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For Hardcore Book Lovers Only: A Book Lover’s Love Story & A List of My Favorite Secondhand Bookstores

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When I was four, my mom lost patience trying to teach me how to read.

But already fascinated with the written word at such a young age, my mom tells me that I ended up teaching myself how to read: I paid attention when she’d read me my bedtime story, and when I wearied of tea sets and teddy bears, I’d pick up a book and marvel at the strange symbols on the page, the feel of the paper, and the smell of the ink. Soon, I graduated to those read-along books that came with an audio tape and in elementary school, 200-page, unillustrated books were standard fare for me.

When I’m zealous about something in particular, I assume everyone else is too so imagine my shock when it was proven otherwise. In high school, after being assigned a 50-page reading assignment of Les Miserables, a classmate seated behind me muttered, “Ugh, I hate to read!” My jaw dropped open to form a perfect “O,” mimicking the shape of my eyes. Catching my expression, said classmate shrugged and flippantly said, “It’s boring.” I felt like I’d just been insulted.

As an adult, bookstores are my toy stores. In the same way that other women buy bags and shoes, I buy books. When evaluating the cost of something, cookbooks are my currency. Recently, an establishment wanted to hire me for a project of theirs but I balked when they mentioned the (practically nonexistent) fee. “Please! That’s not even enough for one cookbook!” I wanted to tell them.

Multi-awarded writer and bibliophile Butch Dalisay once wrote that “A book is only as good as its reader. An interesting, intelligent book comes alive only in the hands of an interested, intelligent reader … but it’s the reader’s imagination that ultimately shapes and defines the outcome. Reading is a skill as much to be developed and recognized as writing.”



In the various talks I’ve given on food writing, I always stress that a writer must love to read. Period. The lessons imparted to a reader are tremendous, and a book’s price – unlike other material things – doesn’t reflect its value. Sometimes a P120 book proves more valuable than one twice that price.

Booklovers are a picky lot: some want only brand new books, some demand hardbacks only; some cover their books in plastic wrap, a practice others find egregious; I’ve also encountered bibliophiles who refuse to crack the spines of their books, something I find rather eccentric since it renders the point, which is reading, pointless.

inside bs
photo taken with my Nokia 6700 Classic

As for me, I’m not that picky. I love hardbacks and paperbacks equally, brand new or secondhand. I do subscribe, however, to that practice of covering my books in plastic wrap, especially my cookbooks because I take them with me to the kitchen, where all sort of spills and stains happen.

I share with you now a list that I never thought I’d share. After all, everyone has secrets, even when it comes to food. Aside from reading books, I get an equal if not loftier high from buying books, mostly cookbooks, food literature, and English usage books. I also have a soft spot for true crime books, especially those of Ann Rule. (Didn’t know that about me, did you?)

my latest haul

I know where all the important (at least to me) bookstores are in Manila as well as which bookstores to target for my specific interests. Conversely, I also know which branches to avoid. Fully Booked is my utopia, especially the Bonifacio High Street and Greenhills Promenade branches. Powerbooks Live! at Greenbelt 3 and the National Bookstore in Glorietta 3 are the best stocked among the National Bookstore chain, and I go to NBS Bestsellers at Galleria for hard-to-find/won’t-find-this-anywhere-else books.

But ah, I have a special place in my heart for used bookstores, the biggest spot of which is reserved for BookSale. A secondhand bookstore targeted to “bring reading closer to everyone,” I’ve nabbed some of my best-loved books from here. (See cover photo above). One of my biggest coups was nailing a copy of Jeffrey Alford’s and Naomi Duguid’s book, “Home Baking,” for only P465 (selling at Fully Booked for P1,800++). Sweet!

If your book interests are similar to mine, here’s a list of my favorite secondhand bookstore branches in Manila:

photo taken with my Nokia 6700 Classic

Of course I’ll start with this one. They have enough branches scattered all over the country to fulfill everyone’s inner bookworm but there are some I go to more than others. The BookSale branches at Makati Cinema Square and Mall of Asia (MOA) are the biggest and best stocked. The MOA store is particularly beautiful, neatly-arranged books in a white, cool atmosphere. The Cubao branches, Farmer’s Market and Shopwise, carry titles I don’t find anywhere else and the books are in pristine condition. These branches are very small though, so I wear pants and comfortable shoes to facilitate bending, neck-craning, and stretching. Special mention goes to the BookSale branches at Greenhills (there are two). The one in Shoppesville especially, is where I was able to find a used copy of “American Classics” by the Editors of Cook’s Illustrated.

I miss the branch along Pearl Drive fronting the University of Asia and the Pacific (UA&P). It had a huge cookbook section. Fortunately, the Valero Street branch suffices. Books for Less prices its books much higher than Booksale but that’s because the books are arranged in an orderly fashion, there are stools to squat on while peering into the lowest shelves, and there are proper chairs and tables to sit at while deliberating which books to buy. If you still don’t have a copy of the Silver Palate series by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins, then this is the place to go to. When I’m in the area, the Books For Less branch on A. Roces near Morato in QC makes me happy as does the branch in SM Hypermart in Ortigas.

some of my best Books For Less buys

I just love a store whose name gets straight to the point. I believe this is owned by the National Bookstore group although the attendant at the Market! Market! Branch is loathe to tell me that. I have a sneaking suspicion that the cast-off books from the National Bookstore on the first floor are kicked up to the 3rd floor to be sold. I’ve found many hardbound books here, usually mysteries and chick lit stuff. They also have the widest range of travel books from all the heavyweights like Frommer’s to Lonely Planet et al. Their cookbook selection however, makes me wince. In the two years that I’ve been frequenting Buy The Book, they’ve only added to this category once. Ouch. From the three or so branches of this store in Manila, choose the one you like and stick with it. Once you’ve been to one, you’ve been to all.

photo taken with my Nokia 6700 Classic

This is the mother of all National Bookstores, the biggest, and aside from the satellite branch in Crossings Department Store along Scout Borromeo in Q.C., is the only one that has floors dedicated to bargain and used books. As you can see from the photo below, the discounted books are haplessly thrown into piles while others are scattered willy-nilly on tables at the far corner of each floor. The fourth floor, where textbooks are located, is bargain central – the amount of books here will astound you and, if you’ve been browsing for a while, will make you fall to your knees in mercy. There are almost too many books here (mostly) arranged by category. Privacy is a given since the shelves are so high and there is a low number of people who will venture this far. Save for some errant couples who attempt to sneak stolen kisses between the shelves, the presence of roving security guards immediately squashes such lascivious efforts.

the books inside NBS Superstore; photo taken with my Nokia 6700 Classic
my preferred light reading: culinary mysteries

As far as I know, C&P only has one branch, and that’s at Market! Market! on the first floor of the Fashion Market. It’s a small place, not too many books either but the books they do have are those I don’t find anywhere else. I became the proud owner here of David Rosengarten’s “It’s All American Food” and I’ve come across titles by Jamie Oliver and David Lebovitz. Chapters and Pages also has scheduled exhibits at the lobby of Glorietta 3 (the entrance facing Landmark Supermarket) as well as the lobby of Park Square facing True Value.


Related Posts and Relevant Links:
Books By My Bedside
Deliberating The Dictionary
Books For Less
National Bookstore Superstore

21 Responses to “For Hardcore Book Lovers Only: A Book Lover’s Love Story & A List of My Favorite Secondhand Bookstores”

  • Hi Lori! I love books, too. While yours is cooking, mine is finance. I once commented to my husband that there are a proliferation of finance books nowadays and is that because people are more interested in it? He said, “nakikita mo lang yan ngayon kasi interesado ka na… matagal na yang mga yan…” I am not sure if he’s right. :) Anyway, one of my favorite haunts is the booksale inside the ABS-CBN compound. While browsing, I found 4 books that I liked, and not one was more than P200. And I agree with you, writers should be readers. The dose is at least 2 hours per day. I try (try is the operative word). Nice reading you, as always.

    OMG, is there a Booksale in ABS- CBN?! I go there regularly since I’m a Foodie columnist. How can I not have known??? Thanks to you, now I do!



  • Love this bookish post Ms. Lori!


    Thanks, Blue! You’re one of the most passionate bibliophiles I know!



  • Hi Lori!

    I’m also go gaga over books but I’m more into fiction.

    Anyway, I’ve noticed that there’s a lot of cookbooks among the book sales (Powerbooks and National) lately. In fact, in less than a month I’ve purchased 3, from Giada di Laurentis, Kathie Brown and one with a title You Can Cook Absolutely Anything, each less than 200 bucks. The Giada is practically a steal for 49 (hardbound and brand bew)!

    You might also want to try out POB (Previously Owned Books) at the 2nd floor of National Bookstore in Quezon Ave.

    Just thought you’d like to know.

    Happy book hunting!


  • I’m an avid reader of your blog because it helps me get around the best places to eat here in the Philippines. But I’ve got to give you a load of thanks for sharing these must-go bookstores!


  • Hey Lori! I’m with you on the books…love love love to read! When I was a kid I used to make my helpers tell my cousin/best friend/neighbor that I wasn’t home when I couldn’t tear myself from my books…the next day I would get a very accusing “were you reading??” Haha!

    Great list and thanks so much for sharing it! I actually love second hand books too because I like thinking that someone has loved it before me :) I especially like it when the book has notes or a dedication…heehee :)

    Were you able to check out the Fully Booked 80% off table at the Fort?

    Of course, Joey! I would never miss a book sale. :p



  • I love this post, now I want to check out the Book Sale at MOA!!!
    Have you been to the Powerbooks Outlet Store in Kapitolyo? They’re always on sale and have a pretty good selection of cookbooks and chick lit books the last time I checked…

    Sadly, they converted that Kapitolyo store into their office. The public isn’t allowed in anymore.



  • Long time follower here de-lurking for the first time.

    Ye gads! I love cozy mystery books, especially those with theme about food. I recommend the following authors and their series:

    1) Laura Childs – The Tea Shop, Scrapbooking, and Cackleberry Club Mysteries (First one’s has a lot of info about tea, from recipes to tea parties. Second is about the art of scrapbooking, but has recipes for it is set in food-loving New Orleans. Third is about 3 women who runs a cafe that specializes in egg(!) dishes)
    2) Joanne Fluke – Hannah Swensen Mysteries (She’s a cookie baker with an unfortunate luck of finding her baked goods right near corpses. Includes mostly cookie recipes)
    3) Cleo Coyle (aka Alice Kimberly) – Coffeehouse Mysteries (Clare Cosi runs a historic coffeehouse in New York where she makes the perfect cappuccino while trying to solve a murder. More coffee recipes and info to keep one awake all day and all night)

    Hi K,
    We have a lot in common! I love Cleo Coyle’s Coffeehouse Mysteries too. Don’t forget Diane Mott Davidson as well.



  • I really love your site Lori! I’ll try to read books now :) Keep up the good work!


  • Hi Lori!
    I’m soo into culinary mysteries right now. Where did you find your books?


  • Thanks for this post Lori. Now I know where to go to stock up on books whenever I’m in Manila, which isn’t often, so this list is a godsend! I love secondhand bookstores. Hate the mess, but adore the musty smell of well-loved books. If you ever visit HK, perhaps with Franco, apart from food tripping I can bring you to some secondhand bookstores.

    a Kindle, no matter how high-tech or environment-friendly, just doesn’t give the same pleasure as thumbing through pages and hearing the crisp crackle, or caressing well-worn spines, or feeling the heft of a thick bound volume. My books are my babies and it’s so nice to read about someone who is as passionate about them as I am.:)


  • hi lori,
    yes, i looove books, too, so i was really happy when booksale opened a branch here in davao last year. we have two NBS branches here, too, but i still go and check out booksale and nbs stores, and other bookstores whenever i’m in manila. my books ahve taken over the space reserved for my husband’s books. and yes, i have 3 to 6 books by my bed at any given time – i read them simultaneously – i mean, one chapter here, and another chapter there…somehow, it’s better than sticking with just one book from start to finish.

    love your posts, lori! when are you coming to davao? durian cheesecake, durian sans rival and other things durian await you.


  • I love, love, love this post. Bibliomaniacs unite! :-D


  • Thanks for the post, Lori! What a list! I go to Booksale a lot, especially for their children’s books. I hope I can check out the other stores you mentioned.

    Scholastic occasionally holds warehouse sales in Pasig. They have good deals there too. It’s not as comfortable as shopping in a mall, but to booklovers, that’s okay, right?


  • Books for Less – Roces, and the POB section of NBS Cubao were my favorite haunts until Pick-a-Book at ABS CBN THe Loop, opened! Hehe. I’ve just promised to stay away from acquiring more books though. My to-be-read pile is already too high!


  • Buy The Book is owned by National Bookstore. Their branch in Waltermart Makati never had qualms about admitting that fact.
    When they first opened, they had an incredible collection of cookbooks. I was able to buy about 13 of them. they used to have an offer that after buying 4 books you could get one free. You can make the most expensive one the freebee. I was able to buy the Foie Gras book at 600 pesos when it was 3000 pesos is Fully Booked. Their selection has definitely seen better days.


  • hey! it’s good to hear somebody raving about booksale. This is my favorite used books bookstore too! I’ve purchased A LOT from this store.

    I just love a good bargain


  • Chapter and Pages is one of my favorites- I’ve spotted two Pierre Herme books there, and bought my favorite baking book ever, Tartine, for a steal. Oh, and two Jamie Oliver books, and a Nigella Lawson one. Among the publishers they seem to stock Chronicle (of San Francisco) quite a bit.
    The value of booksale to me is primarily in their magazines, but I’ve had great finds there- The French Laundry Cookbook, Nick Malgieri’s books, Martha Stewart, Joy of Cooking.
    Books for Less hasn’t yielded any particularly interesting finds, unfortunately, and the interesting used cookbooks at National Bookstore in Sct. Borromeo have been depleted. They were primarily British-published books (think Gary Rhodes and Ainsley Harriott, meh), but occasionally an older book from their main stock will make it there (like the excellent Oxford Companion to Food). National Bookstore’s main stock is great because they source books also from the UK, Singapore (Periplus), and Australia, some of which take a long time to get to Fully Booked. Powerbooks’ selection for some reason has stagnated, but they always have a good selection of locally-produced cookbooks.


  • I found out about your blog from serious eats, but I have to reply to this article.

    I am a booklover from childhood and only recently found out we are many. I started with used books from MSM Surplus in Cubao (using part of my weekly allowance), and just rooting out good buys. When I discovered Book Sale, I became a regular visitor. I like fantasy and sci-fi, and looking for specific titles to complete a series is a challenging work for me.

    One good BookSale branch you might want to go to is the Philcoa branch near UP Diliman (beside McDonald’s). I got a sourcebook for Advanced Dungeons and Dragons (early 80’s publishing) there for 90 pesos!


  • I feel the same way when hearing the price of things, especially clothes. :D “WHAT??? I could buy 3 books with that! Or 5 even, depending on the book. :D”


  • Lori,

    Lurve DCC!
    You should publish your own book….(: just my 2 cents…

    ur # 1 reader from OC (:


  • Hi! I came across this post while looking for a list of branches of Buy-The-Book. I hope you can help enlighten me with that.

    I’ve been in love with books since I was a kid. I always go to Book Sale ever since I discovered it. I usually go to Rob Metro East branch because it’s the nearest to my place but there was a time I went to Farmers Cubao branch and bought a dozen of books home ? My major problem is trying to complete a series :3

    I should go back to book buying. I’ve read all of those books already. Care to link blogs too? :)


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