For reasons not limited to the hold that e-commerce has over the bookselling industry, Hong Kong has always had a difficult relationship with bookstores. That said, the city is home to a number of indie bookstores helmed by devoted bibliophiles.
Whether it is to keep the label of Hong Kong as a “cultural desert” at bay, or to assist local writers in their endeavours, Hong Kong’s independent bookstores are keeping a culture of reading alive. Here are our picks of the best independent bookstores that Hong Kong has to offer.
Kubrick touts an impressive range of fiction, politics, culture, as well as art and design, travel, and cookery books. That said, Kubrick is much more than a bookstore. It is a community space that works closely with local writers, filmmakers, and artists, hosting talks and workshops to platform their work. Since its opening in 2001, Kubrick has ventured into film, bookselling, and publishing, endeavours that have culminated in a strong sense of community among both regulars and newcomers.
Address: Shop H2, Properous Garden, 3 Public Square Street Yau Ma Tei
Bleak House Books
In 2017, co-founder Albert Wan, a “Hong Konger by osmosis,” traded in his law practice in Atlanta, Georgia for a collection of secondhand books and opened Bleak House Books, a reference to Dickens’ novel and a reflection of his past life. Located in San Po Kong, the bookstore stocks a carefully curated collection of books, both new and secondhand — from fiction, comics, and vintage paperbacks to books on anthropology, politics, and Hong Kong. There is more to Bleak House than books, though, in that it is as much a community space as it is a bookstore. The space collaborates with student organisations and academics, acting as a venue for events such as talks and book discussions.
Address: Well Tech Centre, 27/F, Unit 05, 7-9 Pat Tat St, San Po Kong
Art and Culture Outreach 艺鵠
Art and Culture Outreach (ACO) began in 2003 when they assisted the Dawei Charitable Foundation in refurbishing the residential units of Foo Tak Building in Wanchai. The building has since transformed into a collection of affordable studio spaces and offices for artists, cultural workers, and public policy researchers, and above all, it became a hotbed for political thought.
ACO Books officially opened on the first floor of the Foo Tak Building in 2008, and has been selling books on art and contemporary culture as well as books by local writers, in both Chinese and English, and curating cultural activities ever since.
Address: Foo Tak Building, 365-367 Hennessy Rd, Wan Chai
Calling Black Window a bookstore would be a bit of a mischaracterisation, given that “vegan restaurant”, “infoshop”, and “community space” are among the many labels that the space has. The co-op, for lack of a term that does a better job of encompassing what Black Window does, recently re-opened in Sham Shui Po after the owners spent 8 years sleeping on couches, throwing warehouse roof parties, and operating So Boring, their last location in Yau Ma Tei.
Above Black Window’s ground floor vegan kitchen is their infoshop, which stocks a selection of English titles on philosophy, literature, and politics, including poetry collections by Pablo Neruda and Seamus Heaney, as well as Trotsky’s political texts. Operating on a pay-what-you-want model, Black Window gives away these books for free, and accepts donations in monetary or literary form.
Address: 83 Tai Po Road, Sham Shui Po
Mount Zero 見山書店
Standing in an alley near Tai Ping Shan Street in Sheung Wan, Mount Zero stocks two floors of titles by writers from Hong Kong and Taiwan, most of which are on literature and politics, handpicked by founder Sharon Chan based on happenings in the city. The bookstore, small as it may be, has a designated reading space with chairs and a coffee table that also functions as a community space for readings, talks, and movie screenings.
Address: 6C Tai Ping Shan Street, Sheung Wan
Book B is, among other things, a bookshop, an exhibition space, a publishing workshop, and a restaurant that strives to create possibilities for the publication of local work. Since their opening in 2015, the bookstore has stocked books on art, literature, graphic design, and architecture, as well as a special “local collection” platforming independently published or distributed works by local writers and creators.
The owners of Book B remain adamant in their efforts to keep brick-and-mortar bookstores alive in a time when online bookstores are as popular as they are. The bookstore as a community space is a concept that Book B aims to uphold, such that readers can converse and exchange ideas about books, film, and music.
Address: Unit 111, 1/F The Mills, 45 Pak Tin Par Street
Named in hopes that the bookstore would come to persist just as moss does, indie publisher Mosses has been publishing a variety of niche topics since 2013. The owners, who happen to also be the minds behind Book B, make every effort to stock works from a range of authors, from architecture books from Switzerland to novels and art books from local writers and multimedia artists. Mosses went online in February this year, but continues to distribute independent publications in Hong Kong.
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