graphic novels.
Fully Booked now has eleven stores in the metropolis, located at the Rockwell Power Plant (3rd Floor), the Promenade in Greenhills,.Gateway Mall, SM Mall of Asia, SM North The Block, Trinoma, Eastwood Mall, EDSA Shangri-la Hotel, Greenbelt 5, Katipunan and the flagship store at Bonifacio High Street, Bonifacio Global City plus provincial stores in Ayala Center Cebu, Marquee Mall Pamapanga and SM City Clark.
Hands down, this is my favorite bookstore in the Philippines. From the modern interior design (stories printed on black and white tiles in the Gateway Branch, quotes on the walls, dark bookshelves), organized books, great music, helpful staff (in the store and online!), to the collection of knickknacks and the rare titles. Fully Booked embodies a classy bookstore without the snobbery. In fact, the only catch with this wonderful store is the price of their items. Although, I admit that the books are well worth the additional twenty pesos or so, considering the great music, spectacular service, easy-to-find books due to the organization system and shop layout, and general look of the shop.
Plus, masarap maging Atenista alumni sa Fully Booked. Hello, discounts! 😀 (Yep, I calculated. If you have a card that will let you avail of discounts in Fully Booked, the prices of their books will be at par with National Bookstore.)
I was actually surprised when I saw that they only have ten branches. It feels like they’re everywhere! Or maybe I’m just lucky to have three branches close by (the Katip branch wasn’t up when I was still studying :(). One of the most amazing branches is the main branch down in The Fort, Taguig City. FOUR LEVELS OF ORGANIZED BOOKS.
One of the best things about Fully Booked: You can sample the books there. There’s always a copy of a book open for your perusal. (Although last time I visited the Gateway branch EVERYTHING WAS SEALED. WHY?! Hopefully, this isn’t a company-wide mandate and that the rest of the stores won’t follow this example.) This is a good thing, since there have been books that I normally wouldn’t have bought based on the back cover summary alone, but the writing inside hooked me and pulled me in. And you can hang out and sit on the floor while browsing books in the lower shelves (although, again, this is not allowed in Gateway anymore).
Oh and another plus? They can pre-order and reserve books for you and have books transferred to your nearest branch if your branch doesn’t have the title. Gone are the days of you cruising around town to look for that hard-to-find title–Fully Booked can bring it closer to you.
In Midnight’s Favorite Branches:
Ateneo de Manila
The Fort Taguig
SM The Block
Ayala Center, Cebu (I FOUND ALMOST ALL OF KAWABATA’S BOOKS HERE. As well as Angela Carter’s, and a lot more. I’ve no doubt they’re available in Metro Manila, but spread out across different branches)
Booksale is what I like to call a happy, unorganized mess. It has bargain books ranging from childrens, hobbies, best selling novels, self-help, and everything your normal bookstore carries. The catch?
It has no organization scheme whatsoever and the salespeople aren’t any help at all (in any branch) when you’re looking for a specific title. They always say, “Naglipat na po eh.” It means their stocks have already moved. I even asked (in different branches) where their stocks go if they rotate / take them out every month, and they had no idea. It’d be nice if, for example, the Greenhills stock goes to the SM North Edsa Branch and so on, just so you’d know where to look for a book you didn’t get yet but came back for–in the hopes that it hasn’t been bought yet.
Anyway, I do love Booksale. There is something about creeping through stacks and stacks of old books and finding treasures for a low, low price. (And it goes without saying that if you don’t have enough patience to go through hundreds of titles to stumble upon something you might like, this isn’t the bookstore for you.) My cheapest purchase was a copy of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (Penguin Edition) for Php17, and then a very good copy of Bringing Down The House for Php20 (Funnily enough, I had a copy of that book–an edition with the movie cover–reserved on BookayUkay for P150. The cover didn’t look that neat in the picture, but 150 is a good price anyway. So I reserved it and planned to get it that weekend–but my family decided to go to a mall. I poked around the Booksale of that mall, looking for treasure. At the last shelf I went to, the title passed my eye and I realized it was the same book I had reserved. It had the original cover on, instead of the movie. So I pulled it out and it was only Php20. I didn’t even have to spend money for transportation–which I would have to pick up my book in BookayUkay. IT WAS A VERY LUCKY DAY :D). As this is a thrift bookstore, don’t expect them to have multiple copies of the same title. That’s not to say that they don’t; just that it rarely happens.
Paperback Novels (Rare titles, Pulitzer winning books, Novels with people-who-arent-naked-or-riding-on-horses-covers) – All except SM North Edsa
Coffee Table Books – SM North Edsa, Alphaland
Childrens Books – SM North Edsa, Alphaland, Greenhills
Romance novels (and books with romance novel-esque people posing in front) – SM North Edsa (THERE ARE TONS OF THEM THERE. TONS)
Bestsellers (Stephen King, Nora Roberts, etc) – All (they. are. EVERYWHERE! Ironically, you’d think people would hold on to best sellers to reread, but they seem to be the most donated)
National Bookstorek is the Philippines’ leading “bookstore” with over a hundred branches in the country. It’s currently the only major bookstore that has an online shopping option.
As a pre-teen, National Bookstore was one of the only bookstores I went to [Goodwill was the other one, and I much preferred Goodwill–they had a better selection of the young adult series I read (Animorphs and the Baby Sitters Club) than National Bookstore did.] not because I preferred it, but because it was the major bookstore. It had virtually no competition in the nineties/early 2000s–Merriam Webster doesn’t even hold a candle up to NBS, and Goodwill branches were few. Being me, I could spend hours in a bookstore just reading summaries of the back of books.
National Bookstore isn’t that organized compared to Fully Booked–just this afternoon, I found a copy of David Levithan and John Green’s Will Grayson, Will Grayson next to authors whose names that start with the letter ‘W’. It’s also hard to concentrate on book shopping because there are just too many things going on in the store. There are toys, Halloween costumes, aisles of planners and scrapbook materials, Parker pen stalls, Christmas decorations, and so on and so forth. Some branches are even connected to a music store.
However, their scrapbook selection is one of the best in the country. Since we don’t have much art and crafts/hobby stores (aside from Deovir and online and pop-up sellers) in the country, National’s scrapbooking selection is excellent. So are their stock of school supplies. Indeed, I believe National is better as an office supplies store that sells books instead of a bookstore that sells office supplies. Some people won’t understand the difference between those two, but there is one.
NBS books come sealed and are sold at a good price–so if it’s brand new books at a cheaper price you want, and if it’s school supplies you want, this is the place to get them. The service isn’t great though. It’s hard not to compare, but if you ask anyone in Fully Booked where a book is, they know and will get it for you, but if you do that in National, prepare to be disappointed. Same thing when asking the Customer Service for a title–Fully Booked will check the other branches if they have the title and transfer the book for you; if they don’t, they can order it for you. If National doesn’t have the title you’re looking for, that’s the end of it. (EDIT 2014: You can now reserve online at NBS through their Twitter account.)
Books : Quezon Avenue (The Filipiniana section in Q. Ave is excellent) and Cubao
School Supplies: SM North Edsa, Katipunan (Katipunan also has a decent language / text book selection)
Art Supplies: Trinoma, Katipunan
Another second-hand bookstore, but this time with an organization system! They actually keep track of all the titles they have and will be able to tell you if they have that book or not. The prices are pretty good for a second-hand bookstore BUT I’ve noticed they’ve increased their prices since they opened. I was surprised to see a copy of Memoirs of A Geisha (second hand, cover didn’t look brand new) to be twenty pesos more expensive than a brand new one in National Bookstore.
They also have an okay selection of rare books. Plus, they upload all their new titles online, so getting updated about new titles is just a Facebook click away. This method spurs the impulse buyer in you to reserve the copy since they only have 1 piece in stock for all their uploads, so the chance that someone else will reserve a book you want in a few minutes is very high.
So aside from a couple of sketchy price points (understandable though, since some of their books are consigned–thus it’s the consignee’s fault for not researching if the price they’re asking BookayUkay to sell their book turns out to be more expensive than a brand new one), BookayUkay is a neat hole in the wall shop found along Maginhawa Street. They also sell cameras, t-shirts, keychains, comics, and Tangina This merchandise.
If BookayUkay was there when I was still studying at that exclusive private girl’s school across the street, I’d have run out of money for sure.
BookayUkay is located at 55 Maginhawa St. UP Village, Diliman, 1101 Quezon City.
UPDATE ! 2014
READING CLUB 2000
This one’s different from the rest of the stores in this list – this book corner, found on the sidewalk of Makati, lets you take books home for free! It also accepts donations, although the owner, Mr. Nanie, encourages you to just take books and not leave any of your own. The philosophy behind this is that reading and learning should be for free – thus, this book corner was born. From noble origins (a small roaming bicycle cart with books) to this massive library, the effort continues to grow.
CHAPTER IX BOOKSANDMORE
They have everything from Japanese authors, classics, comics, YA, chic-lit, literary award winners, art books, mythology books, and more. Read more here.
And that’s it for now! I know the rise of eBooks have been insane, and it is very logical to just get those–it saves paper, it saves space, it doesn’t rot, and why pay for a physical copy when you can get it online free? But those ebooks will never see light outside of your Kindle, laptop, iPad or whatever. Plus, those retyped/fake ones have grammatical errors you wouldn’t believe, characters that don’t show up on your device, etc. So for your mind’s sake, keep up with real books. Also, eBooks will not help you build your own library for your future child to discover and get lost in, like I did once upon a time, and like my aunts and uncles did.
And for me, most importantly, it will not build me my Beauty and the Beast castle library, complete with the rolling ladder from the town bookshop.