The Bookworm

Trip Start Nov 29, 2008
1
14
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Trip End Jan 03, 2009


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Monday, December 22, 2008

Today is winter solstice. Right on cue for the first day of winter, a strong wind blew in from Siberia and the temperature plummeted from zero to minus twelve. It was so cold that my fingertips froze in their gloves and I couldn't feel my nose. Each blast of wind ripped at my furry hoodie and took my breath away.
 
I had planned to go to the Lama temple but was too cold to wander around much. I decided to cozy up with some books instead. I hopped on the subway and headed for the Bookworm, a library, bookshop and café in the Chaoyang district on the east side of town.
 
The Bookworm's business card features a drawing of a cute red worm wearing glasses, curled up with a book and a drink on the table. "From the Illiad through quadrupeds...via Uzbekistan and Elvis...Beijing's own English lending library," the card says. It has a map on the back to show how to get there.  
 
The ice-cold wind pushed me through the doors. Inside, I found myself in a little corner of paradise. Every kind of book I could want is here-philosophy, current affairs, travel. Even poetry. The library has three rooms, each lined from top to bottom with books. I haven't seen so many English language books for more than a year.
 
I found the section with books for sale-the lending library is really only good for browsing if you're staying less than a couple of weeks-and bought The Travels of Marco Polo. While the general selection is smaller than at the Foreign Languages Bookstore, it does have the best selection of books on China that I have found. It even had Red China Blues, by the Canadian journalist Jan Wong, a combination of history and her own personal journey through Mao's Cultural Revolution.  
 
In the middle of all these books, bespectacled expats sat with their laptops, gazing intently into them as if they were magic mirrors. I joined them and opened up my Vaio. Intermittently wrapping my hands around a warm cup of green tea, I tapped out messages to my family and friends on facebook, wishing them a Merry Christmas.
 
Now I am writing this blog, and must change to present tense. I wonder if the other expats are writing blogs as well. All of us bookworms sitting here, posting our stories from Beijing, each adding our own points of view to the vast sea of information on the web. I wonder what they have to say about it...are we all writing about the Bookworm? No matter, my George Orwell couscous is here (all the dishes on the menu bear literary names). It doesn't have enough avocado on it. Never mind; time to tuck in. 
 
***
Open from 9am to 1am, the Bookworm has great hours for bookaholics. It's located in the alley behind Pacific Century Plaza, next to the Banana Leaf restaurant. Address: Building 4, Nan Sanlitun Road, Chao Yang District. Phone: 65869507. Web: www.chinabookworm.com
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