The Booksellers of Brigade Road

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. Blossoms: Every Bangalorean’s favourite bookstore, this place is so famous it’s got a fansite of its own! Called overheardatblossoms, some of the stuff on it is hilarious. Wonder how much is true, though. As for the bookstore, it’s 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.

At Blossoms, Church Street
At Blossoms, Church Street

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.

Image
At the Magazine Store, Church Street

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.)

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17 Replies to “The Booksellers of Brigade Road”

  1. Sapna book mall.. They have got quite some collection.. I wanted some books on socio-economic issues to avoid looking dumbass on pmrdf wat-pi, given they wud go 4 guys with social work background anyway.. Found attendants there helpful n cool except a few.. I wanted to have a look of the ones you mentioned, but most I talked know just enuf Hindi to run their shops :)n the lazy bum I’m, left those for another time.. 😀

  2. Hi Cinthya. I’ve been meaning to post a comment ever since you ‘liked’ my about page and started following my blog. Thanks! At times I wonder if anyone at all reads my about page. Having put a lot of thought into articulating it, I felt like having shouted into a void. So thanks again.

    Motivated by the sheer bookishness of this particular post of yours, I was wondering if you follow Pradeep Sebastian’s Endpaper column in The Hindu Literary Review. Do you?

    1. Yes, I do! It’s one of my favourite columns in the Literary Review. I especially like his posts about “books about books”. Someday when I’m old and (hopefully) rich I’m going to build a huge collection of antiquarian books. 🙂 And I totally understand the feeling of shouting in the void. Sometimes it feels like that’s all I can do.

      1. Glad, and heartened, that you’re an Endpaper aficionado too! For a long time I’d been contemplating writing to Pradeep Sebastian, if only to express my gratitude for making me the kind of reader, and bibliophile, that I eventually turned out to be; and a couple of years ago I did. Among other (gushy) things I had this to say,

        “It was in Endpaper that I discovered books about books, literary mysteries and most importantly Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose. I don’t think it is an exaggeration to say that my life as a serious reader and bibliophile began at that point of time. Since then, I’m happy to say, my first encounters with many of my favourite authors (Arturo Perez-Reverte, Russell Greenan, Donna Tart, Peter Hoeg, Nicholas Basbanes, Alberto Manguel and Anne Fadiman) have occurred in Endpaper. For a long time, inspired by Endpaper, I was toying with the idea of authoring a blog centered around my obsessions: books, reading, writing, movies and mathematics. Very recently, I gave in to the temptation and and started writing Naturally, a Manuscript (URL: http://naturallyamanuscript.blogspot.com). While not always about books, it is most definitely a bookish blog. I’d like to think of it as an Anne Fadiman-like collection of writings about the obsessions of a “literary hedonist”!”

        Imagine my delight when he eventually replied. And of all that he had to say, this I treasure the most: “Over the years I’ve heard from a few readers, but none seem to have your enthusiasm for the column, and I’m very gratified to know Endpaper has a true bibliophile following it.” (!)

      2. By the way, I love Blossoms. It’s my favourite bookshop in Bangalore. However, I haven’t been to any of the other places you’ve profiled here. Am I missing out on potentially significant finds?

        Also, what are your favourite books about books? Mine are Anne Fadiman and others’ Rereadings, Manguel’s A History of Reading, Michael Dirda’s Readings, and Anita Nair’s Goodnight and Godbless. Of course there’s Pradeep Sebastian’s collected essays, The Groaning Shelf. Among works of fiction it’s got to be A. S. Byatt’s Possession. Have you read any of these?

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