The funky reading space of Bluebirds’ Nest Book Cafe. Photo: To Chim Xanh

Nestled in a narrow alley on Dang Dung Street, Bluebirds’ Nest Book Cafe has become a popular destination for young Hanoians since its establishment in November 2015. The first floor of the cafe offers a cozy reading space with large bookcases and soothing melodies, while the second floor features an open terrace surrounded by lush plants, providing a view of old apartment buildings and the vibrant life of Hanoi.

One of the eye-catching features of the cafe is the “Free book exchange. Take a book. Return a book.” bookshelf, which is designed like a dovecote – a nesting box for doves in trees or gardens. Visitors are encouraged to bring their books and exchange them with the ones already available in the “nest.” This form of book swapping is not unique to Bluebirds’ Nest but can be found in several cafes and public spaces in the city.

Do Lan Phuong, a 26-year-old freelancer in Hanoi, stumbled upon Bluebirds’ Nest by chance. Initially, she went there to work as she usually did, but the bookshelves, particularly the pigeon house design, caught her attention. It was there that she rediscovered her favorite childhood fiction, “The Adventures of Dunno and His Friends.” Inspired by this unexpected encounter, Phuong decided to swap the book instead of buying a new edition, reigniting her passion for reading.

Various new books are available for book exchanging among readers at Bluebirds’ Nest Book Cafe. Photo: To Chim Xanh

These bird’s nest-shaped bookshelves can be found in different locations with various designs. According to Hoai Thuong, a representative of Le Book Club, these nests are set up to promote book exchanges and contribute to public bookcases. Thuong has observed that foreign books and those related to life skills are the most commonly exchanged, and the popularity of these small “book’s nests” is growing.

Additionally, the bookshelves not only facilitate book swapping but also provide networking opportunities for young bookworms. Nguyen Ngoc Anh, a 21-year-old resident of Long Bien District, had an interesting book exchange experience at Bluebirds’ Nest. While she was about to swap a book called “The Girl on Paper,” another guest entered the room with the same book in hand, leading to an instant exchange. This encounter sparked a friendship based on their shared love for books.

In addition to the “bird nest” bookshelves, many coffee houses in Hanoi organize various activities for book-loving communities. At Bluebirds’ Nest, the bookshelf is always filled with books that visitors have exchanged. The cafe also hosts monthly book-related events, including book review sessions, where young readers can freely share their thoughts and feelings about the books they are reading or have read.

Creating gorgeous reading spaces may help spread the love for books among youth. Photo: To Chim Xanh

The modest “bird nest” bookshelves, which serve as mini public libraries for book enthusiasts, are increasingly welcomed. They are regularly refreshed and diversified to meet the demands of readers. Despite the dominance of audiovisual media, many people hope to see more of these “bird’s nests” in coffee shops across Hanoi, further fueling the reading movement in the city known for its millennial civilization.