Reading trends in some of the newest additions to Hanoi’s café scene
Words by Joshua Zukas ● Images by Biên Nguyễn
Books are on the up in Hanoi. A healthy balance of increased literary freedom for Vietnamese authors and a greater amount of international classics translated means Hanoi readers, though still not spoiled for choice, can begin filling their bookshelves with an ever increasing number of titles. Cafes have long been at the forefront of social trends and cultural developments, particularly among the urban youth, and it is unsurprising that enterprising café owners have begun to shape their spaces towards bookish pursuits.
“I wanted to create a café/bookshop where people can come, read a book, and let their imaginations run wild with the words,” explains Lê, owner of Le Petit Café, “I think its good for stress relief.”
As the name suggests, Le Petit Café is a miniscule space, but still with enough nooks and crannies to hide oneself away with something appealing to read. Beautiful books are everywhere; they beam outwards from the quaint front window and grace virtually every surface. Lê predicts that more than half her customers come to Le Petit Café by themselves in order to find a quiet spot in which to sink into a book.
Striking the balance between a casual space for a drink with friends and a cozy reading refuge isn’t always easy. But with a relaxing atmosphere aided by a unique furniture collection and calming musical classics, Rauta seems to have got things just right.
“My husband and I love books and we wanted to use Rauta to share our interest,” says co-owner Linh. Far from just a café, Rauta is also a space for workshops on creative writing, talks on social issues, and friendly community get-togethers.
“There are more and more book fairs and workshops opening everyday, which is doing a lot to attract young people to the habit of reading,” Linh explains. “Recently a young girl came to us with an interest in arranging a book club- she wants to invite people to come and share their insights, ideas and feelings about their favorite books. If it goes ahead, it will be the first book club at Rauta.”
With reading seemingly becoming a more attractive and fashionable pastime among the urban Hanoian youth, a café with books as the central theme was the inevitable climax. Despite having opened only a few months prior, Tranquil has already made a name for itself among avid readers across the city.
A healthy and eclectic reading selection curated by the literature loving owners adorns this cozy one-room café equipped with a mezzanine floor ideal for sitting back, book in hand. A browse through the selection on offer at Tranquil quickly reveals that this café is about more than just pretty pictures and artistic book covers, as the bookshelves are stacked with a careful selection of literature from across the world.
“The owner of any book/coffee shop must be an enthusiast him or herself,” explains Nam, one of the co-owners of Tranquil. “Otherwise the books just act as decoration for the place and nothing else.”
Hanoi Hideaway is a website committed to exploring and showcasing Hanoi’s vibrant café scene. Providing important cultural outlets that reflect latest trends, Hanoi’s cafes play a crucial role in understanding the creative flow and artistic direction of the city.
Josh and Biên who run the site regularly introduce & Of Other Things readers to some of the most noteworthy spots.