An Oasis of Literature in Hoi An

Guests visiting The Library are free to check out or leave books behind, creating a living literary collection.
Guests visiting The Library are free to check out or leave books behind, creating a living literary collection.

In a land where libraries are few and far between, The Library at The Nam Hai Hoi An is a welcome addition to Vietnam’s literary landscape. Introduced along with the resort’s opening in 2006, this organic medley of literature and art has since both expanded and grown into one of the resort’s most overlooked treasures.

“The library has been here since day one,” explains Florian Leven, The Nam Hai’s executive assistant manager. “It was always a part of the vision and master plan of The Nam Hai Hoi An, and over its lifespan, we have only seen it grow and evolve.” Originally located where the current boutique resides, The Library was born as a sanctuary for books that focused on subjects like design, architecture, and hotel-specific endeavor, and quickly became what Leven calls “a living part of the resort.” Since its inception, it has become what Leven calls “a living part of the resort.”

What started as a self-sustained library quickly turned into a book exchange for word-hungry travelers, and over time travelers began swapping, trading, and leaving books for The Nam Hai’s living library. “We encourage guests to leave books behind if they don’t want them anymore,” says Leven, “but more often than not, they do so on their own prerogative.” Not only are guests encouraged to leave books behind, but to take as well. “If they wish, of course we’d love to have guests trade their books for others on the shelves. It adds a variety to the library that you don’t normally get at fixed institutions. An organic element, if you will.” The result? A library that is as diverse as its visitors, and one that is constantly in flux.  Now carrying over 750 books that range  from English, Vietnamese, Japan, and Korean books to Russian and French, one is just as likely to find books by Dan Brown as those on the use of am-duong-inspired roofing patterns in Vietnam. Guests are free to check out books and take them to their villa anytime, and, open 24/7, there is no time that isn’t the right time to swim in the multilingual shelves of the library.

But the organic makeup of this space isn’t the only thing that sets it apart. If one isn’t absorbed in one of the books available, they may well notice the amalgam of colors that accentuate the shelf-laden walls. Featuring specially commissioned art by both Southeast Asian artists at large and local professionals like Linh Ho, Leven says that what makes the art at The Nam Hai particularly intriguing is that it isn’t the same stuff you will see at any number of street corners in the center of the old town. “What sets our art apart is the uniqueness of it,” explains Leven. “These aren’t mass-produced paintings, but individually commissioned pieces that are made specifically for the library.” Guests interested in obtaining some of this pieces will be happy to know that not only are they available for purchase, but partnerships between the artist and guests can also be easily arranged.

Often quiet, the library at The Nam Hai is perhaps unfairly overlooked, though Leven says that there are a number of occasions when he has found guests hidden in the library in the wee hours of the morning surfing the web on any of the house computers, perusing the selection of international newspapers, or even planted face first into a Tom Clancy novel. One thing is for certain, however, whether you’re stopping by in search of peace and quiet in its literary collection or just to admire unique art pieces, The Library at The Nam Hai is never a bad drop-in—even at three in the morning.

This article was first published in GHM Journeys in partnership with DestinAsian. For more information, visit The Nam Hai.

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