If you are a book lover like me, and enjoy browsing bookshelves, you’ll find an interesting challenge awaiting you in Yangon. There are plenty of secondhand books for sale in Yangon, but most of these goodies aren’t found in proper shops. Instead, you’ll find a great selection of old books at streetside dealers scattered around the city. Most of these outdoor dealers used to be located on Pansodan Street, but due to construction work in that area the past couple of years, many of the book dealers have moved a few blocks away. There are still some on Pansodan, but I now see more on Bogyoke Aung San Road, in the area across the street from Scott’s Market, heading towards Traders Hotel.
Some of these dealers display their books on rickety wooden shelves, while other sellers are content to arrange their books on mats or cardboard on the ground. It may not be conducive to convenient browsing, but if you are patient you’ll undoubtedly unearth a few treasures amidst the literary rubble. For example, there are oodles of old Reader’s Digest volumes, outdated computer manuals, English language guides, and other funky old titles for sale. Recent bestsellers are virtually non-existent at these street dealers, but I always find good fiction and non-fiction titles from the past three decades scattered amidst the junkier stuff. Ialmost bought a Tom Robbins novel at one stall, but passed on it because it was a hardcover edition; too heavy to add to my backpack. At most of these book stalls the books aren’t priced, so you need to ask the price. Many dealers will offer discounts if you buy more than one book and don’t mind haggling a bit. It’s all part of the game!
There are also a few freestanding shops — with real walls and a roof! —in town such as Bagan Books, Inwa Bookshop, Nandawun Book Center, as well as a new branch of Monument Books. Prices at these shops aren’t cheap, but the book selection is usually better than what you’ll find on the street, and the book condition is much better too. Needless to say, the merchandise at the street dealer stalls takes a hit from being exposed to the elements throughout the year … and some of these books have been on the streets for decades!