Book shopping in Bangkok

Every May, Neilson Hayes Library, the only English library in Bangkok that I know of has a book sale. Hundreds of books, most of them in good condition, some quite old and marked by the passage of time (and possibly some book-hungry bugs, judging by the intricate “designs” they left behind) await patiently on long tables under a big heat-trapping tent. Even at 11 in the morning it’s so hot that no matter what you’re wearing you’ll be sweating in no time. But that’s not a reason to stay away.


I had waited for this particular Saturday for weeks. And to make things even better, the same weekend, Dasa, my favorite second-hand book store, had a 20% off of all books. I guess it’s not hard to imagine what I did. First I braved the heat and bought five books from the library sale, then I went and spent some time browsing in the air-conditioned interior of the book store where I bought 5 more. The great thing about Dasa is that they have a list of the books available that you can download and browse through before going to the book store itself. I did that, and went there with a list and I’m happy to say I was able to come away with all the books I hoped to find. There were more I would have liked to buy but I decided to save both my money and my energy for a future visit. Buying 10 books sounds romantic until you actually have to carry them around.

ten books I came away with a few westerns – I was able to finally find a good copy of Winnetou by Carl May, a book I read as a teenager and wanted to re-read again ever since. Also In the Desert by the same author sounded too good to pass by and so did One Thousand White Women: The Journals of May Dodd by Jim Fergus. I liked the historical fact One Thousand White Women was based on. From the Author’s Note:

“…the seed that grew into a novel was sown in the author’s imagination by an actual historical event: in 1854 at a peace conference at Fort Laramie, a prominent Northern Cheyenne chief requested of the U.S. Army authorities the gift of one thousand white women as brides for his young warriors. Because theirs is a matrilineal society in which all children born belong to their mother’s tribe, this seemed to the Cheyennes to be the perfect means of assimilation into the white man’s world – a terrifying new world that even as early as 1854, the Native Americans clearly recognized held no place for them. Needles to say, the Cheyennes’ request was not well received by the white authorities – the peace conference collapsed, the Cheyennes went home, and, of course, the white women did not come. In this novel they do.”

The Ruins by Scott Smith is a book I’ve been looking for since I heard it’s supposed to be a fine work of horror and now I can finally read it. And because I enjoyed Elizabeth Kostova’s The Historian I decided to get The Swan Thieves as well. I’m very curious to see if it’s just as good or maybe even better.

Tolstoy I also bought two very old books, which I was told were donated to the library by the son of an Indian doctor after his father passed away. You can see the stamp with the name on the first one, Tolstoy’s Twenty-Three Tales. I’m not a great fan of Russian authors (ever since I had to drag myself through Ana Karenina) but this made me want to give Russian authors another chance. Hopefully this collection of short stories will be more enjoyable.

I bought The Deerslayer, by James Jenimore Cooper because I’ve wanted to read it ever since I read The Last Mohican, and because it has a very nice looking hardcover. Just looking at that intricate design on the red cover makes me sigh with happiness. I’m very fond of old books.

I loved Joyce Carol Oates collection of short stories in Give Me Your Heart so when I saw The Female of the Species – Tales of Mystery and Suspense, I knew I had to have it.

My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier whispered of love and secrets and that sounds like a great combination (and, to be honest, I can’t remember if I read Rebecca so I thought this might be a good choice when I’m in the mood for a classic).

Hard Laughter by Anne Lamott, was a nice surprise. She’s an author Vishy told me about and I was curious to see if I would like her novel so I decided to take it home.

Have you read any of these books? Did you enjoy them?

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22 Responses to Book shopping in Bangkok

  1. Brian Wadman says:

    Glad to hear you are giving the Russian authors another try. Great understanding of the human psyche

    • Delia says:

      Hi Brian,
      So I keep hearing about the Russian authors.
      I’m hoping these short stories will change my mind about them. Have you read any short stories or do you prefer the novels?

  2. Priya says:

    Book sales are always worth braving the heat, and I am glad you found the books you wanted. My old library had a copy of The Swan Thieves, and the blurb always attracted me. But the size was too daunting and I never did borrow it. I look forward to your review. 🙂

    • Delia says:

      Hi Priya,
      If The Swan Thieves is as good as The Historian, I don’t mind if it’s a chunkster, even though I’m normally not very fond of big books (except for fantasy trilogies :)). I hope to get to it this year.

  3. Stefanie says:

    Wow, what a great day and a fun way to spend a couple hours! You found some good stuff!

    • Delia says:

      It was a great day, Stefanie, and I would have spent even more time in both places but it was really hot and I thought ten books should last me a while.

  4. What fun!! I love the Tolstoy book. Russian authors do take time to get used to but they are so worth reading. My last Russian read was Turgenev’s Fathers and Sons and I found him slightly more balanced and less emotional than other Russian authors that I’ve read.

    Happy reading with your finds!

    • Delia says:

      I’ll keep Turgenev in mind. Thanks for the suggestion, Cleo.
      I’ve had a copy of Gogol’s “Dead Souls” for nearly ten years! I looked through it a couple of times but we just did not connect. I’m looking forward to try the stories, perhaps they will change my perception.

  5. Vishy says:

    So wonderful to see your new acquisitions, Delia! I also loved the first picture – so hard to leave a place filled with so many books! You got two Karl May books? So jealous! The edition of ‘The Deerslayer’ that you got is really beautiful! I don’t think they make books like that these days. I hope you enjoy that Tolstoy short story collection. Enjoy your new books! Happy reading!

    • Delia says:

      Hi Vishy,
      It was a wonderful day. I was surprised to see the two Karl May books. It’s the first time I see anything by Karl May here so I couldn’t resist.
      The Deerslayer looks very old; I think the only books with a cover like that are the classics editions and those are available especially around Christmas time. Probably gift editions.
      I really hope I’ll enjoy Tolstoy’s short stories, at least some of them.

  6. Brian Joseph says:

    Those pictures and your post make me want to go out and browse through some used bookstores.

    Alas it looks like you may have more access to used books then I have. Here on Long Island we once had lots of great outlets for used books but they are mostly gone. We still have one great store but it is still a 45 minute drive from where I live.

    It looks like you have picked up some fine books there. If you choose to read and blog about the Tolstoy stories I look forward to your commentary.

    • Delia says:

      Hi Brian,
      I’m sorry to hear about the demise of book stores in your area.
      There are a lot of expats living here so English books are quite popular even if they’re not cheap. I sometimes buy books from people leaving the country.

      It takes me 45 minutes by car as well, there are no English book stores close to where I live. And that if I’m lucky enough and don’t hit traffic.

      I will definitely get to Tolstoy’s collection, it’s just a question of when.

  7. Deb Atwood says:

    What a fun day you had! I heard there’s going to be a book sale at my city hall tomorrow, so I think you have inspired me to go.

    I know I read My Cousin Rachel a long time ago. I remember liking it but nothing else. I’ll be curious to hear what you have to say about it. I haven’t read any Anne Lamott novels, but she has written a wonderful memoir/instructional book on writing that I recommend called Bird by Bird. Happy reading!

  8. Delia says:

    It was a perfect day but it’s probably for the best I didn’t stay longer.
    I’m all for book sales, Deb. I hope you find some great titles if you decide to go.

    I’m glad to see you liked “My Cousin Rachel”, even if it didn’t seem to be memorable.
    I have heard of “Bird by Bird” and was in fact hoping to find the book there when I saw Anne Lamott’s name but maybe it’s for the best that I start with one of her novels first.

    Thank you for the nice words, now I don’t know which one to start with. Perhaps a western, since it’s been such a long time since I read one. Probably not since Cormac McCarthy’s “Blood Meridian”. Now that was a memorable book.

  9. Dragana says:

    I read a lot of Karl May when I was a teen too. I wonder how it would fare now.
    Lovely haul and I love that bookstore, it’s huge. 🙂

    • Delia says:

      That’s nice to hear. I am wondering the same thing myself. I loved Winnetou as a teenager.
      Both the library and the book store are nice places to spend some time (OK, maybe not “some” but more like “a lot of”). 🙂

  10. Athira says:

    You got a great haul! I love book sales and you are right, no matter what the weather, it would be hard to stay away from one. I don’t think I have read any Russian authors yet but I am still petrified of giving their books a try.

    • Delia says:

      Hi Athira,
      Petrified? That is a big word. Why?
      I’m not a great fan either, at least not so far but I am hoping my perception will change with the short stories. When afraid, start small. 🙂

  11. Tracy Terry says:

    Oh my goodness, look at all those books! My idea of heaven. Happy reading.

  12. Diane says:

    I loved the book One Thousand White Women and have enjoyed Daphne du Maurier’s books. Great finds 🙂 Have a great day

    • Delia says:

      I’m glad to hear that, Diane. I’m actually thinking of starting My Cousin Rachel soon, it’s a short book and I do love a good mystery.
      Thanks for coming by.

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