There are a number of places to purchase books in English and other languages while in Shanghai. Many larger international hotels have small bookstores in their lobbies but there are also a few independent bookstores with decent selections. Prices can be high or low, there seems to be no reason to the pricing. You can find a classic paperback for under 30RMB and then turn around to pay over 200RMB for a kids' book about Disney Princesses.
Amazon.com operates in China with a Chinese website (amazon.cn) that does have an English tab. If you can figure out how to input your address, many foreign language books can be purchased through the Chinese website and can take under 24 hours to deliver, depending on the book. This is a good option if you want something specific. You can pay with foreign credit cards as well as COD in some cases.
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The Mix Place
The Mix Place is part of a commercial development at the bottom of Hengshan Road near the throbbing Xujiahui neighborhood. A last respite before leaving the leafy confines of the former French Concession, this small book & coffee shop has taken pains to create a comfortable, artistic space in which to while away hours caffeinating over books and magazines.
Go for the space, not for a specific book. When I visited, there were more young ladies inside taking selfies than perusing books. There’s a small English language section with mostly popular novels in paperback. Upstairs there’s a wide and interesting array of art and coffee-table books. I picked up an interesting tome covering the history of English textile design, something I’d not seen before in any other bookstore in Shanghai.
Address: 880 Hengshan Road, near Tianping Road | 衡山路880号, 近天平路
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Shanghai Foreign Language Bookstore
We'll start with the biggest and oldest. Shanghai's aptly named Shanghai Foreign Language Bookstore is a large 4-floor shop along Fuzhou Road, the old book and stationary quarter. It's worth a wander around the area even if you're not in the market for books.
Last time I was there, things were moving around a bit but on the ground floor you'll find a large selection of books on China, books on Asia, travel books, language learning books as well as paperback fiction including a number of classics. There is also a large selection of cookbooks.
The second and third floors are devoted to Chinese books but the fourth floor has an enormous kids' section with many books and series for young and older readers. There are also small sections of books and magazines in Japanese, German and French.
Address: 390 Fuzhou Road, near Fujian Zhong Road | 福州路390号近福建中路
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Garden Books is an odd little bookstore but it has been around for a number of years and looks like it's staying.
On the first floor, you'll find books on Chinese interest as well as local interest, like Shanghai and China photo books. You can also find a small section of Chinese language learning books. Nearby, there's a small section of new and popular fiction and non-fiction as well as a large section of design and gardening books. The first-floor book section shares space with a small cafe serving Italian snacks, coffees, and gelato.
Head upstairs to find a small kids' space where you can park your children for a while to look at picture books. There's not a huge collection but a number of Chinese children's books in translation as well as popular series like Diary of a Wimpy Kid. There's also a very small section of German books as well as another section on Chinese culture.
It's great for everyone on a rainy day.
Address: 325 Changle Road, near Shaanxi South Road | 长乐路325号, 近陕西南路
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Old China Hand Reading Room
More of a library with a cafe, this cozy space on Shaoxing Road in the heart of the Former French Concession is lovely if it's books on China and Shanghai you're after.
The cafe was established by two Art Deco historians whose books are on sale alongside other great titles.
Address: 27 Shaoxing Road, near Shaanxi South Road | 绍兴路27号, 近陕西南路