Most online guides to Manila and Baguio's thrift bookstores show you where to find the store location but only gloss over what kind of books you can pick up or hoard if you are adding stuff to your personal library. We show you the unexpected finds we brought home from our book shopping shark hunt at Manila and Baguio's most popular book haunts.
National Bookstore, Cut-Price Book Sale Promo ( March and August )
As far back as the 80s until today, National Book Store has a yearly book discount promo going every August and sometimes during March or April, where they have as much as 50 percent off the cover price of their offerings. Here are some of the amazing books we've grabbed off their shelves. NBS Robinsons and Cubao Main branch also have tables set aside with ex-library books from the U.S. selling for as low as P50 for hardback books from a year before.
U.S. libraries tend to sell off their previous inventory to make way for new books and NBS does buy some of the best stuff as we've bought a fair among of ex-library hardback books from them. Take a look below at some of the good stuff you can buy during their book sale promo period.
The Gene Wolfe omnibus book used to sell for P600 or so and was halved at around P300 or less when we got it. While the Perdido Street Station paperback was a find at the Cubao branch's second hand book stash sometime in 2004 or so. Sasha Grey's first novel sold out after if came out here and even if you only get a 10 percent discount on relatively new releases during the NBS sale, it is still worth every penny saved.
If you like reading Filipino genre authors (sci-fi and horror) writing in English, NBS also has good stuff that you can grab during their promo months. The Kumag book is written in Filipino and is an absurdist bizarro take on old tales from indigenous tribal oral tradition put together as fiction by the author.
Books from Underground Manila
Rather difficult to find if you don't know your way around downtown Manila, this thrift book shop in Manila City Hall underpass alongside Moslem traders of mobile phone accessories and garments is worth all the trouble hunting down. The best part of shopping for books at this shop is that the owner has a very well curated list of books on his Facebook shop page. All you need to do is hunt them down there so that you won't have to suffocate at the very crowded shop location.
Once you pick your books, you can message the shop owner to ready them for you and pick them up at your own convenience. Some of the books here are so hard to find that when you do see them hanging around in the album folder for any genre (sci-fi, horror, erotica, short story anthologies) you should make every effort to reserve them and immediately pick them up at Manila or else someone else gets to buy the book. As you can see from the list below, the book grabs are really special, and kudos to the shop owner, he does know his stuff. The sci-fi and genre section are particularly interesting, no matter how beat up the books may look and sometimes priced high for their condition. This shop is also known as a goldmine for a certain kind of Pinoy literary reader, people who like classics or South American philosopher books. Check out the books we got below over the course of a year, and check out their Facebook page too just to see if they have anything you might like.
Chapters and Pages, Trinoma branch
This was a surprise find while we were waiting for the Valerian movie showing time late in the afternoon. Located just off the cinema food shop, the Chapters and Pages thrift book kiosk at Trinoma has a small section where you can buy really good books for just Php 6 pesos ONLY. You got that right, six pesos, if we have to spell it out and make sure it's not a typo. Look at all the paperbacks in the picture below, we got a Clifford Simak and Richard Kadrey classic for Php 12 pesos only.
Of course, it helps to loot everything you can see for around P60 pesos. You can find John D. MacDonald crime novels, sci-fi adventure novels, adult westerns, and war or spy novels. The Age of Atomic tradepaperback novel we found at the second floor shop in the same mall (Chapters and Pages has two book kiosks there) and it was an amazing find, they have most of the more popular authors in the second floor shop--Terry Brooks, Charlaine Harris, and whoever you may like. Just drop by Trinoma and for just P200 you can bring home a ton of books.
Books for Less
This book store is usually more stocked with inspirational books and rarely can you find good genre books but after patiently browsing their shop on occasion, we were able to grab some good finds for both sci-fi and horror.
The genre books you can get are very affordable compared to most other thrift book stores, even hardback books cost only P80 if you're lucky to chance upon Spectrum genre collections. The novels below are just some of the careful picks we discovered over several months of checking the shop and it is worth the time to drop by and eye the shelves for any author or title you might recognize being out of place ( a sure sign you got a good buy ) aka still on display waiting for you.
Fully Booked, Trinoma
Fully Booked in any mall is usually the priciest book store over every other shop in that place, but every once in a while, they unload their inventory of old stock from a year or several years before and you can buy some very good books there. We're still kicking ourselves for not picking up Sandman Slim series by Richard Kadrey when they were on sale, and Athena Villaverde's bizarro book, The Clockwork Girl, a modern YA classic. Fully Booked is that shop where you don't leave a book behind when it's on sale and you can buy it already because chances are, you won't see that book again when you come back. The hardback books below were available for between P100 to P150. Can you understand now why we hate ourselves for not buying all the Sandman Slim books when they were there to be had for that price?
BookSale, SM North and WalterMart Munoz
The motherlode of all thrift bookstores, this is another shop where you don't leave behind what you can buy outright or else you won't ever find it again for a blue moon's passing. We hoard most of our finds from BookSale because they have the incredibly beautiful pricing strategy of book condition over author or title. So you get the best authors for really cheap. They price their hardbacks at P80 at the time of this writing and have their paperbacks priced higher which is great because most buyers prefer paperbacks, and we get the good stuff for cheaper.
They still carry an awesome sci-fi stash as well as amazing short story collections if you are an intense browser who would willingly sit down for an hour or so just checking over each title hiding in their bind. If you are a fan of Dungeons & Dragons, they sell user gudes and fluff books for as low as P150 for the obsolete editions 4.0 and older, which is awesome for writer types looking for reference books for structured worldbuilding.
BookSale has their Erotica stash too and you can get cult favorites like Zane or Sylvia Plath as well as other supernatural romance authors. Zane is a particular must have for local authors who want to read and write romance from a female writer's voice that is as audacious and feminist as it is a very good reference for an American writing voice (register) for popular erotica writing.
More BookSale good stuff include space opera by popular British writers, the guys who do the cutting edge concepts and classic pulp like Flashman, a turn of the century James Bond paramour, also plenty of war novel, action adventure books.
Facebook Book Sellers
There are book collectors in Manila who are also enterprising booksellers and some sell off books they don't need or have read already--giving all of us a chance to get books we'd otherwise have a hard time finding. Joseph Nacino is a published genre author and editor who collects a lot of books and regularly sheds off books from his collection that he has read and is willing to part with. Most of these books are still in mint condition so its like buying a new book at thrift store prices. There are other book collectors and sellers who make a personal sideline out of selling stuff they don't read anymore. Check out the list below to see what kind of stuff you can grab from online booksellers on Facebook.
We got John Green in mint condition from a high school kid selling off an extra copy she had, while the Borges fiction book was from a woman cutting down her clutter of books, the Jack Vance collection was an amazing find hiding in a stash of books for sale by another Facebook solo seller with plenty or YA titles on her sell list. So you can find all sorts of cheap books in mint or good condition from online book seller groups.
Book Ends Baguio
If you want first dibs on cheap genre books and are willing to spend Php 900 or so for bus fare up north to Baguio city, Book Ends is the place to be, Maricar, the owner of the bookshop literally has books flying out of her store because fans of her store are rabid book collectors from up north and from Manila too.
Although the popular books that sell here are children's and educational books as well as recent modern bestsellers and classics, the hidden secret for genre book lovers is the sci-fi and fantasy book shelves in this Baguio books shop--which is kept well stocked with both hardback and paperback copies. What you always find sold out in Manila thrift book shops, you can find at Book Ends Baguio, often in better condition. The prices are fair considering that you won;t find some of the titles there in Manila and at P100 to P250, they are still worth picking up. You won't find the books we are showing below in any local Manila thrift book store any time soon so if you find stuff like that in Baguio, by all means, get them and support Maricar's crusade to have a bookshop become a melting pot gathering place for book lovers from everywhere.