After visiting Kinokuniya in Dubai, based on reading this article
, and about which I wrote here
, I decided to follow up further and find the other book stores listed in the same news story; particularly Thrift Books and Book & Bean, in Abu Dhabi.
I was aware of places like WH Smith and Magrudy's, but these are small and have a limited selection, in my opinion. Because I usually buy new books online and read them on my iPad, and because I really hadn't bothered to inquire in depth from people about book stores in the area, it was the article listed above, sent to me by a kind person, that got my juices flowing in the hope for some interesting used books. Prior to this I was feeling like I was living in not only a physical desert but an intellectual and cultural one as well. Actually, I still feel that way.
The article above only mentioned the name of Thrift Books without offering any kind of location information. My curiosity aroused, I did a Google search because... that's what you do these days. I found another article
specifically about the shop.
Now, Abu Dhabi doesn't have street addresses. They are working on an addressing system, the Onwani project, but that's years away. To find a place in Abu Dhabi you do what your weird Uncle Clem from Mississippi does, you give out landmarks. To get to my office I would tell you it was on Najda Street, behind the Mitsubishi showroom. Don't know where the Mitsubishi showroom is? It's on Al Falah Street. Don't know where Al Falah Street is? It's also called Passport Road. And 9th Street. Well... you'll just have to learn. Actually, Google Maps on my smartphone does a pretty good job of getting me to a place in Abu Dhabi if I have a general location. So it's not all that bad. The great thing about the Thrift Books article was, the writer included GPS coordinates! I wish more people did that around here.
So, a recent Saturday was book hunting day. Thrift Books was closer, and the more intriguing due to its location and the charming, quirky nature of its description. I parked as close as I could to the stated location; no mean feat in the Tourist Club section of town. I walked through the searing heat and into the block, found the mosque that the book store was said to be in front of, walked around the mosque and, sure enough, there was Thrift Books, in it's pink tile building.
I entered and immediately discovered that the shop was as small as had been described. No more than about 12 feet by 15. In addition to the cram packed bookshelves there was a small counter and many cardboard boxes, also filled with books. There were no other customers. Two staff appeared to be on duty: a man behind the counter, writing in a paper ledger, and a small woman, possibly the Victoria Pinto described in the article. They appeared to be sorting and shelving books. Occasionally the woman would tell the man that a book was fiction or non-fiction.
Fiction or non-fiction seemed to be the only sorting criteria. As I started to look through the stacks I could not immediately see another system in place. The books were certainly not sorted alphabetically. As I danced around cardboard boxes and leaned down or craned up, looking shelf by shelf, a bit of rhyme and reason began to take shape. The travel books were filed along the back wall. Where there were several books by one author, those had been placed together. Most of the books were in English. There were German language books shoved onto the top shelves. I didn't see any other languages. I was surprised not to see any Arabic books. But they could have been hidden. The cardboard boxes obscured many of the bottom shelves. I might have tried moving the boxes but there was nowhere to
move them that wasn't already occupied by another box!
Many of the boxes were sealed, so I couldn't dig through them. That's part of the fun of a used book store is digging for buried treasure! The lack of a system other than fiction or non-fiction certainly required that I look at each shelf carefully. The store was so small that if one of us needed to be in one aisle, everybody else had to move to another corner of the shop.
I bought five books, spending about $20, more for the purpose of supporting the store than because I was dying to read any of what I purchased. Of course I'll go back. I hope that all of those boxes were just a new shipment or something, and that I'll be able to see the rest of the stacks that were hidden behind the boxes next time.
After a brief search to find my car again in the labyrinthine back streets I started blasting the air conditioning and headed across Saadiyat toward Yas Island and the Ace Hardware there. Yes, that's right, my next destination, Book & Bean, was inside a hardware store. I don't know why. Things don't always make sense here.
At first glance, Book & Bean looked like it sold new books, but I didn't see any while I was there. There was a very nice looking cafe, serving the bean
of Book & Bean, but it was closed for Ramadan. The books here were organized in a more usual way. I bought two and received a stamp card. Nine books or coffee purchases and I get a free coffee.
So, all in all it was a profitable Saturday afternoon. My new acquisitions are scattered on the coffee table, mostly to hide the accumulated dust. I have one or two other books I have to finish before I can grab one of these. Also, three of the books are parts of series, which means I'll have to hunt down the rest of those!