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A few more posts about Malaysia …

My regular readers know that I(Chris) like taking pictures of bookstores and have been posting them online, for example:  Alexandre in Budapest, Livraria Cultura in Sao Paulo, MIT Press in Boston, Waterstones in London. As we were wandering in KL’s celebrated shopping mall – Suria KLCC, we found this massive Books Kinokuniya.


Kinokuniya is a Japanese bookstore chain that has opened stores beyond its native country. There is one in New York on 6th Avenue between 40th and 41st across from Bryant Park – a few blocks from my old office.


As expected, one finds Japanese books in Kinokuniya.


There were also plenty of English books.


… including text books and models of cars.


As there were many Chinese in KL, we found a Chinese section. But we did not see a Malay section. It was probably there but it was less prominent and escaped our perusal. A section of Chinese magazines – most if not all use traditional Chinese characters and came from Taiwan or Hong Kong.



There was also a large manga section …


… as well as Western (US mostly) comics nearby.


Matchbox-sized metal diecast toy cars were a surprising find. I(Chris) was really tempted to buy one. There are currently 140 models in the Tomica brand lineup, which is continually being renewed with the release of a new model on the third Saturday of each month.


Also surprised to find was the number of tarot cards, Western fortune-telling paraphenalia on sale.


There was a cafe upstairs.


The well-stocked arts section was upstairs.


Sadly, bookstores are disappearing in the United States due to ebooks.



Inside the branch of Alexandra bookstore located inside the now-defunct Paris Department Store (Párizsi Nagy Áruház, Andrássy út 39) is one of the more beautiful café in Europe. Click here for our post on the bookstore.


After entering the Alexandra Bookstore on the ground floor you’ll find a pair of escalators which bring you up to the first floor, and usher you directly in front of the Lotz Hall (Lotz-Terem).


The Lotz Hall (Lotz-Terem) was named after Karl Lotz who painted the murals inside the Alexandra Bookcafe, as well as those of the Budapest Opera, Hungarian Parliament, Hungarian National Museum, St. Stephens Basilica, the ceiling fresco in the Buda Castle and many many more.

bookcafe-3International newspaper, live piano.


This man was a master of his craft, and the Hungarians loved him for it. While the rest of the building has been more or less whitewashed, the Lotz Hall has been faithfully restored and brought back to its former glory. It was the former Teresa City Casino ballroom.


The cafe hosts live music performance, as well as occasional demonstrations and book signings.


We did not stop for a coffee as it was already dinner time.


The national tricolor and Budapest red-yellow-blue flag made up of the various elements of the composition.


We have seen this neo-Renaissance (?) decorative style in the Parliament as well. Wonderfully ornate, but almost too shiny for us.


Many of these “restorations” look like new copies of the old style – rather than restoring actual old interior pieces.


Like the place we had our event dinner, the Vigadó concert hall – all the interior details were sparkling new. Here are a few pictures of the Vigadó which is the second largest concert hall in Budapest and was built in 1865. It hosted numerous performances by Lizst in the past.


We were at a private banquet in this place which seemed empty – presumably there was no public performance or ballroom dancing that evening. A folk band and a small trope of dancers entertained us during dinner.


The building suffered serious damage during World War II and it apparently took 30+ years to restore.


We have more photos of this type of interiors taken from the Parliament and the Opera House. May be we will put them up later.

Back in fall 2014, we spent a long weekend in Budapest, Hungary.  We have a couple more posts on this city before we put up photos from our Malaysian trip.

While strolling along Andrássy út (Budapest’s Fifth Avenue), we came across this building with a rather impressive facade. The combination of art nouveau motifs and dramatic lighting gave the facade a steampunk vibe and later reminded me (Chris) the set design in the movies Dune (1984) and Tyrell Corporation in Blade Runner.


Inside it, we found a branch of the Alexandra bookstore chain. It is one of Hungary’s biggest bookstore.


The Alexandra bookstore started off as a casino in 1884, and then become the Párizsi Nagy Áruház (Paris Department Store) in 1911. It was Budapest’s first building which was built specifically for retail purposes.


Planned and designed by Gustav Petschacher and Sigismund Sziklai, the Neo-Renaissance building – had a billiard and ballrooms on the first floor, playing and reading rooms on the second floor, while the third floor was constructed as luxury apartments.


It has a very modern-looking atrium but the atrium was in the original design.


The interior design – including the spectacular art deco fresco’s which have survived to this day. They were done by the “Prince of Hungarian Arts” Karl Lotz.


It has a high glass-vaulted ceiling, and had a glass-mirrored elevator (which we did not see).


The building somehow survived World War II and the communist period.


The Orco Property Group bought the building in 2005 and spent the next 4 years renovating the building.


When the building reopened on the 10th of November 2009, the first tenant was the Alexandra Bookstore, which took over the ground and first floor.


Click here to see their online bookshop in Hungarian.


We have nothing to do with the ads below.

Írók Boltja (Writers’ Bookshop) is located on the busy corner of Andrássy street No. 45 and Liszt Ferenc square. It is just down the street from the gigantic Alexandra (see later post).

The store is special because it has a history of more than a hundred years, always connected to writers and poets, and played a cultural role in the city.

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Originally a café (Café Japan), it functioned from the 1890s as a legendary gathering place for writers and intellectuals until it was transformed into a bookshop in the 1950s.


It now has a mezzanine floor where gatherings, book-signings, and talks can be held.


Literary figures are known to visit regularly, along with readers, authors, publishers, and occasionally Hungarian-challenged tourists like us drop in to look around.


The bookstore stocks mostly classical and contemporary Hungarian literary works, and some translations in English and other European languages.


Next door to it is a small shop that sells some touristy books and music, including sheet music. Here, we bought IT a small Christmas gift – which is a reprint of the first edition of the 1849 album-leaves by Ferenc Liszt for Princess Marie von Sayn-Wittgenstein (Emléklapok Marie von Sayn-Wittgenstein hercegkisasszony számára). It was auctioned in 1926, passed through the hands of several private collectors and published for the first time in 2000.


If you are curious about Hungarian books, their online store is here.

If you see ads below, they have nothing to do with us.

While I (Chris) was visiting JL in London, I wandered into Waterstone on Piccadilly.  As some of you might have noticed on this blog, I like visiting bookstores and have been photographing them. If you want to see the other bookstores, just click on the tag bookstore on your left.

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Some of the information I have included here came from their website, click here.

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Waterstones Piccadilly is situated in the heart of London’s West End. Now Europe’s largest bookshop, it was once home to the renowned department store Simpson’s; an admired landmark of London’s architecture, and the inspiration for the popular 1970’s British television programme ‘Are You Being Served’. When Simpson’s opened in April 1936 it was the largest menswear store in Britain. The design of the building is distinctly modern in comparison to the regular architectural style of the time.

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Waterstones Piccadilly opened its doors in September 1999 and has eight floors open to the public, six of which are dedicated to books.

waterstones piccadilly-4The glass wall that stretched the height of the building at 90 feet is just visible here. It lit each open-plan floor with natural light. Some of the original features are still in place such as the stairwell’s 90-foot chromium light fitting suspended from the ceiling, and the steel and glass handrails

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Harumi Murakami is going to be there to sign his new book – “Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage – 色彩を持たない多崎つくると、彼の巡礼の年”

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Waterstones claims to have 150,000 titles in stock and over eight and a half miles of shelving.

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Kids section

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“Antiques, Mind, Body and Spirit, Science and Nature, Transport”

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Arts department

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On the top floor is a quiet cafe/bar/restaurant – the 5th View Bar, open till 10pm!

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In years past, I arranged to meet people at the fountain at Piccadilly Circus or the now defunct Swiss Center at Leicester Square. If I live in London now, this could be an ideal alternative for the heart of West End.

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Every city should have a bookshop like this one.

I enjoy visiting bookstores.

Several posts here are dedicated to the bookstores I have visited in other cities. For example, MIT Press bookstore in Boston and Livraria Cultura in Iguatemi, Saõ Paulo. This is my second post on a bookstore in Köln. The first one on Siebter Himmel is here.

Warning: there are only photos of books here, stacks and stacks of them !



This bookstore simply named Büchermarkt (book market) occupies at least three floors of this brick building on Breite Straße 79 , 50667 Cologne.




It may very well be a chain store and I just went to one of its branches. But this is one with the largest collection of art books I have seen recently. Very cramped and stocked with many different titles.




Near the entrance, they have the new and discounted books including many of the coffee table tomes put out by Taschen and Phaidon.





And then it is just wall-to-wall books. From fashion to fine art to film.




Even more liberal art and cultural books upstairs. I read somewhere that Cologne produces most of the TV shows of Germany. There is probably a sizable population of media types to keep such a bookstore alive.





There is a “balcony” where the two floors are connected by a double height space.




Without this double height space, it can feel very claustrophobic.




There is another floor… a narrow wooden staircase leading up …  I have found the out-of-print section. There are some Artists’ books (Künstlerbücher) on display here.




There was a desk and a storekeeper at the top who asked me to leave my bag at the entrance. This place really felt like a library – the smell of old books. There were no price tags on the books here.




Art books are full of pictures. I can spend days in here even I do not read German.


This is the third bookstore that I came across in my two-and-a half-day stay in São Paulo. This Livraria Cultura is situated in one of the more luxury shopping malls in town (Tiffany & Co., Louis Vuitton are its neighbors).

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Like the shop they have in downtown on Avenida Paulista (see my post here), the entrance is unassuming. At the entrance level, they sell music and DVDs.

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The mezzanine level, aptly named as the “Geek” department, sells comics, games and fan toys.

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When the escalator reaches level “3”, I was brought into this one massive room.

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It is a vast reading area with orange comfy chairs.

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At one end there is a series of wooden “steps” that can serve as rows of seats – I imagine the space can host a performance or readings with an audience of more than 200 people.

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If Apple is to start selling physical books, I can imagine them building a store like this one.

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I spoke briefly with a shop keeper (in English) and apparently, the shop is barely a month old (I was there in October 2013).

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Unfortunately most books are in Portuguese …

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Unlike NYC, the existence of Amazon, Kindle and Nook did not seem to affect the brick-and-mortar bookstore in São Paulo. I did see people using e-readers but the physical bookstores appeared to be thriving.

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It is a beautiful shop full of beautiful books in a beautiful mall. See the guards at the entrance ?

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See the other Paulista bookstores here and here.

This is the second bookstore that I came across in downtown São Paulo. I almost missed it because of its non-descript facade.

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The size of the store and the neighborhood in which it is located (Rua Oscar Freire) reminded me of SoHo in New York and Rizzoli on West Broadway (closed since late 2000’s).

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The store has a total of three levels, the entrance being the middle level.

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The plan of the shop is long and narrow-ish and there are “holes” between the levels.

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Lining the sides of the holes are book shelves. This is the view from the top level looking down through a rectangular hole onto the street level.

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There is a circular void between the street level and the lower level.

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Looking up from the lower level.

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There was, what I presume, a book tour talk in the basement auditorium. It was packed. The author (male) was speaking French while the interviewer (female) was doing an instant translation into Portuguese and asking questions.

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The three floors are connected by an elevator that is made to look like a storage room filled with books.

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The top floor sells mostly CDs and DVDs.

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The top floor also contains a cafe with a small outdoor seating area.

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There are listening stations here and there.

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Luckily, when I took these pictures, the people were all in the auditorium. About 15 minutes after I walked in, the talk was over and the store were filled with people enjoying wine and finger food.

livraria da vila-15Helpful staff too – I bought a 10-CD box set of Brazilian pop music – a nice compilation of traditional as well as electro versions of Bossa Nova, Samba and Timbalada.

Walking around São Paulo, I came across three remarkable bookstores.  Two in the downtown area and one in a luxurious shopping mall in the business district. My short visit had become an unintended bookstore tour and I was delighted. I will dedicate a post for each one of them.

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This one owned by Livraria Cultura is situated in a downtown shopping mall in the mid-section of Avenida Paulista (the equivalent of 6th Avenue in midtown New York, or any section of Nathan Road in Hong Kong). The company’s web page is here.


I wandered into the store via the mall entrance and was really surprised by how the space suddenly opened up.


There is a wide ramp that gently rises up to the first floor. Flat platforms served as seats on the sloping ramp. The interior was warm and inviting, playful and dramatic.


I think there are at least three floors each with a balcony above the big atrium space in the middle.


Love getting lost in this bookstore. One could see most departments of the bookstore when standing near the top of the atrium.


The place was packed with people browsing and socializing, and importantly buying books too.


The top floor has a music and video section.


What they lacked, which is always present in a US bookstore, is a cafe. Or did I miss it ?


The Arts department is in a separate unit in the mall and not connected to this big space. When I walked in, it was hosting a book signing party – but it must have just finished – I did not see the writer but there were waiters walking around with trays of wine and finger food. It was a Wednesday night and people were out and about enjoying a decent urban cultural life.


The squiggly handrails and criss-crossing barriers make a very strong visual statement throughout the store.


I suspect that this is their flagship store as it is mentioned first in their company web page.


For those who are interested in bookstores, I toured several university bookstores in Boston last year and blogged about them here and here.

Two more Brazilian bookstore posts to come.

As I was saying in the previous post on visiting the MIT Press bookstore, we really crave visiting English language bookstores while living in continental Europe. This is the American Book Center we visited in Amsterdam.

So, back to when I was in Boston, the other academic bookstore I visited was the Harvard Coop in Harvard Square.

The store sells popular books, text books, Harvard Business Press books as well as a whole range of Harvard paraphenalia.

The lower floors stock popular titles. Text books are sold on the upper level across a passage way that bridges the next building.

As expected, they have on display the full selection of Harvard Business Press books as well as journals. I got the month’s Harvard Business Review from the source rather than a news stand.

Like the MIT bookstore, the staff selection of books are particularly interesting – here is a table full of books that have been made into a movie.

“The Doorstops” – i.e., books that have lots of words in them.

Upstairs, there are places to sit, read, fall asleep …

… or look outside at life on Harvard Sqaure.

Also displayed prominently is a selection of books about Harvard University and the application process (including 150+ successful essays that resulted in admission into undergrad, b-school or law school!) targeting the incoming students, next year’s hopefuls and their parents.

Towards the end of the day, I passed another academic bookstore – “Books+Music” of the Berklee School of Music. But I was too late to enter as they were closing. Too bad, as I am really curious of the kind of academic books they stock, in addition to sheet music and recordings.

By the way, the Berklee School of Music was attended by Psy who is responsible for this rather addictive video – Gangnam Style.

Apart from visiting bookstores, I had the chance to see P’s family and my transplanted colleagues S and L.  And that’s what I did in Boston (apart from work).

Earlier this month, I (Chris) went on a business trip to Boston and had a half-day which was free of meetings. Having been to Boston many times before and I probably saw most of the major sights. What should I do with that free time in this city?

Living in Lausanne, we are a bit deprived when it comes to browsing in a  bookstore which sells English language books. Payot and FNAC in Lausanne both stock popular English fictions and business non-fictions but they only carry a very small selection. The idea of checking out the bookstores of Harvard and MIT came to me when I passed the bookstore of Suffolk University Law School on Tremont Street near my hotel. The bookstore has a small selection of law text books. In the window, they displayed a collection of Boston tourist guides!

My hotel was located near Boston Common, so it was a short ride on the red line, from Park Street, to Kendall for MIT (only two stops) and another two stops to Harvard.

MIT’s publishing house, MIT Press began publishing in the 1930’s and publishes 200 books and 30 journals annually.  Their bookstore is on 292 Main St, Cambridge.

The press’s logo, visible in red in the window, is based on the lower-case letters “mitp”.

The bookstore is rather cramped. It sells its own books as well as those by other publishers organized by topics. As expected, the topics are academic in nature and reflect MIT authors’ expertises ranging from architecture and design, computer sciences, digital media, cognitive sciences, linguistics, and economics.

Lots of books on machine learning, artificial intelligence and robotics.

Recent issues of MIT’s journals are on display including Daedalus, Review of Economics and Statistics, Leonardo, and Artificial Life. I think Leonardo really reflects MIT’s broad interests (quoted from their website):

Leonardo is today’s leading international journal on the application of contemporary science and technology to the arts and music and, increasingly, the application and influence of the arts on science and technology. With an emphasis on peer reviewed writings by artists, the journal seeks to ensure that the artist’s voice is integral to the development of new technologies, materials, and methods. 

One of the benefits of visiting such bookstores is the staff’s selection of books on a specific topic. They are all lay out on tables for browsing – a smorgasbord of scholarly writings. From this table, I bought Good Thinking by Denise Cummins.

Across the street from the MIT Press Bookstore is the MIT Coop.

This store is managed by Barnes & Noble (judging by the decoration and point-of-sale materials) which also manages Harvard Coop.

The Coop sells popular titles (including books by MIT authors but not published by MIT press, see dedicated section in picture), text books, games, magazines as well as any merchandises with “MIT” plastered on it.

While I was in London during the Olympics, I went to the Waterstones on Gower Street across from University College London where I studied.  I really enjoyed that visit and bought a whole bunch of books, which might explain my enthusiasm here. My next post will cover Harvard’s bookstore.