Books have long made perfect travelling companions. And even while tablets and e-readers have come to replace paperbacks, discerning hoteliers know that libraries can still inspire. An elegant, well-curated room full of volumes extends a welcoming environment allowing guests to get up to speed on the culture of a destination, take refuge when poor weather dampens a beach day or enjoy tea and sweets.
Taj Falaknuma Palace
Built in 1894, this former palace sprawled over 13 manicured hectares belonging to a succession of leaders called Nizam, who ruled Hyderabad until India’s independence in 1947. Inside this ornate complex, the vast rosewood and mahogany library is a bibliophile’s fantasy. The collection of about 6,000 mostly leather-bound books fills walls of shelves reaching to the coffered walnut wood ceiling. Many are rare, such as an entire first edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica, while the oldest book here dates to 1801. Guests are encouraged to settle into one of the museum-quality antique armchairs with some of these vintage tomes. The hotel’s librarian, Asif Husain Arastu, especially recommends perusing the illustrated books here like Fairy Tales by Hans Christian Andersen, which features artwork on Japanese vellum by an Irish stained-glass expert.
Borobudur, the world’s largest Buddhist monument, is the main attraction at this celebrated resort built out of limestone; the three-tiered shrine sits just adjacent to the hotel. And not far away is Prambanan, an ornately carved 10th-century Hindu temple, the largest dedicated to Shiva in Indonesia. Guests can learn more about these and other aspects of Java’s richly diverse and mystical culture in Amanjiwo’s ultra-photogenic library. Raw silk, latticework wood, vintage maps and European ceramics form an elegant setting to encourage exploration, while the plump daybeds invite guests to linger awhile with a glass of homemade lemongrass tea. Pick out books from this eclectic collection and learn to play the Javanese gamelan, identify the different batik textile prints and even find Indonesia’s best surf spots.
Island Shangri-La, Hong Kong
Double-height windows on the 39th floor confer stunning views of the Hong Kong skyline to accompany the 1,000 or so titles at the Library at Island Shangri-La. A crystal chandelier hanging overhead and soaring jade marble columns add dramatic flair to the European furnishings and floor-wide oriental rug. Navy blue leather club chairs beckon, although guests are invited to borrow any volume from this multilingual selection, which includes special interest books on the region and beyond. A sliding wooden ladder gives access to books on the top shelf. But guests looking for a copy of Lost Horizon, the 1933 novel by James Hilton from which this hotel company derives its name, will find one by their bedside.
Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Bangkok
Named for past guests like Somerset Maugham and Graham Greene, the Authors’ Lounge is located in the oldest wing of this legendary hotel, which opened along the Chao Praya River in 1887. Upstairs, individually decorated suites are named for these and other accomplished writers including Joseph Conrad, John le Carré, Iris Murdoch and VS Naipaul. Back on ground level, an airy dining venue hosts the hotel’s popular afternoon tea. While the emphasis here is on the extensive selection of Marriage Frères teas, the property’s longstanding affinity with the literary world is also on display. It flourishes here between walls lined with original photos of famed authors taken at the hotel over the decades, along with quotations from their books and, in some cases, signed copies on display.