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What percentage of a store's inventory must be made of books to call it a "bookstore"? Toys, doll's stuffed animals, robots, clay, cards, emoji plushies, postcards, pencils, pens, books?
A photo of a small coffee table with a book, a notebook, some colored pencils, etc.
Originally written in 2018

Fully Booked - Bonifacio High Street, Manila

Six floors. Infinite-story. Mural — dark haired woman with a pink cat, painted on a wall of book jackets. Ant people looking up. Growing up from the carpet of the Young Adult section to Classics armchairs one level above. Ding ding elevator. At the roof — glossy paper, full color prints, art books with magnificent price tags. Tired? Grab a coffee. Frozen yoghurt around the corner. A pizza place. All in a line. Next to the biography section. Bring Michelle Obama to lunch! Pay for yourself.

Fully Booked - Rockwell, Manila

One floor. Cafe with five-layer rainbow cake. Unwrap the books that say "DO NOT OPEN" and hide the wrapper behind the shelf. Sit on the floor, leaving your butt prints all over. Every section memorized. Home is a five minute walk, the shelves a welcome escape. Run after class, stroll in waiting for a movie, meet at the Science section for dates. Kiss on the cheek, book in hand. Let's love.

Bukva - Global UA, Zhytomyr

The first mall — the first chains. McDonald's closer than two hour ride east. A logo known to Kievlyans. Smile at the desk. Steve Jobs smiles back under "BESTSELLERS". Russian shrinks. Ukrainian grows. An equilibrium. Wonder what being from here actually means. Grab a soft cover — identity in letters. Listen: they whisper why we're one. Sneak glances at the English section. Remember to read in the original. Every summer, come back. A winter — books have turned to candles. No more knowledge for you.

Knigarnya "E" - Old Town, Kyiv

A basement above which hangs a sign: "HELP. WE ARE BEING EXTORTED BY A FAKE GOVERNMENT AGENCY. THEY WANT OUR LAND. SPREAD THE WORD SO WE DON'T CLOSE DOWN." No graffiti. Cigarette butts disappear around the stairs. Walk in: coat off. One language. Memories of the revolution - which one? Modern Ukrainian Fiction. Names not taught in school. Covers with flowers. Covers with guns. Confidently, now, present them. Cashier's hands hold them carefully, like fire.

Kinokuniya - Shinjuku, Tokyo

You've only mastered two alphabets. Chinese characters are still beyond you. On the subway, feel proud over recognizing the kanji for "Entrance". It also means "Mouth Person". Draw stick figures in the landscape with your mind. Nobody talks on the train. You read, a book from Ukraine. You wonder if anyone here even knows about it. They probably don't. Elevator to the top floor. Open. Whoosh. A land of understanding, the foreign language section of heaven. Curated to perfection. Buy everything— count the bills.  Walk out with 3450 yen worth of textbooks. Cradle the bag on the train home.

Kinokuniya - Dubai Mall, Dubai

Same name, different store. The trains here have women's sections. The bookstore doesn't. First month here. Run around, laughing the nervousness out of your lungs. The biggest mall. The largest aquarium. The tallest tower. The best bookstore? Walk off with another book you didn't need. Never forget the smell.

Borders - Al Wahda, Abu Dhabi

What percentage of a store's inventory must be made of books to call it a "bookstore"? Toys, doll's stuffed animals, robots, clay, cards, emoji plushies, postcards, pencils, pens, books? In the corner. Abandoned, like dogs in a shelter. Buy them, before they get euthanized. Tuck them away. Feed them with attention, one page at a time. Do not skim.

Magrudy's - Saadiyat Island, Abu Dhabi

Nowhere to stand twice a year. Carts, yelling, laughing, hugging. What class are you taking? May I have your ID? Sign here, please. Come here later. Walk between shelves, waiting for  the jackets to whisper. NYUAD RECOMMENDS. Do I trust? Amorphous blob of organization identity. Recommends Shakespeare. Sneak away paperbacks at 10 dirhams a piece. Collect dust under your bed. One day, all will be read.