Recently I flew to Dhaka, Bangladesh and had a 26-hour layover there. Most crew when flying to Dhaka told me that they just remain at the hotel, not going out as it is considered dangerous for ladies to go outside unaccompanied. But I was curious about this hustling city that hosts a lot of ready-made garment factories for fashion brands from all over the world.
I was googling about places to go in Dhaka. There are several local tourist attractions that look interesting, but unfortunately none of the crew wanted to go out with me. Since I’m going out by myself, there are only two places that I’d likely go to; either a cinema or a bookstore. Unfortunately, I was there on Tuesday and every Tuesday a lot of places in Dhaka are closed.
“Government decision, Madam,” said an uber driver named Saiful Islam when I asked him why Jamuna Future Park, the biggest mall in Bangladesh, was closed. He also said that not only the malls that were closed, but a lot of other tourism attractions, too. His English was so limited that he had to explain the rest in his native language, which of course I didn’t understand.
I remembered that before the flight I was browsing about local bookstores in the city, so I opened my browsing history and there I found The Bookworm.
From the reviews on its Facebook page, I understood that this is where the avid readers in Dhaka come to browse and buy English books. The location is nearby the old airport in Tejgaon, but since this was my first time in Dhaka, I decided that it would be wise to book for an uber ride. I mean, how bad could we get lost with a direction from the Google Maps installed in the uber driver’s mobile phone?
It was a long ride, apparently I picked the wrong time to go out. It was 12.30 pm local time so of course everyone was on the road. Buses, cars, and tuk-tuks were struggling to move forward. Google Maps stopped working when we were less than half the way to go there. The driver was not familiar with the road to the old airport, so he had to stop then asked people the right direction three times. But we finally made it to the bookshop!
Before sending the driver away, I asked the bookstore staff whether or not they could help me ordering a taxi for me to go back to the hotel. They said yes, so I felt relieved as I didn’t have any internet connection or phone call balance to order a taxi.
The bookshop was small with high ceilings. The bookshelves were made of woods and the displays were facing each other as the space was so small. Security cameras were installed in the corners of the ceilings. There were various English books covering topics like business, management, self-development, travel, children’s books, young adult stories, to general fiction and non-fiction books. I could see famous writers like Paulo Coelho, Agatha Christie, and J.K.Rowling on the shelves.
Several travel books, most of them from Lonely Planet series, were about traveling in the Asian countries. What I didn’t expect to find here was Neil Gaiman’s illustrated books. I wouldn’t wonder if I found them in big bookstores like Waterstones or Barnes & Noble, but here in a small bookshop in Dhaka? Who would have thought that I could find them here? That was just impressive!
“You like Neil Gaiman? This is another book by him,” the bookshop manager showed me “The Graveyard Book” by that author.
I observed the cover and its synopsys. Hmm, interesting. But the books that I have chosen were much more interesting and I think I’m done for bookshopping today. I took two illustrated books by Neil Gaiman to the cashier desk, “Odd and The Frost Giants” and “The Sleeper and The Spindle”. Both books were originally worth BDT 2,098 but the manager gave me a discount so I only paid BDT 2,000.
Not only giving me a discount, they also gave me a cup of coffee and a biscuit. That was a very nice gesture from them. The manager’s name is Badal Mahamud and there was another staff named Tanvir Jubayer. The bookshop has been selling imported books for more than 20 years, said Mahamud and students or expats living in Dhaka often come here to buy the books. They also order or request for books that are not available in store. Most books were purchased from India, where the prices are relatively cheaper than anywhere else. I agree with this of course, because I often go for book-shopping in India.
In my opinion, this lovely small bookshop could use a better display or change the interior to make the books appear more interesting so that readers could have a better look before they decide whether or not to buy them. Lighting and music might help to create the mood as well, so visitors won’t even notice that the space is small.
Overall, it was a nice visit to The Bookworm and the staff were very helpful. They allowed me to take pictures for this review and also they helped me waiting for another uber car to pick me up and drive me back to the hotel. The Bookworm might not be big in size, but it surely knows how to welcome a book lover who wants to find a book or two to bring back home. Below is the video that summed up my visit to The Bookworm.
That’s my review of The Bookworm, a local bookshop in Dhaka, Bangladesh where one can find English books. Thank you for the kind hospitality. It was a pleasure to visit you 🙂