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Walking Guide To Bangalore’s Bookshops, GPS MyCity

Certain shops, restaurants and buildings stand like institutional stalwarts in cities and pretty much define its character. If you are travelling to a place, the best way to absorb its social bearings is by taking a peek into its central areas. Bangalore though has been on a skyrocketing pace of change, knows how best to keep a few of its charming establishments intact and ready to be taken in. The Mahatma Gandhi Road, or more often called M.G Road, with its narrow parallels are great to understand the character of the city. Glistening new brands brazenly sit between the old world establishments, comfortably and amicably, defining the tolerant nature of the city further more. The book shops of the area particularly etch the spirit of Bangalore, with 9 of them lying within a radius of 1 kilometre. Camaraderie pales competition in this part of the world, with so many of these bookshops having built a place for themselves inspite of the proximity to each other. Find out more about them on this walk and what stirs the intellect of Bangaloreans with a short stroll of about 45 minutes. Ofcourse, your very own meanderings into the shops have to be taken in account separately. If you have just finished a hot cup of tea and a plate of potato ‘smileys’ at Koshys on St. Mark’s Road, head towards the Church Street. The smell of fresh Bengali sweets from K.C Das might help to gather direction.

1.       Variety Book House

Latitude: 12.97160, Longitude: 77.59456

Don’t let the shiny red exteriors elude the history that has shaped this ‘magazine and newspapers’ speciality store. Yahya Sait’s father started a humble business in a narrow passage under the stairway of a building in 1968 on Church Street. Many of us have been lucky to see the former Variety Book House, before it shifted address to just next door – and Yayha could not be more delighted with the proximity. Apart from fresh editions, look out for back issues of international magazines (at 70% discount) and foreign newspapers (The International Herald Tribune, Financial Times & Gulf News) along with an impressive collection of comics. If you can start the walk by ten, take in the morning sun, with a cup of tea and a newspaper, perched on the bright red stools, just outside the shop.

You will find the ever smiling Yahya suggesting you to pick up the free ‘know your Bangalore’ guides if you are new in the city.

Imran and Sameer, who work at the shop, will gladly be able to help you look for what you want.

Timings: 10 a.m to 10 p.m, all 365 days except for the 2 big Muslim holidays.

2.       Goobes Book Republic

Latitude: 12.97564 , Longitude 77.60238

With a name that invokes great curiosity, Goobe’s is appropriately tucked in the basement, adding testimony to its elusiveness. Ravi Mendes, who runs this quaint and ‘not overwhelming’ establishment, light-heartedly insists that the store is ‘’Cooler (the average temperature is much lower than the street …)’’ Though Ravi is mostly omnipresent at the store, Ram and Jayanna are integral to the smooth functioning and helping customers have a close look. A request slip for a special book will have the team scouring every place to make it available and even have it expressed to your door step. You will mostly find Ravi in conversation with the customers which comprise of causal walk-ins, to drunks from the neighbourhood pubs & to sworn Goobes who come to get their reading fix.  Ravi himself claims to be on a steady diet of non-fiction books on social development, history (including biographies), popular science books and Graphic Novels/comics/sci-fi/illustrated kids’ novels for dessert.

Exchange: Like most veteran bookshops down the street, 50% is what you might get on exchange of books.

Timings: 9am to 8pm 7 days a week 365 days a year (the shutter is half open even on unforeseen shut downs due to some political whim)

3.       Blossom Book House

Latitude: 12.97536,  Longitude 77.60446

One might as well cheer effusively to humble beginnings where Blossom Book House is concerned. Mayi Gowda arrived in Bangalore (from a village near Mysore) to finish his engineering studies, probably trying to break away from the shackles of a career in agriculture like his father. To sustain and substantiate his living, selling books and magazines on the pavement of M.G Road seemed to be a noble, yet lucrative option. One thing led to another, and now stands one of those book shops in Bangalore, that every notable author or reader would swear by. While ‘used books’ is what crowds this fine establishment, Mayi has now stocked new books as well. The service in the shop is impeccable and ceaselessly amazing as Karunakar and Avinash hold fort in Mayi’s absence. Not much of readers themselves, their knowledge of books is though truly amazing. Leave your phone number if you cannot find a particular book, and it will be hunted down for you in a few days, with absolute success most of the times. Notice the earthy, un-swanky feel of the shop and how the absence of glib chatter lets you absorb more. The remarkable selection of used books on the first floor can keep one busy for hours. And while you climb up to the 1st floor, don’t miss the wall on your right, plastered with posters of whats happening in town….( or what you might have missed)

Exchange: You can exchange books for upto 50% of their cost

Timings: 10.30 a.m to 9.00 p.m, No holidays

4.       Magazines

Latitude: 12.97514 , Longitude 77.60432

Break the walk with some furry cuddling at Yahya’s second magazine store down the same Church Street. A uniquely bright shop inspite of the basement location is a true indulgence spot for international magazines. Again, a 70% discount for back issues. The pure sourcing ability never ceases to amaze people, as topics from architecture to tattooing can keep you occupied for hours. But whats really fascinating for many drifters here are few of the 18 cats that Yahya owns. About 5 of them loll around on magazines or keep themselves busy with a chase while you flip through pages. Snowbell and Tiger are particularly friendly and tend to cling on. Yayha’s feline friends have definitely generated interest for the last 5 years of the existence of this exclusive magazine store.

Timings: 10 a.m to 10 p.m, all 365 days, except the 2 Id days

5.       Bookworm

Latitude: 12.97003, Longitude 77.60658

Turn right at the end of Church Street and usher yourself with the flow of the crowd onto Brigade Road. Cross over to the other side and take the first small lane to your left. Inconspicuous locations are a favourite with travellers – something about the discovery of place is just as exciting as the place itself. The ever smiling Mahendar greets you to this haven of ‘used books’. A favourite with many for the brilliant service and knowledge of books, this particular Bookworm is about 7 years old. Be sure to find yourself a lovely classic from a large variety or some quick reads (for cheap) on your travels. This particular Bookworm is the second one – the earlier establishment lies just off M.G Road and you will see it later in the walk.

Exchange: You can exchange books for upto 50% of their cost.

Timings: 10 a.m to 09 p.m, all 365 days

6.       Select Book House

Latitude: 12.97507, Longitude 77.60792

Even further up from Bookworm (on the right), pleasantly hidden away from the bustling crowd and cacophony on Brigade Road, is Select Book House. Established in 1945 by Mr. K.B.K Rao, this is one of the few bookshops that have enjoyed patronage from many famous Bangalore based authors in their early struggling times. It is almost therapeutic to immerse yourself in the used books, especially classics and history. You can enjoy a hassle-free time rummaging through editions while Mr. Sanjay or Mr. Murthy (his father) sit by the door and read their newspaper.

Timings: 11.00 a.m to 6.30 p.m (Weekdays), 11.00 a.m to 5.00 p.m (Sundays), Closed on all major holidays

7.       Higginbotham’s

Latitude: 12.97473, Longitude: 77.60937

Turn back to come onto the main M.G Road and turn left! With an un-missable address, right in the middle of M.G Road, Higginbotham Book House stands for everything legendary. Its 166 years old existence is evident in the high ceilings, spacious feel, weathered shutter and a credible distribution background. A Chennai based 1844 venture, the charm of Higginbotham lies in the staff that has been supporting this book shop for as much as even 32 years. Meet Mr. Kumar, whose smiling demeanour is bound to add to the experience. It’s a great place for bulk buys (with discounts) and children’s books.

Timings: 09.00 a.m to 8.00 p.m (Weekdays), 01.00 a.m to 8.00 p.m (Sundays), Closed on all major holidays

8.       Gangarams Book Bureau

Latitude: 12.97473, Longitude 77.60937

 

Staying away from flashy exteriors certainly goes well with the celebrated history and existence of Gangaram. Having defied retail theories, by starting first floor upwards, this book shop is a one stop shop for new fiction, academic books and stationary. Run by the Sindi brothers, having inherited the business from their father, Atmaram and Prakash, have a lifetime of Bangalore stories other than the books. The ability to source books if not available and a large variety to choose from, it impossible to step out of this book shop without a new acquisition. A 1965 establishment with a few floating addresses found a permanent address on M.G Road in 1977. Bangaloreans are looking forward to the upcoming new shop right above Koshy’s Restaurant (where you started).

Timings: 10.00 a.m to 7.55 p.m (Weekdays, Closed on Sundays and all major holidays

9.       Bookworm

Latitude: 12.97556, Longitude 77.60515

The shop sign aptly suffixes itself with ‘A treasure trove of new and rare books’ in the first Bookworm which started just a little off M.G Road in 2000. The decade old shop is yet another admirable story of pavement vending to one of the most coveted names in book selling now. Krishna and his team have done a notable job of patiently handling their customers with care and indulgence. Arrive there at 9.30 in the morning and Naveen will ensure you don’t leave before a couple of cups of coffee and a hearty chat, as he dusts and arranges books. Same goes for Pritam, Ashok, Mahesh and Pavithra. And the provider of coffee is none other than the Coffee guy from Coffee House, who stands at the erstwhile address of yet another unique establishment, which lost its enviable address recently to a less conspicuous location.  However, the day does not kick-start at Bookworm without the coffee before our white suited man assumes his position at the former coffee shop door, now serving from a thermos.

Exchange: You can exchange books for upto 50% of their cost.

Timings: 10 a.m to 09 p.m, all 365 days

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