“I guess there are never enough books,” wrote John Steinbeck. In Phuket, bookworms can shop to their heart's delight as most beaches and towns have second-hand bookstores. The huge amount of visitors to Phuket allows used-book stores a good turn-over, and affords bibliophiles good opportunities to find recent 'previously loved' publications at half (or even less) the price they would find them at home.
Some literary gems can be found in Phuket’s second-hand bookstores for patient shoppers. Like an old attic explorer, taking time to go through the stock on display can lead to amazing discoveries: rare and first editions, travel books and guides, novels, comics - they're all here on the island's second-hand bookstore shelves.
Here are five of the best used-book shops in Phuket. Note that all these shops accept book exchanges or offer discounts on new purchases if you bring books in good condition. Is there a better way to relax than to lie on a beach with a cold drink and a good read?
South Wind Books
Opened in 2000, South Wind Books is one of the most renowned bookshops amongst Phuket's expat community. Located 50m on the left after the entrance of the one-way Phang Nga Road in Phuket Old Town this shop sells books in 15 languages. Here, you can find almost anything from classic literature to poetry to bestselling novels to magazines. Prices range between 80 and 220 baht. Books are stored by language and genre in alphabetical order of the authors' names which helps make it easier to find what you are looking for.
There is another bookstore run by the same family with a little coffee shop/restaurant some 100m on the right down the road. This second outlet is not as well organized as South Wind Books, though.
- Opening Hours: 09:00 – 17:00 from Monday to Saturday and 10:00 – 15:00 on Sundays
- Location: At the entrance of Phang Nga Road in Phuket Old Town, right before the Shrine of the Serene Light.
- Tel: 089 724 2136
International Books Return
International (spelled 'Intertional' on their sign) Books Return is conveniently located on Rat-U-Thit Road opposite Paradise Complex in the centre of Patong. Pretty small and jam-packed up to its ceiling, this shop sells books in 10 languages (English, French, German, Swedish, Norwegian, Danish, Italian, Finnish, Dutch and Russian). Books are stored by language, and prices are between 50 and 250 baht.
- Opening Hours: 09:00 – 23:00
- Location: On rat-U-Thit Road, facing Paradise Complex
Used Books in Chalong
Opened in 2003, Used Books is located on Chaofa East Road (Chaofa Nok) diagonally opposite Soi Palai (the road to Phuket Zoo) on the way to Chalong Circle. Used Books is set up in a small house with each room packed with tomes. Books are pretty well organized by languages (10 different languages available) and genre, there’s even a women writers’ and children's section. Prices are between 50 and 250 baht.
- Opening Hours: 10:00 – 18:00 from Monday to Saturday
- Location: diagonally opposed Soi Palai on Chaofa East Road in Chalong
- Tel: 089 729 1968
Book Café in Nai Harn
Book Café is a recent addition to the literary scene of Phuket. Opened in 2012, this small family-run business is located in Nai Harn on the road leading to Kata View Point. The charming little house is also a café in which you can enjoy a drink (healthy shakes, smoothies and fruit juices, coffee, herbal tea) while reading one of the books from the shelves or enjoying a chat with Beverly, the genial owner.
Book Café is more a cultural and community place than strictly a bookshop. Although a selection of French, German and Scandinavian books are available, most of the merchandise on sale or exchange here is in English. Prices here are slightly more advantageous than in other bookshops.
- Opening Hours: 09:30 – 17:30
- Location: Soi Sai Yuan
- Tel: 085 794 2371
Karon Book Shop
Karon Book Shop & Souvenirs is a small store located in Karon Centre some 200m on from the circle on the left side of the road. Packed with handcrafted statues, dolls, beachwear, Thai artifacts and other potential gifts, a few hundred of books in English and European languages are stored in a haphazard way at the back of the boutique. Best-selling paperback novels make up the majority of the stock and their special offer – buy one, get one free – is quite appealing if you are patient enough to sift through this bunch of books.
- Opening Hours: 10:00 - 17:00
- Location: Karon Centre