Bookstores are big in Manila. I’m speaking figuratively, of course. While indeed still a lucrative industry, bookstores are becoming smaller and smaller. This is true for both big and small stores, chain and single-location boutiques. What won’t change, however, is the flock of passionate bibliophiles that go out of their ways to pick up a good book.
Here’s a running list of stores in Manila you can visit. I’ve left out chain bookstores such as National Bookstore, Fully Booked, and Booksale. At this point, they’re still everywhere, and we need to keep it that way.
The problem is this: readers want to read stuff that’s usually not on the shelves of the National Bookstores and Power Bookses. People want to read Camus, Sedaris, and more importantly, Nick Joaquin. But they don’t find a lot of those in chain stores, do they? Hence the creation of this list.
This small nook at the heart of Maginhawa is a staple for students and enthusiasts, with its wide array of fiction, philosophy, and more. They also have rare zines and local publications perfectly curated for frequenters to go through.
Unlike the other entries in this list, Popular is a bigger bookstore, but I’d argue it’s a special case. This retailer’s name is ironic, as its library favors rarer, local titles that you usually won’t see in mainstream stores.
Books from the Underground
This one’s special. While plenty of the titles here are literary, the staff don’t forget about the pulpier titles. In short, my zen place.
Mang Remy is the best. For anyone who had scoured the streets of Cubao, that much is true. His store, Remnants, houses amazing furniture, vinyl records, and of course, books.
Situated at the heart of Padre Faura, Solidaridad is built as a literary institution by National Artist for Literature F. Sionil Jose in 1965. And it has been a sought-after bookstore/literary space since.
Tradewinds brands itself as a “cultural bookshop”. That’s accurate. Inside is a gift shop and an art gallery that showcase a whole bunch of incredible artsy finds. This includes, of course, books that you’ll be hard pressed to find in mainstream shelves.
Bangkal Thrift Shop
This thrift store has a great collection of finds, from furniture to obscure books. If you ever find yourself in M. Hizon in Makati, dropping by is a definite must.
These stores may come and go, which is mainly why we chose to make this a “running” list. If you have anything to add onto it, let us know in the comments so others can get informed.