Independent bookstores are hard to come by in Hong Kong, especially an English-language one, which is why it was particularly sad for us when Bleak House Books announced its closure towards the end of August this year, merely four years after its opening.
Owner and ex-lawyer Alber Wan first opened the bookstore with the initial goal to “build a viable, self-sustaining, community-oriented bookshop" – and that’s exactly what he did. Stacking their shelves with collections of everything from dystopian novels and comic books to titles by Chinese and Japanese authors, Bleak House Books quickly became a serendipitous paradise for all bookworms that stepped foot in this little store that is decidedly anything but bleak.
The reason for the store’s closure, noted in Wan’s ‘last memo’ on the shop’s website, was due to politics. "To be sure, what my wife Jenny, my kids, and I do in our daily lives is not overtly political," explains Wan. “But as George Orwell once remarked, [i]n our age there is no such thing as ‘keeping out of politics.’ All issues are political issues.” He adds. “And given the state of politics in Hong Kong, Jenny and I can no longer see a life for ourselves and our children in this city, at least in the near future.’" Wan also added that he will not be selling the bookshop or handing the reins over to someone else as he wishes to maintain the shop's unique character, voice and mission.
Shortly after the store’s announcement, fans across the city have been making their way to the San Po Kong store to bid farewell and show their support one last time. Most of the books that remain at the shop and in storage after the last day will be donated to other independent bookshops or local institutions, while the books they have previously received for sale on consignment will be returned to their owners. For now, the future of Bleak House Books is unclear, but Wan promises that this is not the end of Bleak House Books, nor is it the end of their journey.
For their last week, opening hours will be extended to close at 8pm from now until October 14 (subject to any adverse typhoon conditions and signals), so make sure to keep an eye on the shop’s Facebook and Instagram for adjustments on opening hours and other announcements.
Bleak House Books
Unit 2705, 27/F, Well Tech Centre, 9 Pat Tat Street, San Po Kong