Exploring Burma’s Bookshops: Myanmar Book Centre

With 5 locations across the city and 1 in Mandalay, MBC knows where the profit is.  Many of their centres are heavily focussed on educational, self-help and children’s books.  But their main centre, in an old colonial house with a huge garden is where to go … 

If you can ignore the Nandawun arts and craft shop to your left, and if you can’t afford the gemstone and jewellery to your right, up the heavy wooden stairs and left on the landing which overlooks the raised veranda, is possibly the best collection of English language titles, written by foreigners and Burmese, on Myanmar.  Though Bagan Book House often is credited with this acclaim as being the best shop for titles on Myanmar in the English language I have never agreed.  MBC’s stock is much bigger and in more depth.  There are no second hand books here.  If you want those older, rarer titles look at Ko Harry’s or OS1.  This collection goes back to the 90’s and holds probably every book that has been written in Myanmar in English during this time.  Yes, MBC is more expensive than Bagan Book Shop but that’s because the founder and CEO Dr Thant Thaw Kaung imports originals.  These are not photocopies.  Which means the writer is getting their royalties.

Dr Thant Thaw Kaung is more than just a bookseller, he comes from a long literary family – his father U Thaw Kaung, librarian, is generally considered to be a living legend among the literary community; his grandfather was Minister of Education under U Nu in the 1950’s.  Dr Thant Thaw Kaung is patron of the Daw Khin Kyi Foundation, set up by Aung San Suu Kyi in memory of her mother which supports mobile libraries and training across the country.  His Myanmar Book and Preservation Society seeks to carry on his father’s work and protect and restore Burmese bamboo manuscripts.  His famous Book Buffets, a literary free for all where you pay for a bag and stuff as many books as you can into it, goes to pay for his charitable work.

MBC’s main centre is worth visit even if you’re not in the mind for books.  The house is lovely, the traditional arts and crafts section is cheaper that Scott Market and they have a small –and I mean small – coffee shop on the terrace.

Open daily from 9am to 6pm.

Main Location: 55 Baho road, corner of Ahlone road

Tel. 01 221271

*Update – May 2020 : Myanmar Book Centre have renamed themselves to Bookland. The craft and jewellery shops on the ground floor have gone. And they have extended their book collection to cover the entire ground and first floor. They now have, without doubt, the best collection of contemporary English language fiction and non-fiction for sale in Myanmar