“With the advent of e-commerce websites and e-reading platforms selling books at huge discounts, the institution of a bookstore has taken a serious hit, with more and more bookshops closing down each year. However, lovers of literature find themselves going back to these havens, if only to browse, read, and converse. Apart from multi-store chains like Crossword, there are many independent bookstores, like Bahrisons in New Delhi, Kitaab Khana in Mumbai, Blossoms in Bangalore, and Higginbotham’s in Chennai, which keep alive the sheer joy of browsing books on shelves and having conversations with other bibliophiles. Below are listed some independent, niche bookstores across the country, all of which have a unique charm of their own.
There are countless such independent and novel bookstores across the country, which require your support and patronage. The next time you visit a new city, try taking in its beauty through the walls of these establishments as well, for they have a lot to tell you.”
May Day Bookstore, New Delhi
An initiative of the leftist publishing house LeftWord Books, May Day is a bookstore which has a wide collection of books covering the broad spectrum of leftist ideology, its thinkers and its writers. Apart from that, the bookstore also houses books from niche and indie publishing houses. May Day Bookstore also has a dedicated section for second-hand books, arguably one of the best across bookstores in Delhi. Second-hand books here are sold for as cheap as Rs. 10, and it houses gems as rare as a first-edition Rebecca (by Daphne du Maurier).
This one of a kind bookshop on wheels was started by bibliophiles Akshaya Routray and Satabdi Mishra in Koraput, Odisha. Realizing the inaccessibility of books in remote parts of the country, Routray and Mishra started by carrying books in backpacks to villages in Odisha. Now, Walking BookFairs has traversed over 20 Indian states and has also received the ‘Bookshop of the Year’ award. Carrying a wide variety of fiction and regional literature in various languages, Walking BookFairs also functions as a library for those who cannot afford to buy books, an increase in readership being the primary motive of the founders.
Prabodha Book Centre, Vijayawada
Established by New Zealander Eric Baigent in as early as 1964, Prabodha was the only bookshop of its kind in Vijayawada. At a time when a majority of the booksellers were just selling school and college textbooks, Prabodha Book Centre stocked all sorts of English classics and contemporary literature to widen the horizons of the people of that town. Those who come in are free to browse, look around, read, and leave without buying anything. While primarily a store selling books on Christianity and Gospel, the bookshop did the important job of introducing the youth to other forms of English literature.
Vadehra Art Gallery Bookstore, New Delhi
The bookstore of the Vadehra Art Gallery in the Defence Colony area of New Delhi is as well-endowed as it is aesthetically pleasing. The bookstore boasts of a wide variety of books and publications, both Indian and international, specifically focused on the visual arts. It also houses a collection of art-inspired merchandise, home and office supplies, limited edition artist-signed prints, etc. Adjacent to the bookshop is a reading room, where the various books, journals and other material available can be perused at leisure.
Art and Design Bookstore, Mumbai
A small, cosy space just off Colaba Causeway, this bookstore is as niche as it gets. A small independent venture, Art and Design Bookstore, as the name suggests, specializes exclusively in books, magazines, journals, zines and illustrations about Art and Design. The collection is diverse, from books on Spanish architecture to magazines like Platform. The bookstore itself has been designed much like a modern art gallery, with hidden seats and black tiling. Apart from this, there is free coffee, which is always a bonus!
Rachna Books, Gangtok
One of the cultural landmarks of the city, Rachna Books is an independent bookstore in the idyllic town of Gangtok. It has been described in various sources as the best-stocked bookshop in Gangtok. Having patronage of authors like Chetan Raj Shrestha and Prajwal Parajuly, the bookshop also houses an eatery, Café Fiction, and a bed-and-breakfast accommodation called Bookman’s BnB. The bookshop is a holistic artistic environment, with events, music performances and bake sales going on round the year. Though the collection of books is largely left-leaning, it also features books on Sikkimese and Tibetan history, and specializes in writings from the North East.
Gulshan Books, Srinagar
Being the only bookshop on a lake, this bookstore-cum-café is situated on the Dal Lake and offers breath-taking views of the valley along with books, coffee and a reading room to enjoy it all. A 2-minute boat ride away from the shore, it is a joint venture run by the Jammu and Kashmir Tourism and Development Board and Gulshan Books Kashmir. It has over 80,000 books, boasting of a wide variety of titles on the history, art, culture and religions of Kashmir. The bookstore also features a rare collection of photographs from the Dogra period (1846- 1948).