What’s Your Favorite Bookstore? 

I was in a discussion the other day with my friends about a new brick and mortar Amazon bookstore that’s coming to town. Needless to say, it got us all to wondering…um, why? This is a company that’s pretty much synonymous with making actual book stores a thing of the past, yet now they’re opening up right next door to what used to be a Barnes & Noble that went out of business. Basically the definition of irony.

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However, while my friends and I contemplated the reasoning behind Amazon opening a physical location, it also got us to talking about our former bookstore loving glory. When I was little, going to the local bookstore was my favorite pastime. I would spend hours roaming the shelves, looking in the bargain bins, and discovering new titles that would whisk me away from small town Ohio.

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While I do still enjoy browsing through bookstores, I’m sad to admit that the joy isn’t exactly the same as it used to be. Nowadays I often find myself overwhelmed by such a wide array of books, constantly asking myself if the book I’m holding is actually a later book in a series and I just don’t know it, or what the user review rating might be. 9 times out of 10, I find myself pulling out my phone, and checking Goodreads or Amazon when I’m in an actual bookstore. I know…it’s positively shameful.

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That being said, I will say there is one bookstore that, to this day, remains my ultimate favorite. It helps me hearken back to a time when I was like a kid in a candy store, only I’m surrounded by the written word. I can still spend hours upon hours browsing through this particular bookstore whenever I have the great opportunity to be in the city where it’s located, and that would be Librairie Avant-Garde in Nanjing, China.

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Hands down, this is my favorite bookstore I’ve ever been to in my entire life. It’s actually a converted parking garage, which is cool enough in and of itself. But it also has thousands of volumes, from Western and Chinese classics that you can find in both English and Mandarin, to art books, law, history, economics, pretty much anything your heart could desire.

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I first discovered it when I was studying in Nanjing for graduate school, and whenever I get back to China I always try and revisit one of my favorite places on Earth. It’s quietly serene and 100% unique. The entrance is hard to miss, again, seeing as the darn thing is basically underground. However, if you ever get the chance, I highly recommend you pop in for a visit.

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So that got me to thinking, what are some of your favorite bookstores? Maybe it’s one you’ve been going to since you were little. Maybe it’s a new beauty that you’ve recently discovered. Or maybe it’s a place that’s on your bucket list to one day explore. Feel free to share in the comment section below!

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I’m baaaaack from China!!

Did you all miss me? For those of you who didn’t know, I just got back to the US after a 2 week business trip to China. First thing I did when I landed in the US was go to a McDonald’s and order a Big Mac with fries. That’s ‘Merica right there. And heart disease. Below are some of the highs and lows of my trip. I actually decided to start with the bad so that the post could end on a high note.

The Bad and the Ugly

1. Jet Lag

Oh my god it sucks so bad! I’ve always been pretty good with jet lag in the past, but for some reason I took a beating during this trip. I once heard that it takes one day to get used to every hour of time difference. Considering that there’s a 12 hour time change between my home and China, and that my trip was only 14 days in total, I had to fly back to the US right when I started getting a good nights sleep. And now the process has started all over again. Last night I had the urge to fall asleep at 8:00pm, and I woke up at 3:30am. Did I mention that jet lag SUCKS!!

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2. The Attention

I think one of the main reasons I love living in a big city in the US is the sense of invisibility it provides. Whenever I walk out on the street, I am just one of many that everybody else ignores. In China however, being in a big city simply means that there are even more people to stare and gawk at me. Those who have lived in China for a long time, and consider themselves to be China experts (aka a large portion of my friend group), will laugh and tell you this is a silly thing to get upset about. After all, there’s no harm done, and it’s just curiosity. Sure! But I still couldn’t help but feel bothered by it. I was so uncomfortable walking down the busy city streets with all eyes on me, people pointing, some laughing, others taking pictures, and always a hushed comment about the laowai/waiguoren: the foreigner.

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3. The Internet

It just doesn’t work.

4. The Huh?

One morning I was out getting some yummy baozi for breakfast when I came across a man standing on the sidewalk with two fingers stuck up his nostrils. He wasn’t picking, or sniffing. Just standing there, looking at the traffic zooming past with his fingers shoved way up his nose. Like, almost to the knuckle. I…don’t really know.

The Good

1. Dragon Boat Festival

After my first week of business meetings was complete, I was in Nanjing during the dragon boat festival, which means that I got to watch a bunch of boat races throughout the day, and enjoy fun activities around a big local lake. Sure, people were staring, and some tried to discreetly take pictures, but I was able to hang out with friends who could share in some of the attention for the day. I could also act like a kid/idiot for part of the time. Yes, that is me on a panda push bike. Oddly enough that wasn’t when people wanted to take the pictures.

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2. The Books

I got soooo much reading done! Altogether I finished 8 books, one of which was the 6th Outlander book that I’ve been listening to for months. I also visited one of my favorite bookstores ever, Librairie Avant-Garde, which is actually on some lists of the most beautiful bookstores in the world. It used to be an underground parking garage. I splurged on book purchases, and my suitcase was definitely hurting for space by the time I was done. I bought Gone with the WindPride and Prejudice, and Little Women in Chinese. No idea when I’ll get to any of them, but they’ll be there when I need them.

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3. The Huh?

There are times in China when you come across a scenario or object where you can’t help but shake your head and say, “Oh, China.” It’s pretty much bound to happen, and although it’s totally bizarre you also can’t help but love it. Case in point, one night I went out to dinner with some friends, and on the way back to our hotel we ran into a man who was walking his pet rooster out on the city streets. I don’t know if we ever found out his name (the man or the rooster), but I can tell you the animal resided in a cage within the man’s kitchen, was 3 years old, and crowed very loudly whenever the man stroked his tail. I would hate to be that guy’s neighbor.

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This might just be the most spectacular Coca-cola bottle I’ve ever seen in my life.

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