There is no sign, no direction, nor a main entrance. Its intention is to be hidden and discovered.
Better Books is tucked away from the bustling streets of Salmiya, accessed through an obscure entry followed by descending stairs. It reminded me of a hole-in-the-wall.
The down-to-earth second-hand bookshop has been around for 10 years, but this is my first time visiting it. Who knows, there might be a dusty old treasure that’s been sitting on that shelf since 2009, waiting to be given a second chance.
Books can be a nice source of solace. In a small second-hand bookshop like BetterBooks, there are quite a lot of old finds, collectibles and out-of-print editions. At the time I was there, they had just received a box of Tintin books for the first time, which is great because I’ve wanted to read certain editions but they get sold out quickly and become harder to find. There’s also a whole stack of Archie comics as well, an entire shelf in fact. I spent quite a bit of time rifting through their inventory, searching in the nooks and crannies. I had this nice feeling that I would find something nostalgic perhaps.
The bookshop not only serves as a place for ‘homeless books’ but also as a library resembling a cozy living room, where you can spend time lounging and simply being engrossed in the words resting in your lap.
I chatted with the Indian caretaker, Jacob, who was there at the time, and got some insight into the bookstore. He mentioned that the charm of the shop was to keep it low-key and have people just wander in. It’s less of a book “shop”, and more of a community for bibliophiles. Moreover, it’s a way to recycle books by donating unwanted ones. In exchange, if you have a purchased volume you are finished with and want to return, you can also receive half of the price back and this is how the cycle continues. The whole experience might seem like a treasure hunt, as there is only one copy of a book.