The Bookworm (bookstore)

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The Bookworm is a China-based literary organization with three bookstores by the same name in Beijing, Chengdu and Suzhou. As of November 2019 all locations have closed. In addition to selling books, The Bookworm is a restaurant, cafe, event space and library with more than 50,000 English and Chinese titles.[1] Lonely Planet called it one of the “world’s greatest bookshops.”[2]

Every March since 2007, The Bookworm has organized the Bookworm Literary Festival, billed as "a celebration of literature and ideas" featuring international and Chinese authors. It is one of the largest bilingual cultural festivals in China.[3]

The Bookworm also manages the China Bookworm Press, launched in 2015, a publishing imprint that seeks to publish contemporary Chinese fiction and non-fiction in translation,[4] and MaLa, an English-language literary journal that is “from and about China” and accepts short fiction, poetry, non-fiction, reviews and photography.[5]


The Bookworm was set up in a Beijing courtyard in the Sanlitun area in 2002 by Alexandra Pearson in the venue that is now occupied by The Tree.[6] This was a small lending library with a basic drinks selection. The following year it was forced to move from that location so the books were transferred into the nearby French restaurant Le Petit Gourmand. It was there that The Bookworm’s events program developed.[7] By 2005 Le Petit Gourmand was scheduled for demolition, and it was then that Pearson joined forces with a small group of friends and investors to find a permanent home for The Bookworm.[8]

The premises on Sanlitun South Street where The Bookworm is currently located was leased in September 2005.[9] In 2006 Peter Goff opened the Chengdu branch of The Bookworm, and in 2007 he opened the Suzhou branch.[10][7] Pearson served as Group CEO from 2005-2013, during which time Goff had primary responsibility for the Chengdu and Suzhou operations. Jenny Niven ran The Bookworm’s Events program from 2006-2010 and directed the Festival from its inception until 2010. In 2013 Pearson returned to her home country, the United Kingdom, and Goff took over as Group CEO.

As of September 2016, about 3,000 authors have given talks and events at The Bookworm in Beijing.[11]

The Bookworm Literary Festival[edit]

The Bookworm Literary Festival is an independently run and privately funded two-week literary festival initiated in March 2007.[3]

The general program includes book talks, panel discussions, workshops and performances. Events are primarily held in its venues in Beijing, Chengdu and Suzhou, but also in partner venues and in other cities such as Shanghai, Chongqing and Ningbo. A concurrent children's program features storytelling sessions, illustration and writing workshops, and book talks, while a schools program takes authors into local schools and universities to give talks and other events.[3]

The 9th Bookworm Literary Festival, held March 13–29, 2015, featured more than 120 authors from nearly two dozen countries, highlighted by Chang-rae Lee, Yasmina Khadra, Tahar Ben Jelloun, Willis Barnstone and Victoria Hislop.[12] There was a special "Spotlight on Canada" that featured Rawi Hage, Madeleine Thien, Kim Thuy, Dennis Bock, Vincent Lam and Douglas Gibson, the longtime editor of Alice Munro.[13] Previous festival attendees have included Dave Eggers, Yu Hua, David Sedaris, Gary Shteyngart, Lionel Shriver, Junot Diaz, Amitav Ghosh, Xiaolu Guo, Benjamin Zephaniah, Yiyun Li, Peter Hessler and Nobel laureate Mo Yan, among others.[14]

In an article in 2011, the Wall Street Journal wrote about the Bookworm Literary Festival: "When Bookworm started, for instance, local expats in Beijing—accustomed to more open societies with better access to books and ideas—found a light in the literary darkness of China... they may not spearheading the kind of movement the Communist Party fears, but they may be sowing the seeds of more vibrant Chinese expression."[15]

Goff is the current Bookworm Literary Festival director. Anthony Tao is the coordinator in Beijing and Catherine Platt is the coordinator in Chengdu.

The Word Alliance[edit]

The Bookworm Literary Festival is a founding member of The Word Alliance, a gathering of eight major literary festivals across the world.[16] Also in this association are the Edinburgh International Book Festival, Toronto’s International Festival of Authors, New York’s PEN World Voices Festival, India’s Jaipur Literary Festival, the Berlin International Literature Festival, France’s Étonnants-Voyageurs and the Melbourne Writers Festival. The Word Alliance is "a strategic international partnership which supports and showcases the work of writers, facilitates the creation of international literature projects and provides opportunities to enhance each festival’s artistic programme."[16]

Year-round program[edit]

The Bookworm’s three venues holds literary, cultural and community events on a regular basis. These include book launches, readings, discussions, storytelling sessions, comedy, workshops, book club and writing group meetings, and musical performances. "The Bookworm is a top choice for book launch parties and monthly gatherings of various special interest groups," Alon Halevy wrote in the book The Infinite Emotions of Coffee.[17] Cultural events present a range of local or international culture, while the community events tend to rotate around networking/information events with environmental, civil society or educational themes.[1]

Awards and accolades[edit]

The Bookworm has received numerous awards, accolades and citations over the years:


The Bookworm’s bookshops offer books in both English and Chinese, currently with about 70 percent of the titles being in English.[24] It focuses primarily on Asian-interest fiction and non-fiction, literary fiction, travel, cooking, children’s and best-selling/prizewinning fiction and non-fiction from around the world.

China Bookworm Press[edit]

The China Bookworm Press "seeks to publish leading contemporary fiction and non-fiction from China and make it available both in the original Chinese and to a wider international audience in translation."[4]

Its annual China Bookworm Literary Award is an open call for unpublished manuscripts by mainland Chinese writers, with the winner getting his or her novel translated and published in English. The first winner will be announced this summer.[25]

Flash Europa 28[edit]

In conjunction with the EU Delegation to China, The Bookworm ran a project called Flash Europa 28.[26] Flash Europa 28 is a concept that The Bookworm conceived that aims to showcase European flash fiction and offers free, original, creative content to the Chinese online reader. The project distributes European flash fiction written by young authors from each of the 28 member states of the European Union. Through national competitions five submissions were selected from each EU member state, translated into Chinese, and the 140 stories were distributed free of charge, over a period of 28 weeks to Chinese audiences via multiple social media platforms. As an international EU-China collaborative project, artists from the Beijing Film Academy matched each story with a piece of artwork.

These stories have been read more than 4 million times as of October 2016.[27]


  1. ^ a b Beijing Bookworm, official website
  2. ^ The world's greatest bookshops. Lonely Planet. 16 June 2012. Retrieved 30 May 2015
  3. ^ a b c Bookworm Literary Festival, official website
  4. ^ a b China Bookworm Press, official website
  5. ^ MaLa, official website
  6. ^ Bookstore travels from courtyard to main street. China Daily. 19 March 2015. Retrieved 30 May 2015
  7. ^ a b Alex Pearson Reveals the Beginnings of the Bookworm. City Weekend. 29 December 2011. Retrieved 30 May 2015
  8. ^ Bookworm discussion thread, the Beijinger forum. 9 November 2005. Retrieved 30 May 2015
  9. ^ a b How a Beijing bookshop became one of the world’s best. Toronto Star. 18 March 2011. Retrieved 30 May 2015
  10. ^ Chengdu Stories: Peter Goff, Bookworm Founder. Chengdu Living. 25 February 2013. Retrieved 30 May 2015
  11. ^ Beijing’s Bookworm: The Go-to Destination for Touring Authors. Publishing Perspectives. 5 October 2016. Retrieved 12 October 2016
  12. ^ Bookworm Festival, Authors section
  13. ^ Beijing book fair embraces Canada writers. China Daily. 19 March 2015. Retrieved 30 May 2015
  14. ^ Bookworm Festival, About section
  15. ^ Beijing by the Book Festival. Wall Street Journal. 10 March 2011. Retrieved 30 May 2015
  16. ^ a b The Word Alliance, official website
  17. ^ Halevy, Alon Y. (2011). The infinite emotions of coffee (1st ed.). [Mountain View, CA?]: Macchiatone Communications. ISBN 978-0984771509.
  18. ^ The world's greatest bookshops. Lonely Planet. 16 June 2012. Retrieved 30 May 2015
  19. ^ Best Bookstores in the World. Pinterest. Retrieved 30 May 2015
  20. ^ The 20 Most Beautiful Bookstores in the World. Flavorwire. 1 January 2013. Retrieved 30 May 2015
  21. ^ Photos: The 20 coolest bookstores in the world. Vancouver Sun. 19 March 2013. Retrieved 30 May 2015
  22. ^ 22 most beautiful bookshops in the world. Skyscanner. Retrieved 30 May 2015
  23. ^ 20 STUNNING bookstores of the world. rediff. 16 February 2012. Retrieved 30 May 2015
  24. ^ Spirit of Arrival. Beijing Government official page. Retrieved 30 May 2015
  25. ^ China Bookworm Literary Award, official website
  26. ^ Flash Europa 28, official website
  27. ^ How the Bookworm chain is helping shape China's literary scene. South China Morning Post. 8 October 2015. Retrieved 12 October 2016

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