Temas Especiales

16 de Jan de 2021

Nacional

A treasure trove of books

Harold deMun’s “Bookmark” in Dolega is probably the best English language bookstore in the whole of Panama.

Harold deMun’s “Bookmark” in Dolega is probably the best English language bookstore in the whole of Panama.

His eclectic collection of books includes 35,000 or more volumes, both new and second-hand, crammed (alphabetically) on ceiling high shelves in a labyrinthine shop that is a delight to explore.

Part of Bookmark’s charm is Harold himself.

A former student of 18th century English literature who has also been a teacher, a copy writer, an ad-man, the vice president of a New York company, a plant seller and the owner of a bar in Spain, he is hilariously self-deprecating, with a biting dry wit and ready laugh.

Though 80 years old, he still gets up at 4.30 each morning to walk his well-loved dog, Cody, who spends the rest of the day sleeping in the classics section.

And when Harold is not sitting at the front entrance immersed in a book (he makes a great ad for the delights of reading), you’ll find him cooking a gourmet lunch in the kitchen in the back, or clicking away on the computer, ordering yet more books, an addiction he admits he needs to break!

The store has come a long way since its dusty beginnings 10 years ago when Hal, fresh in from Costa Rica, bought up a consignment of 3,000 paperbacks that turned out to be mostly westerns and romances.

“We sent lots of them to be shredded and used for packing orchids,” said Hal.

His listings have expanded exponentially since then. In fact, if someone comes in asking for an author that Hal doesn’t have, he makes a point of ordering in some titles, just so that next time he can satisfy his customers.

His range of books now includes bestsellers, romance, novels, biography, history, religion, languages, medicine, computers, education, children’s books, military history, witchcraft, eroticism, decorating, woodworking, crafts, house construction, films, Panama, Latin American authors in English and more, lots more.

Part book shop, part library, Hal offers to buy back any book for half price – one reason he is so popular among the expat community who are always looking for a new title and a bargain!

In the last three months Bookmark has added several new rooms with comfortable seating and good light to read by. The back verandah and garden have been opened up and replanted to create an idyllic spot to while away an hour or too. And soon Hal plans to offer light refreshments to make Bookmark even more enticing.

So next time you are heading up the road to Boquete, drop by the Bookmark and brouse for a while. Even if you don’t find the exact title you want there is bound to be something that will appeal, and at an average price of around $5 a book, it is probably one of the best bargains in Chiriqui if not in the whole of Panama itself.