Bangalore is no Dilli when it comes to old books. You don’t find hawkers selling yellowed paperbacks outside every gully and metro station. (Which is hardly a big deal, considering techno-wallon ka sheher has exactly six stations at the moment. :P) You’d be hard put to find something like the Daryaganj Sunday Book market here.
But what it does have, and in plenty, are bookstores with character, run by people who genuinely like books. Where you can walk in and ask for a book, and not have to wait for an attendant to type the name into a computer to tell you it’s out of stock.
Here’s a list of some of my favourite haunts near Brigade Road:
1. Blossom Book House: Every Bangalorean’s favourite bookstore, this place is so famous it’s got its own fansite! The bookstore comprises of four floors filled to bursting point with old books. They have extremely helpful assistants who can get you any book you ask for in multiple states of existence: brand new, second-hand and sometimes even third-hand. Nobody minds if you grab a stool and sit reading the whole day. (Update: Blossoms opened a second store down the same stretch of Church Street. Hurrah for more bookstores!)
2. Select Bookstore: This space can hardly do justice to Mr. Murthy and his eclectic little bookstore. A genial man in his seventies, he has been running Select Bookstore in a non-descript building off Brigade Road for several decades now. It’s worth visiting Select just to listen to Mr. Murthy’s stories of how he became a bookseller, and the interesting people who drop in. Ruskin Bond is a regular here, he tells me, pulling out a ledger of his letters.
The first floor of the converted apartment feels like a page from a dream; what with books in the living room, books in the dining hall, even some piled on the sink! I’ve been told there’s a collection of rare books in the attic. His son Sanjay manages the shop on the ground floor. Picked some old but beautifully-kept classics here, and listened astonished as he listed out every book he had sold of a particular writer.
3. Magazine Store: The shop with the six Persian cats! It houses magazines and comics of every shape and colour, with six gorgeous felines to give company.
4. Variety Magazine Store: Another magazine store with a stunning collection. Picked up a copy of Reading Hour here, one of the few Indian magazines aimed at avid readers, and have been ever grateful to the place since.
5. The Bookworm: A gem of a place tucked away in Shrungara Complex on MG Road. It has a great collection of second hand books, very reasonably priced. I found an almost-new copy of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance here; hid it among the shelves because I was kind of broke then. Wonder if it’s still around… 😛
6. Bookworm: On the same gully as Select Bookstore, is a used book shop in the basement of a building. Last time I was there the rains had flooded the floor, so would say the place needs a little more care and affection. You can get good discounts here, and the collection is quite decent. This is a branch of the store in Shrungara Complex.
There’s also Strand Book Stall off Cubbon Road, Higginbothams on MG Road, and Gangarams Book Bureau (Church Street), within walking distance of everything else. Now, if someone can help me find more unmissables, please do drop a line!
(The second part of this series can be found here.)