Ten must-visit bookstores in India

The book makes a good companion. When you’re on a long road trip, passing the time between meetings, enjoying a morning drink or curling up in bed, they’re always by your side. Books also play different roles. Based on your needs, they become your friend, philosopher or guide.

With the advent of technology, many of us have taken our reading online. Kindle and other book reading devices provide book lovers with access to writing on a variety of topics. For the traditional bibliophile, however, the online format doesn’t always hold the same charm. They prefer the familiarity of the page, the dog ears, the scribble, the odd bookmark, or just the smell of the paper.

Fortunately, there are enough readers of physical books to keep bookstores in business. At least for now. Hence, here is a list of ten remarkable bookstores in India that are perfect for finding your next book. For bookworms who started their reading habits online, the bookstore is a nostalgic trip back in time that’s worth a visit once in a while.

Choosing a book from a bookstore

College Street, Calcutta

Colloquially known as ‘Boi-para’, Kolkota’s College Street is the world’s largest second-hand book market. It would not be wrong to call the street the second home of students, intellectuals, academics and every book lover of the city. What started out as a street that catered mostly to academic books is today a bookselling haven.

Dating back nearly 200 years, this 1.5 km stretch is home to small street stalls, traditional bookstores and prominent publishers. They stock books on a variety of topics ranging from fiction to non-fiction and everything in between.

Higginbothams Bookstore, Chennai

Another Indian icon, Higginbothams is the oldest bookstore in the country. Founded in 1844 by ex-sailor turned librarian Abel Joshua Higginbotham, it is located in a building on Mount Road that boasts a charming colonial facade. Abel may not have been well-liked by his shipmates, but his love of books was evident in the eclectic collection in his bookstore.

The bookstore, which attracted both casual browsers and serious readers, quickly became popular. This prompted Abel to expand his offerings to stationery and publishing. Higginbothams is a legendary name in the book industry today with its significant presence in many railway stations and landmarks in several cities.

Pagdand Bookstore Cafe, Pune

This cozy little bookstore cafe has carved a place for itself in the independent bookstore league. Starting as a library and café, community reading and event space, it has successfully transitioned into a bookstore.

One of their most popular sections on Pagdandi is a collection dedicated to indie publications that tell unique stories. Pagdandi also hosts open mic nights, music nights, readings and art workshops on certain days.

Rachna Books, Gangtok

Rachna Books is a bookstore and cafe that blends seamlessly with the B&B. It is a wonderful place that offers visitors a cultural experience. Not surprisingly, artists, authors, musicians and book lovers frequent here. In 2015, Rachna Books won Publishing Next’s The Bookstore of the Year award. Undoubtedly, it is a must-visit bookstore in India.

Opened in 1979, the store recently got a new lease of life. Over the years it has become a landmark in Gangtok. But you won’t find the usual headlines here. Rachna Books prides itself on curating the extensive and carefully curated collection of owner Raman Shrestha.

Faqir Chand & Sons, Delhi

Filled from floor to ceiling with books so you can’t see the walls, Faqir Chand & Sons has become a landmark in Delhi. Tucked away in the side lanes of Khan Market, this place is a treasure, selling all kinds of books. You’ll find bestsellers trying to find space in collections for a wide range of topics.

In 1931, owner Fakir Chand first opened an oriental bookstore in Peshawar, Pakistan. During the partition, it was moved to Khan market and named after him. Patronized by book lovers and famous authors alike, the shop has been in its current location since independence. Browsing through Fakir Chand’s collection of books is like walking through history, an unparalleled experience unlike any other.

Blossom Book House, Bengaluru

From selling books on the pavement of MG Road, Mai Gowda now has over 8,000 sq.ft. Blossom Book House on Church Street has a collection of about four lakh books, mostly second-hand. Opened in 2002, it is a bibliophile’s dream.

Comprised of both popular and rare titles, its owner is an engaging personality. Shelves after shelves of tightly packed books that have traveled to places are the result of his ingenuity. The most popular section of the current generation is graphic novels. As a result, it has its own dedicated space in the store.

Gulshan Books, Srinagar

In 2018, Gulshan Books entered the Limca Book of Records for being one of the most unique bookstores in India. After all, it is the country’s only library and bookstore on the island. Located on Nehru Island in Dal Lake, arriving at Gulshan Books is as exciting as browsing through its collection of over 80,000 books. The bookstore is also a publishing house that promotes local authors and topics.

In addition to a bookstore and a cafe, “Gulshan Books” also has a reading room. It provides a dedicated space for reading, thinking or writing. From book lovers to authors, Gulshan Books provides much sought after solace to book lovers of all kinds. While the shikara free ride will get you here, it’s the setting that will keep you glued to the pages.

Bookstore in Khan Market

Wayword & Wise, Mumbai

Wayword & Wise is located on the edge of the cultural and business worlds of the maximum city. Located in South Mumbai’s Fort district, its neighbors are museums, cafes, art galleries and Indo-Gothic heritage buildings. It started half a decade ago and is now a place for book lovers in Mumbai to immerse themselves in the joy of browsing and reading.

A carefully curated collection of rare and new books blends perfectly into its luxurious interior. It boasts a list of famous and notable patrons like Justice Chandrachud, Mahesh Bhatt, Jerry Pinto and PJ Naik. But their excellent selection of established and emerging genres remains their USP and the reason it is one of the best bookstores in India.

Maria Brothers, Shimla

Maria Brothers is an antique bookshop located in a quiet corner of Mall Road. Known only to a few, it is somewhat of a pilgrimage for die-hard literary heads. But don’t rush here to grab the latest bestsellers. What you might come across instead are rare titles that are mostly out of print. You don’t just have to be a book lover to really appreciate the wealth of books here. It’s a space for collectors.

Now a passion project of Rajiv Sood, his father originally started this must-visit bookstore in India way back in 1946. While the Maria Brothers have quite a few titles on philosophy and literature, the collection leans more towards the history and travel genres. They also keep books on the Himalayas and other regions with similar geography.

Literati Bookshop & Café, Calangute

Are you looking for a literary experience in Goa that doesn’t involve lounging on the beach with a good book? If so, Literati Bookshop & Café is your answer. Sipping coffee in the shade of a 100-year-old Portuguese villa and flipping through a specially curated collection of books is what your vacation here will look like. One of the best bookstores in India, it quietly blends the concept of a bookstore and a cafe, presenting a paradise for book lovers.

Literati’s tall wooden shelves are full of interesting titles, from bestsellers and fiction to non-fiction and a few rare finds. Away from the hustle and bustle of Goa’s tourist hotspots, Literati is a haven for readers who enjoy solitude and quiet reading in an idyllic setting.

Photos: Pixabay

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