Running your own bookstore and making a living at it is hard. Make that twice as hard if you sell only one type of book! But there happen to be a few of these brave independents in Taipei. They have a unique perspective they want to share and a deep desire to fulfill a specific gap in the needs of readers. They don’t aim to make a fortune; they simply want to share the books they love. People come here not just to read, but also to get a chance to chat with an expert – the store owner. This kind of close interaction is the magic of small bookstores.
DeaR DeeR Travel Book Shop – Building a Bridge to the World
Avid backpacker Eva has accumulated tons of travel books, and over the years has lent many of them to friends planning a trip. A while back she got the idea of opening her very own travel bookstore and named it DeaR DeeR (鹿途中旅遊書店). Since deer in Chinese sounds like the word for road: “lu,” this generated the Chinese name: “Lu Tu Zhong” (鹿途中), which means “on the way,” with her high school friend, Lu Lu (鹿鹿) as the store manager.
Tucked in a quiet alley in Taipei’s Xinyi District, this charming little bookstore wants people to think of its collection as “The Book of the World.” In addition to selling travel volumes, it also provides book rental and exchange services. Japan tour guides are the most popular of these. In every corner of the store one can see pictures taken by Eva, and Lu Lu’s personally-designed postcards – memories of cherished travel for all to see. There is also a fine collection of Starbucks mugs and magnets from a variety of countries – and each piece of memorabilia comes with its own story!
Eva and Lu Lu enjoy sharing travel information with others. There are speeches from time to time, where travel writers and bloggers share their “favorite secret spots.” DeaR DeeR is an intimate and lively space; neighborhood office workers often come seeking travel info, and neighbors drop by frequently. A regular customer, Miss Liu, couldn’t decide on a destination when planning her first backpacking trip, and it was only after exploring the books here that she finally settled on Iceland. Eva and Lu Lu also benefit in the friends they make and the fellow travel enthusiasts they meet. What’s more, these two enterprising ladies and their customers even spent last New Year’s Eve together in Japan!
Haven’t decided on your next destination yet? Come check out DeaR DeeR!
JFK Picture Books – English Story Time!
Having suffered through a major illness, Jerry, the owner of JFK Picture Books (JFK繪本屋) sees life from a different perspective now. In 2014, he quit his job and opened the bookstore as a gift to his wife, Febie. JFK is an acronym for Jerry, Febie and Kaya, their daughter. It is their sincerest wish that this place become a favorite stop on many a child’s journey to adulthood.
Former kindergarten English teacher, Febie, tells the story of how JFK began. While visiting Sendai, Japan, she and her husband happened to visit a shop selling mostly illustrated books. The store owner himself was conducting a “Story Time” right in the store and it put the seed of an idea into them. That seed grew into a dream, which has finally come true. With Jerry’s expertise as a designer, they decided on yellow as a decorative keynote, installed a skylight in the back to bring in natural light, and added a little bridge in the activity room for energetic kids to climb on. The whole place radiates with a bright and lively atmosphere.
JFK stocks mainly English picture books, but carries some Chinese and Japanese titles too. It holds Parents and Kids Story Time on a regular basis for youngsters aged 3 to 6. Real estate agent, Mr. Lee, often takes his twin daughters there on weekends. He says that he grew up abroad and would like his children to start learning English early. JFK employs lots of creative teaching activities, aids and others ways of making classes fun! Lee’s daughters have happily taken part for the past six months.
After getting established at ArtYard 2022 (眾藝埕) in Dadaocheng (大稻埕), JFK Picture Books moved to the old community in Shuanglian (雙連) where Jerry grew up. Febie is in charge of book selection and the teaching of classes, and the two of them share a sacred mission: simply to inspire children to open the first book of their lives.
Murder Ink – A Mystery & Suspense Bookstore
“Agatha barks at anyone wearing a hat!” After working as a reporter in Mainland China, Tommy Tan (譚端) opened the first detective fiction bookstore in Taiwan, Murder Ink (偵探書屋), about three years ago. It’s situated in the old Jiancheng Circle (建成圓環) neighborhood of Taipei and he’s such a fan of the genre that he even named his pooch after the Queen of Crime, Agatha Christie. (No one knows why the dog hates hats so much but it’s as it should be – a mystery!)
Tan started out with the romantic idea that: “This world could do with less utilitarians,” and decided that promoting genre novels was his purpose in life. “Things that seem useless can actually contribute to society,” he says. “There’s a deep exploration of character in crime fiction that allows readers to develop empathy; and reading books in all genres helps enrich people’s minds.”
The store is decked out with second-hand furniture and crime-related items, attracting crime fans to come and explore. People who enjoy a “retro” atmosphere also visit regularly. Ms. Wang, a Hong Kong resident who frequently comes to Taiwan, shops at Murder Ink because there are no crime bookstores in her city, and because it’s recommended by many Taiwanese book fans. So far she has not been disappointed.
Murder Ink is not just a bookstore for Tan, it is also his base for working on broadcasting and film documentary projects. It’s not unusual to see his colleagues with their heads buried in research. You’ll need a membership to rent books from Murder Ink, but there are over 4,000 titles available, mostly European and American. The most popular are the novels of Japanese writer, Keigo Higashino. There is also a retail section, where pocket-sized editions seem to sell well.
New Year’s Reader
To the Edge of the World (走過世界的盡頭) is the choice of both Eva and Lu Lu. It’s self-published by its author, Shen Yuchuan (沈佑銓), who is also a doctor. The book describes what he saw and experienced during his trip to South America (Peru, Argentina and Chile) and the 36-hour flight to get there. The book is a fascinating exploration of the twists and turns in his mind during this trip. DeaR DeeR even asked Shen to give a speech, which made him the first invited speaker at the store.
DeaR DeeR Travel Book Shop 鹿途中旅遊書店
28, Jiaxing St.（嘉興街28號)
Despite growing up in New York, Taiwanese-American children’s author, Grace Lin (林珮思) fills her books with the authentic flavors of Chinese culture. Dim Sum for Everyone! (給大家的點心) uses a straightforward style to describe a family going to a restaurant in Chinatown. Febie says children can learn the English names of common dim sum dishes from this book, which might be useful when ordering at Chinese eateries in the West!
JFK Picture Books
3, Ln. 187, Sec. 2, Chengde Rd. （承德路2段187巷3號)
In 1962, Taiwanese-Japanese writer, Chen Shunchen (陳舜臣) published his crime classic, Angry Bodhisattva (憤怒的菩薩). With postwar Taiwan as a background and a tense and exciting plot, this story reveals the social climate of the time. It was initially released only in Japan, but now finally comes to Taiwan! Tan and his partners are working on adapting it for movie and TV.