Phuket is not exactly a paradise for literature lovers, with only one public library and a small choice of bookstores.
The larger bookstores, including B2S and Se-Ed, carry a slim English-language collection of mostly mainstream reads and are found inside shopping malls. The best bet for new books in English is Asia Books at Central Floresta mall, with novels, kid’s books, travel books, coffee table books, local interest books and more.
Asia Books has an unfortunate habit of wrapping its books in plastic, denying would-be buyers the pleasure of leafing through a few pages before making a purchase. It’s possible to ask the sales clerks to remove the plastic, but it’s an irksome thing that usually sends me running to my Kindle. And the prices are high, too.
Phuket Used Bookshops
But fear not book lovers, there are a few places to find cheap books in Phuket.
Against the odds, Phuket has a handful of secondhand bookshops where the love of reading is honoured properly. Shelves are lined with dog-eared, well-loved tomes, collecting dust in their musky-scented glory, awaiting discovery by the fingertips of eager readers.
To those few valiant souls who brave the business of independent book selling in Phuket — we salute you! The used book business is tough anywhere these days but it’s especially challenging on an island better known for its beachy, party holiday lifestyle.
Here are our favourite used bookstores in Phuket and where to find them. If you’re visiting or living on the island and love to read, please go and buy books at these shops because if they don’t survive we will be sad.
South Wind Books
Found in the heart of Phuket Town’s heritage district on Phang Nga Road, this is a fine place to stop to browse for books between gorging on local food and admiring the colourful Sino-Portuguese shophouses on a stroll around the Old Town streets. Find English language books in one side of the shop, while other languages including German, Finnish, Swedish and French are in the other side.
Prices start at about 80 baht for well-loved books, while most paperbacks are in the 100-200 baht range. The shop is fairly well organised into sections including fiction, self-help, biography, travel, etc. For unknown reasons, “true crime” books are stocked on the same shelf as children’s books! If you have some books to sell you can trade them in for credit – they don’t pay in cash. They’ll write up the value of your sold books on a card that you can keep for later, if you don’t buy anything at the time of trading your books in.
South Wind Books
3-5-9 Phang Nga Road, Phuket Town
Open: 09:00 to 20:30 daily
Used Books Café
For book nerds, is there any place dreamier than a book shop with a café, and a sea view? Set in a house on the hillside overlooking Ao Yon, the Used Book Cafe lets you take in the beautiful bay views while looking for book bargains. English and various European language books line the shelves, most in the 100-250 baht price range.
The café has a small menu of coffee, tea, desserts and mostly Thai dishes, and it’s one of the few places in Phuket we’ve found where you can get the famous Northern Thai noodle dish, khao soi. Maybe not as good as what you can find in Chiang Mai but still yummy. Service is a bit slow and uncertain, but very friendly. Anyway, it’s the kind of place to relax and linger with your book and coffee so there’s no need to rush. A short walk down the hill leads to Ao Yon beach, a small stretch of white sand lined with some restaurants, small resorts and a few places to rent kayaks and SUP boards. All very pleasant and picturesque.
Used Books Café
6/16 Ao Yon Beach, Sakdidet Road, Vichit (near Cape Panwa)
Open: 09:30 to 21:00 daily
Good Shepherd Thrift Shop
The Good Shepherd charity shop, found about 4km west of the Heroines’ Monument traffic circle, is the cheapest place to buy books in Phuket. All books are an absolute steal at only 20 baht each. It also has a larger choice of kids’ books here than other used bookstores. English books for kids are frightfully expensive at new bookstores in Phuket, so if we ever stop by here we end up walking out with 2-3 towering armfuls of children’s books. The store is bright, clean and staffed by volunteers, so be kind to these good people when you’re visiting!
Proceeds for items sold in the shop go towards the charity’s projects, including the BaanYa Literacy Centre, a school for children of Burmese migrant workers, and Home for Hope, a centre providing accommodation and medical assistance for pregnant migrant women and babies. In addition to books, the shop sells secondhand clothing, toys, arts and crafts, gift cards and handmade dolls. Donations of books, clothes and other items are welcome.
Good Shepherd Thrift Shop
Wana Park, 177 Moo 4, Srisoonthorn Road, Thalang
Open: 10:00 to 14:00 Monday, Wednesday and Saturday
Booktree Library & Cafe
This is a cosy place with bamboo walls and open-air wooden terraces giving it a great tropical ambience. It’s found next to the Phuket Elephant Sanctuary on the east side of Phuket, not too far from Bangpae Waterfall and the Gibbon Rehabilitation Project.
The cafe serves Thai dishes, ice cream and coffee in a very laid back style. Prices are reasonable and the sofas and armchairs are really comfy.
There are several shelves lined with used books for sale, placed in an extremely haphazard way. With books in all different genres, authors and languages just set on the shelves in no particular order or section, you’ll need to spend some time searching for a good read. Prices are mostly in the 100-baht range, and the books looked mostly to be in good condition.
Booktree Library & Café
16/3 Moo 2 Tharue-Muangmai Road, Pa Klok, Thalang, Phuket
Open: 08:00 to 18:00 daily
Bonus Tip for Used Books Lovers…
If you’ve shopped around in Phuket and still can’t find the books of your desire, then it’s worth checking out Dasa Book Café. This is a popular secondhand bookstore in Bangkok, and we recently discovered that they deliver! Every week the shop posts an updated list of their entire stock, which you can download.
To order, just copy the items you want to buy and paste them in an email to Dasa. No online payment or credit card options available. You have to pay by transfer or deposit to their bank account. They’ll send you the details along with the total cost including shipping after you’ve emailed your order request. Shipping within Thailand is fast and cheap – just 1-2 days for delivery. It’s not as satisfying as shopping in a store, but we do love that moment of excitement when the mailman arrives at the door with a package of books!