The Old and the New: Book Shops in Islamabad

For an enthusiastic reader, the most important thing to know is the location of the best book stores. When you move, make sure you find all the best shops in the area – if their aren’t any, don’t move! Sometimes you don’t have the option (alas, no libraries here T_T )….Ahem – anyway, as far as book shops go, Islamabad is not the worst place. We have many in Jinnah Super, Super-Market etc… but the best is still the best. I have a few places I haunt regularly. The shop owners know me and always show me the latest books.

Book stores that sell new books are good for gifts and if you want to make a collection of books from the same edition, but in my opinion, old book are the best. They have a homey feel and are soft and old and familiar. You never know what you’ll find in an old book shop. The best in Islamabad are:

The “Old Book Shop” which is located at the back entrance of Jinnah Super. It’s not in plain view, you have to hunt it down, but trust me, it’s worth it. The prices are good and they have a lot of the classics. You will of course have to search through the piles of books for the one that you want, or you can just rifle through for an inspiration (and aren’t great books discovered that way?). I like this book shop because it’s prices are moderate and affordable for anyone.

Old Book Shop located at the back of Jinnah Super

Another great book shop is the “Old Books Collection” right in the front of Jinnah Super. You just turn in to Jinnah Super from the main entrance and there it is on the left!

The Old Books Collection on the left hand entrance of Jinnah Super

Inside the Old Books Collection: Criticism books

This book shop is a bit more expensive, but the books are in better condition and they do have more variety. It was here that I found most of the criticism books for my masters course in English Literature. They have a whole collection of very expensive Cambridge Companions from Aristotle to Eliot. I was tempted to buy the whole lot but my purse forbade me. The assistants at this shop are extremely helpful and if you tell them to look for a book, they hunt it down or order it for you!

Old books in the “Old Books Collection”

Finally, the last old book shop that I have discovered is in Super Market – also known as F-6 Markaz – the “Old Book Corner”. This shop doesn’t have a lot of variety in fiction books, but it has plenty of study books for A-level and O-level courses.

Old Book Corner in Super Market

Now, if you’re the type that hates second hand books, “Saeed Book Bank” is the place you’re looking for. New and pristine books in tons of book shelves all shiny and ready to be bought. I admit, a new book does have an appeal, and the best in Islamabad are available here.

Saeed Book Bank located in Jinnah Super

Look below for the locations of the bookstores in Islamabad. I’ve labelled them all on the map and I will update it whenever I discover another great store!

Map of Jinnah Super. I have marked the location of the book stores

Unfortunately, Pakistan doesn’t get the latest books. No matter how much reading has expanded over the past ten years, readers are still scarce here and the market is not booming for books. This causes unavoidable delays and book shop owners don’t tend to spend so much money on new books. Plus, only the well-off go for new books because the average man would not be able to afford a new, recently published book at its normal price. 

Book Shopping Mania

I went to an old bookshop the other day and my eye was caught by a whole shelf full of Agatha Christie…let’s be honest, I was looking for something to buy and I found it! I couldn’t decide which of her novels to pick (I wanted to take them ALL), but I chose four – after about debating half an hour with myself. Expect reviews on them soon. They are:

The Sittaford Mystery: As I’ve said before, I’ve read all of Christie’s mystery novels, but some I remember better than others. This particular novel is a complete blank…except I know who the murderer is. It is a new way to read a book for me. I never, and I mean never enjoy knowing before hand the outcome of a novel, but in this case I can remember nothing else; no motive, no method – nothing. It’s just that I know who the murderer is so there is no ‘shocking discovery’ in store for me.

The Pale Horse: It may seem odd to you the disjointed things I remember about these novels, but in The Pale Horse, all I can remember is that it is about a murder-for-hire ring. Nothing else. So it is sort of a first time read for me.

Poirot’s Early Cases: A collection of short stories, not only concerning Poirot’s early cases as the title suggests, but cases from various points in his life.

Death Comes as the End: A favorite Christie of mine. This novel is set in Ancient Egypt. I love everything about this book from the characters to the style of writing.

Then I picked up some other books as well. First time reads:

The Unknown Ajax by Georgette Heyer: Another Heyer read is something I find irresistible. I’m going through her novels slowly because when you’re all out you’re all out! Re-reading is fun of course, but nothing compared to opening a book for the first time.

The Turn of the Screw by Henry James: Just picked up this book because I was in the mood for mystery after Agatha Christie and the back of the cover says ‘The Turn of the Screw is the classic ghost story for which Henry James is best remembered.’
The Aspern Papers by Henry James: The Henry James’ book came as two books in one – something I realized only when I had come home from the book shop. The back cover states that it is ‘a tale of Americans in Europe’. I’m already interested.