Free Chinese Books in San Antonio

I teach Chinese in San Antonio, so this post has to do with finding resources for learning Chinese in the San Antonio (Bexar county) public library system. Similar resources should be available in other large cities, or even smaller ones, consult your local library.

As I wrote about for the Rivard Report, reading is very helpful for learning a second language. The kind of reading that people do for pleasure is especially useful, meaning that it is helpful to find material on your own, that interests you. This is where the public library comes in. It is not that easy to find Chinese-language books* in the San Antonio public library system, but it can be done!

How to Find Chinese Books at SAPL

First, visit and find the library catalog under the services section on the menu bar.

library catalog

Click on the library catalog. From the scroll down menu, choose the advanced search. The next part is where it gets a little clunky, you have to put something in the search field so I put an “A.” There are more than books of course at the library, but I ticked only “books” for the type of material. The next set of boxes is the important part, this is where you check “Chinese” for the language. Then hit “search”!

Screen Shot 2018-01-07 at 7.25.33 PM


There are lots of results that come up, including textbooks, children’s books and novels. The children’s books are a great resource for parents who would like a resource for helping their children acquire a language outside of the classroom.

Screen Shot 2018-01-07 at 7.25.48 PM

If I scroll down, I see that there is a copy of Farewell, My Concubine. I have already watched the movie so I might like the book too. This copy is published by HarperPerennial. Based on the thumbnail picture of the cover, it is probably an English translation.

Screen Shot 2018-01-07 at 7.26.11 PM

They also have a copy of the Chinese classic Dream of the Red Chamber (Hong Lou Meng).

Screen Shot 2018-01-07 at 7.26.34 PM

If I click on the details, I see that this version of Dream of the Red Chamber has both Chinese characters and pinyin. It is also published by a children’s publishing company (name is in pinyin in the listing). It is hard to tell without actually looking at the book. This book could be appropriate for intermediate-high level Chinese learners.

Screen Shot 2018-01-07 at 9.06.22 PM

If I want to see if there are any works by authors that I like, such as Lu Xun, I can do that. All I need to do is search for just those using the search field. Read the catalog listing carefully however, before going down to the library or requesting the book from your librarian. The one search result that I can see for “Lu Xun” at San Antonio public library is actually from the Beijing Foreign Language press.¬† It is probably in English and not Chinese.

Screen Shot 2018-01-08 at 1.20.25 PM

Searching for Chinese language books at SAPL shows that you really do have to poke around. Students have to make sure that results are actually in Chinese and are what you’re looking for. It is not a perfect system, but it’s free! If you’re not sure about what you (or your child’s) should be reading, talk to your (or your child’s) teacher.

*There are also Spanish, Portuguese, Farsi, French, Japanese books and more.

Leave a Reply