KL’s largest bookstore is home to over 3 million books

Estimate Reading Time: 3 minutes

PETALING JAYA: Located along Jalan Tun H S Lee, Junk Bookstore looks deceitfully small from the outside. How can this small building possibly cram in three million books?


Yet, proudly displayed over the entrance is a certificate from the Malaysian Book of Records 1998 awarding Junk Bookstore the title of the largest secondhand bookstore in Malaysia.

The walkway inside this bookstore is impossibly narrow, just enough to fit a few ardent bookworms, no doubt thanks to the numerous towering stacks of books taking over every inch of space in this three-storey building.

Tilt your head up and you’ll be astonished at how many more hidden treasures reside above. Carefully make your way up the dusty staircase to the Mezzanine section where there is a huge assortment of novels and even VHS tapes for sale.

Feeling adventurous? Continue your journey up the dark staircase and with a turn of the knob, you would have entered a wonderland of books from the childhood classics of Enid Blyton to the unbelievably raunchy Mills and Boons that were page-turners for every teenage girl of the 1970s.

Finally, the real prize of Junk Bookstore – a room housing a fantastical collection of truly rare books.

This collection consists of out-of-print books, first editions, books on military history, Malayan history, National Geographic magazines from 20 years ago as well as LP records.

Sitting in the midst of this literary splendour is 68-year-old Jeffrey Koh, owner and caretaker of these rare books.

“This business was started by my brother-in-law and youngest sister in 1990. My brother-in-law always loved collecting old things and he later turned it into a business,” Koh tells FMT.

He also relates how the collection of old books in Junk Bookstore came to be.

“When the many European expatriates in Malaysia returned to their respective countries, they left their book collections behind in their homes. So, my brother-in-law and sister took the effort to collect all those books,” Koh says.

The couple had such a huge collection of books eventually that they had to import a large container from Australia, in which to store all these books, he says.

“Their first premise was a small space in Wisma Ann Koai in Jalan Ampang. But as their business grew, they had to search for bigger premises and within a few years, they settled on the current location in Jalan Tun H S Lee,” Koh says, adding that he started working at the bookstore six years ago after his sister suggested it.

Junk Bookstore currently houses roughly three million books.

“My staff Miss Yap, who has been working here for over 30 years, is faster than a computer. Just ask her for a book and she’ll know where it’s located. She can even tell you if it’s been sold,” Koh says with genuine admiration for her.

Koh takes great pride in his work, explaining to FMT that the particular level of the bookstore which he is responsible for, contains some of the oldest and rarest books.

He points to four volumes of bibles, printed in 1831 and prized at RM20,000.


The most expensive book at Junk Bookstore?

A hefty hard-cover titled ‘Malayan Chinese Resistance to Japan 1937-1945 – Selected Source Materials’ with the price tag of RM18,000.

With so many precious literary classics under one roof, Koh works hard to ensure every single book is kept in mint condition.

For this, he uses spices such as star anise to keep away pesky silverfish from destroying the pages. He also painstakingly wraps each book in plastic for hygiene purposes.

Taking out a key from his pocket, Koh unlocks a door that when open, reveals a room chock full of comic books of every character imaginable. He tells FMT there are over five thousand comic books here.

Unfortunately, this bookstore might have reached the final chapter of its journey.

Koh explains that his sister’s only son runs another business and his other nephews and nieces aren’t keen on taking over.

“To be honest, it’s a boring business. If you don’t read books or have a passion for them, there’s nothing you can do.

“In fact, it can get awfully quiet on some days as we hardly get any customers. Maybe we will donate all these books in the end,” Koh says.

Currently, this 30-year-old bookstore is offering a 50% discount on all books purchased from the ground floor and mezzanine level in a bid to boost sales.

So, why not drop by to see which titles tickle your fancy? Koh even has a stunning collection of rare stamps for those who are keen to add to their own personal collections.

When you’re done book-shopping, hop across for a delicious bowl of Beef Ball Noodles from Soong Kee’s. What a perfect end to a beautiful day.

Junk Bookstore
78, Jalan Tun H S Lee
City Centre
Kuala Lumpur

Operating hours:
Monday to Friday: 8.30am – 3.00pm
Saturday: 8.30am – 2.00pm
Closed on Sundays and public holidays


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