Hidden treasures on the road: Second hand bookstores

I know books don’t make the best souvenirs:

Little Prince, Beauvoir
Little Prince, Beauvoir

Despite that, I always feel a sense of euphoria when I stumble upon second hand bookshops overseas.

The musty smell of the shop, the yellowing pages and the cheap price of books give me more thrill than shopping for clothes unless the garments are second hand and cheap.

Here are a few of the hidden treasures I’ve found during my travels:



BOOK OFF is one of Japan’s second hand book store chain. I was introduced to it by my host family in Fukuoka. At the end of my summer school, I sent home a heavy box of Japanese manga.

Popular manga usually go for 200 yen for a book while older manga are 100 yen. Foreign language books are not cheap though.

When I visit Japan (which is not often), I always have my eyes peeled for a branch of BOOK OFF on the streets. (There’s even some BOOK OFFs in Paris, if you are ever there.) When I see a BOOK OFF, I can’t help popping in to see their collection.

During my last trip to Japan, I had a free day waiting for the evening to come so I could go to Gintama Land. I found a BOOK OFF on the second floor of a building and spent hours in the shop, thumbing through comics.

Books in BOOK OFF are always in pristine condition. They look even better than most of the books on my shelf back home.

The Japanese usually read books stores while standing (it even has its own phrase “tachiyomi“). On weekends, it’s quite a sight to see everyone standing, reading while facing the bookshelves.

Bouquinerie du Centre, Nantes

Bouquinerie du Centre, Nantes
Bouquinerie du Centre, Nantes

I was looking for a place to have lunch in the center of Nantes when I came across a second hand bookstore “Bouquinerie du Centre”.

The selection wasn’t a lot but it had titles which weren’t easily available in Singapore.

Trying to look smart, I picked up a few Simone de Beauvoir’s books which looked easy enough to be read. Le deuxième sexe wasn’t available, unfortunately.

But I must confess that the books are still in the suitcase since my move to my new rented room in August 2011.

Adobe Bookshop, San Francisco

Adobe Bookshop, San Francisco
Adobe Bookshop, San Francisco

While in the Mission District looking for lunch (again!), I found Adobe Bookshop. The shop was in a state of orderly mess with stacks of books arranged alphabetically according to author and genre.

I browsed the rows and rows of books, squeezing through bookshelves and found a man snoozing in one of the armchairs.

While I was looking for something to buy back home, a man came into the shop. He said he accidentally bought the same book and asked if he could exchange it for another. The shopowner agreed.

The old gentleman came to my aisle and was looking up and down for the author’s row. When he asked me if I knew where the author’s book was, I helped him in his search. We found it.

He then asked if I had my lunch as he was going to grab a bite. Although he didn’t feel threatening, I pretended that I just ate because I don’t think I should go around having lunch with strangers I’ve just met, even if it was in a book store.

Bridget Jones
Bridget Jones

While browsing, I overheard the shopowner telling a customer that the shop will be closing down as the landlord wanted to increase the price of the rent. I looked at the price of the books and wondered how the shop manage to stay open in the first place.

When I paid for my books, the shopowner asked if I was from overseas. I answered, “Singapore”. He then said that he was collecting foreign currency and if I had any money from Singapore to exchange with one of the foreign money in the plate.

I did have a S$2 note and I chose a pre-Euro coin from France. I said my thanks and left with my books.

I think the shop would have closed down by now. I feel sad.

This post was inspired by this week’s #Travel Talk on Twitter (#TTOT): Hidden treasures.

Have you stumbled upon hidden treasures when travelling? What was it?

Follow me on Twitter or share a thumbs up on Facebook.

Wednesday, July 9: Takoyaki party

Slept at 11pm but was waken by cat at 12 midnight. What on earth!!! Thought I would have to live in fear of the cat coming in my room to disturb my sleep. But then I remembered the clothes hanging thing I have in the room. I took it down and adjusted it so it would hold the door. FInally, I will have peace during my sleep.


Okaasan drove me to the train station because she needed the bicycle. I was in time to catch the 8:31am train and reached the school’s station 2 minutes before 9am. But the walk from the station to the library was 8 minutes so in the end I only had little time to use the internet.

I brought my bottle of sunblock to school. It only has 15 SPF so I better reapply it often. The scent was a bit overpowering in class though. So sorry!

At lunch, I used the chopsticks I bought at DAISO. They use those wooden “hygenic” chopsticks and I don’t think these things are recyclable.

At 1pm, it was History class exam. I wrote really really lousy stuff. Well, the worse will be I can’t map it. Nevermind, I only need one module anyway.

Then when class was over, Wawa’s tutor took me and her to her apartment where we’ll be having a takoyaki party. Tako is octopus and yaki means the way of cooking it by cooking it on a hot plate. In Chinese, we call it  “zhangyu shao.”

The party, there was Wawa tutor’s Skk, M, Syk and my tutor Nm. They seem to have these party every once in a while. So fun.

How to make takoyaki.
There’s takoyaki mix where you add in two eggs, 800ml of water and mix. Interesting!


Then there’s the DIY takoyaki plate. :D




And here are in ingredients:
octopus and chicken.


After mixing, pour the mix onto the hot plate.


Then you put whatever filling you like: chicken, octopus and cheese shown here


Wait a while before you prick at the sides of the takoyaki to flip it. I did ugly takoyaki. ha ha





Then when the how takoyaki is a nice brown colour, take them out and put on takoyaki sauce, mayonaise, seaweed and fish flakes.





The fun of having takoyaki at home is everyone gets to flip it


Apart from the normal octopus, we had chicken and also chocolate with cheese. Choc and cheese are desserts


Sounds gross but it tastes OK.

After takoyaki, it was ice cream. The ice cream has tiny chunks of filling which are heart shaped if you spoon ot correctly. (ha ha)




The girls walked us to the subway station after dinner. I took the subway (one stop) to my train station because it was quite dangerous to walk at night. Seems like their version of samseng is called Yankee, I wonder if it’s related to Americans

The train ride wasn’t expensive as they had a special fair for one stop rides. 100 yen

Okaasan fetched me from the station when I got there at 9pm.

After showering, I did my homework. The night passed peacefully with no intruding cat.


I will be going to Fukuoka and the people there use the Hakata dialect.

I want to learn Hakata-ben. Imagine how funny it will be when I use it elsewhere in Japan.

It’s like when I was in China on student exchange and a girl there spoke English with (what I think is) a Texan accent. It was amazing, hearing a Chinese girl speak like a cowboy. How’dy!

The Hakata-ben was featured in CHANGE as whatshisname (played by Kimura) was from Fukuoka. But it was illogical that he spoke standard Japanese when his mom speaks in Hakata-ben with him. The script writers should have bothered to change his lines.

The other time I’ve heard Hakata-ben was in a movie. The mom talked a lot in Hakata-ben while her daughter replied in mmm… Very good lines, script writer, or were you on strike too?