Trying to keep in theme with my Navaratri and Dussehra posts, and in theme for this week’s Top Ten Tuesday of bookstores, I am looking at India for bookstores. I looked to older bookstores and ended up with ten(well more than) timeless bookstores in India, the ones that withstood the test and travails of time and the online-stores!
Some of them are ones I have visited, a few others I have heard of, and a couple were unknown to me before I researched them for this post. And now they are on my bucket list for my next trip to India. So, without further ado, here are
Ten(+) Timeless Bookstores In India That You Should Check Out
Higginbothams, Chennai (1884 – now)
The first on the list of timeless bookstores in India is among the oldest in the world as well.
I have a distinct memory of the very first time (and every time after as well) I entered this store even though I must have been barely ten years old then. I felt like I was in a fairy-tale, albeit a bookish one! Like Belle when she first sees the library in the Beast’s mansion. Established 1884, it is one of the oldest (or maybe the oldest) bookstore in India, and even among the oldest in the world. Timeless indeed!
Oxford Bookstore, Kolkata (1919 – present)
This bookstore is not affiliated with Oxford University Press, which, by the way, came to India in 1912 during the days of the British reign in India. While OUP initially had an issue with the use of ‘Oxford’ in the name, they realized that it benefited them more than not. Hence Oxford Bookstore has remained so since then and to the current times too. Plus, you can top it off with tea! As this bookstore also has a tea stall (ChaBar) inhouse!! Talk about timeless and fan-tea-stic! 🙂
I am yet to visit Kolkata (formerly Calcutta) and it has been on our must-visit list for too long now.
Select Bookshop, Bangalore (1945 – now)
Okay, this one I am not sure of now – can blame my faulty memory. I have visited many bookstores in Bangalore over the years – most of them during my six-year stay there while at college and my first job . And this one is on Brigade Road, a place I frequented with college and work friends. So I most likely did explore this one (but I need to refresh my memory, so the next time I am in Bangalore, you will find me here).
Though I have visited Bangalore almost every year since then to be with family, I do not get the chance to explore any bookstores other than those closest home (like Nagasri in Jayanagar and Sapna – both on my list as well – or the popup used bookstores on the streets of Gandhi Bazaar or other nearby areas).
Maria Brothers, Shimla (1946 – now)
If you find a charming, tiny, blue store as you stroll along Mall Road in beautiful Shimla, then you have reached Maria Brothers. This means you need to walk right in, for it is not only a part of history (having been in operation since pre-independence India) but also claims to have one of the 27 printed copies of the Declaration of Independence. While I could not find confirmation of this claim in other sources for these copies (like at Harvard’s Declaration Resources Project), it will sure be interesting to go check out the reason for this claim for myself!! And to visit Shimla (a town my mom spent sometime in during her childhood, and talks fondly of even today).
Cambridge Book Shop, Mussoorie (1952 – now)
A chance to meet Ruskin Bond? Yes!! This book shop in Mussoorie offers just that….You can find the author at this charming bookstore every Saturday chatting with customers and signing copies of his books. The late Laxman Das Arora established the store seventy years ago and it is run by his son today. Photos of this store remind me of my favorite Nagasree but with a hill-station vibe (well, of course!) So yes, I have added it to my bucket-list.
Ram Gopal Sharma and Sons, Delhi (1952 – present)
A lending library first, and now also a second-hand book-haven for book lovers (especially if you are a Mills and Boons lover!) This bookshop/library has been catering to readers since 1952 (some sources say it is a pre-independence library – so I am assuming the library was in existence before 1947 and the bookstore came into existence in 1952).
They also started an online book-rental portal more recently and named it …. ‘bookmeabook.com’!
Bahrisons Booksellers, Delhi (1953 – now)
I have been to Delhi a few times when I was very young, and then one memorable long visit when I was in high school. Very likely that I came upon this bookstore during that visit as I spent my whole summer there and did a lot of walking around with my cousins. But since I don’t recall much, I will have to make it a point to visit this the next time I go there.
Sapna Book House, Bangalore (1967 – present)
I have been to this store (or rather, a couple of its locations) many times during my college days, and spent hours browsing the aisles. Like its name – Sapna (meaning dream) – this place is the stuff of dreams for booklovers! The story of how this bookstore came to be is also a must-read.
Giggles, Chennai (1974 – now)
Who wouldn’t like to visit a store with a name like this? Unfortunately, I don’t think I have been to this one though I have been to Chennai many a time during my childhood summers. Oh well, okay, another time,
Nagasri Bookhouse, Bangalore (1976 – now)
Nagasri brings back wonderful memories for me! I love visiting this tiny bookstore in Jayanagar’s 4th block complex. Books are piled from floor to ceiling to make up for space, but the owners (two cousins who I have been seeing there forever or so it seems) know exactly where every book is! In addition, I am sure they also read or at least skim through all the books they have, since they always manage to give comments on any book I pick there. I often went/go there (now only during my visits to Bangalore) just to be able to have discussions on books with the owners!
Rachna Books, Gangtok (1979 – now)
This quaint independent bookstore also houses a café (Café Fiction) as well as a bed and breakfast (Bookman’s BnB), so you can stay among books and enjoy your cuppa at your leisure too!! The second-generation owner Raman Shresta (son of founder Rajiv Shankar Shresta) is committed to introducing readers to lesser-known novelists and the classics rather than bestselling authors. Rachna Books also hosts many events throughout the year, including readings, signings, as well as music and movie events.
Visiting the north-eastern states of India has been a longtime dream of mine, and since this bookstore is located in Sikkim, I now need to plan for that visit sooner than later!!
And in the 11th spot are two not-really-bookstores but book paradises in their own right. They are College Street, Kolkota and Kitab Bazaar at Daryaganj, Delhi. Both of these are not just any single bookstore but literally streets filled with bookstores and even with booksellers filling the pavements with their wares (books) for readers to indulge in and simply fill their bookshelves back home! While I am yet to visit Kolkata, I recall strolling through book filled streets during my long-ago trip to Delhi, and am assuming it must have been at Daryaganj.
And yes, these street-side stores have been there for a long time now, like since ‘Once upon a time’!
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Related Reads: Timeless Bookstores in India (and elsewhere)
- The Magic of Bookish Haunts – Then, Now, Forever
- Quick Guide to Ten Fictional Bookish Places You Will Wish Were Real
- Top Ten Bookish Settings I Would Love to Visit
And Now, the End of This Post
Dear reader, have you visited any of these bookstores in India? Or any others that you found unique or memorable (in India or elsewhere)? Do let me know so I can keep them in mind to visit.