Books can stimulate the best conversations, yet it has to be initiated by someone. Ready to put politics aside, former civil rights lawyer Albert Wan has turned his attention to curating vintage classics at Bleak House Books.
Before returning to Hong Kong from the States in 2016, former civil rights lawyer Albert Wan spent almost a decade representing falsely accused prisoners in Atlanta. He has always been accustomed to contributing to the community and ready to put politics aside. Albert turned his attention in curating books and shelving them at Bleak House Books.
Dressed in a polo shirt and a pair of chinos, Albert tackles his usual day by venturing around town and buying crates of books. Despite never having the ambition of opening his own bookstore, Albert’s love for books started young with sci-fi and fantasies. He considers books to be far more than just pieces of entertainment. It is a parcel that holds someone else’s vision and perspective to help readers think about life and society. “It’s a private journey. From the moment you buy it to turning the last page – only you would know your progression,” says Albert.
Bleak House sells their books in local markets all over Hong Kong since February 2017, often on the sidewalks of Discovery Bay. Their collection includes the same books he grew up with; Dean Koontz, Lee Child and various Airport Fiction. The name Bleak House came from a Charles Dickens’ book of the same title, which criticizes the courthouses procedural dysfunction and injustice. “Similarly, to being a lawyer, there are a lot of things that you don’t think about until you have to do it. You learn as you go,” says Albert. His perseverance is also backed by the support of his wife, a history professor- making the perfect duo.
“There is a demand for books but no one wants to stand up and be the person that supplies the book because there is a risk,” Albert further explains “It is a lot of work with little return on the investment. It involves going outside in 35०c weather carrying a bundle of books and selling them for around HKD$40 each. However, the simple conversations he has with his customers are more than rewarding.
All the books are personally managed by Albert and his wife with an awareness that Bleak House Books serves people that values work-life balance. Decisions on which books to buy are made as a team.
With the plan of expanding to a physical store in San Po Kong, a neighbourhood in the Kowloon district of Hong Kong, Albert imagines a space with leather couches where people can sink in for a drink whilst turning pages. Albert envisions Bleak House Bookstore to be a place that rears invigorating conversations and knowledge.