Of the magic of second-hand bookstores

I had the opportunity to visit Blossoms yesterday, and I grabbed it with both hands. I love visiting this treasure trove of pre-loved books on Church Street, irrespective of whether I plan to buy some books or not. Invariably, I do end up buying at least a couple of books here whenever I visit. The place does that to you!

Yesterday was no different. The OH and I landed at the bookstore, and I soon forgot about him. I got lost in the endless maze of books, ranging from crime and romance to children’s books and non-fiction. I fell in love with the store all over again. I realised that if a book-lover had to define paradise, it would be pretty much like Blossoms. I moved around the staggering shelves very, very carefully, cautious not to knock over the teetering piles of books that lay waiting for homes at every corner. My face broke into a silly grin the moment the smell of books hit my senses. It is like a drug – never fails to uplift me.

Several books called out to me from the shelves – if I didn’t already have a teetering pile of ‘To be read’s back at home, I would have bought them all. I put them all back and went looking for one or two books that I would be able to read immediately – as of 2012, I have initiated this policy of buying only those books that I am going to read within a month’s time. I must say it has helped make my book-buying much more sensible and reasonable than before. I was meandering through the shelves for the umpteenth time when I spotted Marian Keyes’ Watermelon and, close by, Margaret Foster’s The Memory Box. I was thrilled. I knew that I should buy these books – something told me that I would read them immediately and that it was time to try these books out. Ah, the joy of finding a book waiting just for you to take it home! (I know I sound sort of crazy, but a true-blue book-lover would be able to relate to what I am saying, I hope.) I got a copy of Cornelia Funke’s Inkheart for my nephew too.

I found an inscription in the Inkheart book – the name of a school kid and the name of his school. I thought of what he would look like. Would he be a well-behaved, well-read kid or a brash, rude one? Does he love reading fantasy? Would he be a thin, bespectacled boy or a chubby kid? Would he be the odd one out, the shy kid who loved books, or would he be a class favourite, who read the book just because it would be ‘cool’ to do so? How lovely it would be if he and my nephew could be friends and exchange books!

Inscriptions on pre-loved books always make me dream like that – they give me a glimpse of the person/s who has read the book before me, loved and cherished it (hopefully). I am thrilled when I find bookmarks, bits and pieces of paper, flight tickets, subway tickets and such like inside pre-loved books. Not in a voyeuristic sense, of course. It just makes me happy to be able to see a bit of the person who held the book before it came into my hands. I find these inscriptions oh-so-charming, and I have a lovely time trying to imagine these people.

I was delighted to find a label stuck inside Watermelon. It was not the name of the book’s previous owner, or the name of the person who had gifted it to him/her. The label stated that the book was special, as it was a Book Crossing book, and that I could find out about the people who had owned the book before me by visiting the site and entering a certain number printed on it. No prizes for guessing what I did as soon as I reached home! Someone from Waterlooville, UK, owned the book before me and released it in 2010. I have no idea how it reached India, but I will happily spend the rest of the weekend thinking about it.

E-book readers might be convenient and help store thousands of books, but can they give me this magic? Can they make me imagine the lives of those who cherished a particular book before me? Can they give me the thrill of finding a book that has been waiting to come home with me – to an extent they can, but can they give me the joy of physically lifting the book and putting it to my nose to inhale the fragrance of it? Can they give me the joy of winding my way through the narrow aisles of a bookstore, minding my purse and elbows so that I don’t knock anything over? Nah.

Second-hand bookstores like Blossoms are yet another reason why I love books. There are few things better than a visit here to make your weekend.

39 thoughts on “Of the magic of second-hand bookstores

  1. That Book Crossing thing is so coooool! I would love to look up the book’s history! The thought itself is so fascinating! I can almost picture you scrunching your nose and wondering about the school boy 🙂 You’re right! E-books are convenient – oh Boy are they! – but the feel is very different. Both work for me – depending on the situation and mood at that time. I love carrying the Kindle on trips! Makes for very low weight and large collection of books 🙂 But I love to read paperbacks too. I guess its win some, lose some! 🙂 Beautiful post!


  2. This is an interesting and useful post. When in B’lore I normally buy books from Landmark but somehow I never think of it as a proper bookshop. I will try and visit this one whenever next! I love 2nd hand bookstores too. Am not an e-reader person at all.


  3. I have never visited second hand bookstores but I can just so relate to your post. I know what you mean when you say books call out to take them home with us 🙂 I read most of my books now on ereader but holding a book in hand and feeling the pages and smelling them cannot be replaced! 🙂


  4. I am so happy to read this post. I was a huge fan of Blossoms when I was in Bangalore. I still miss it at times. You have described the feelings of owning a second hand book so aptly. E-readers can never replace that feeling. I echo your sentiments.

    *Chanced upon your blog recently and I am glad I did !


  5. No ‘Blossom’ or such store here 😦 I’m jealous!!!!!! Also, we don’t get pre-owned fiction books at street 😦 I so miss my Mumbai days when I used to rob [well not literally :)] the VT streets off the books 🙂


  6. This surely sounds like a paradise….would love to visit the place 🙂
    In Ahmedabad, i used to visit one such place (Rare books), but it was really very small.
    Hope you enjoy the read 🙂


      1. Hey, that’s nice 🙂
        i found the guys there really helpful, they not only suggested good books, they arranged for particular book if we request. though the place is small and the books on offer were not many, i liked going there because of the helpful nature of the guys 🙂


  7. wow.. you brought a nice feel about owning a second hand book.. i always used to scribble women figures on the books. once, the person who uses my old textbooks fount it embarrassing to open books in school and asked not to draw naked women on books. :).. if it is Bollywood, sure the pre-owner and present one will fall in love and find each other and marry. :)..
    think how disgusting it would be if it were used cloths.. :P.. yup some how when u were talking about smell and other things, it crossed my mind.. :P.. yup my imaginations can get wild at times.


    1. @Ashreyamom

      Thank you! 🙂

      Your imagination is indeed over-active. I agree – if it were Bollywood, the present and previous owners of the books would find each other, fall in love and live happily ever after. 🙂

      There is a market for used clothes in India, too. A lot of people who cannot afford to buy new clothes do go in for second-hand or recycled clothes.


  8. For me an E-Reader can never take the place of a real book. I had known a similar book store in Ahmedabad and used to spend hours there, in fact such was my love that I had helped the people catalogue their books! What fun it was. I can still remember the smell of the book!



      1. @Sandhya

        Yes, I know there are several other bookstores around Brigade Road. Higginbothams, Gangaram, Bookworm, Select Book Store, Goobe’s, Page Turners, right? Are there any others I have missed?

        I know not all of these are used bookstores, but any bookstore is lovely. 🙂 Thought of mentioning all of them, as Brigade Road is a paradise for bookworms.

        I love Blossoms the most out of all these boosktores.


  9. Its the second hand books which drew me into the world of reading. The first thing I would do is locate any name or sign and think whether I could say thanks to that person 😛

    Having just experienced Blossoms, I can fully understand your emotions TGND 🙂

    What did your loot contain this time?


    1. @Visha

      Blossoms is a lovely place to visit, no?

      My loot – if you could call it that – consisted of just two books, as I have mentioned in the post. Watermelon by Marian Keyes and Margaret Foster’s The Memory Box. I got Inkheart for my nephew.


      1. How could you come out with 2?? I tried so hard, I actually went for just one you know 😦

        I hoped you were with-holding the mention of the loot 😛


  10. and you make me jealous..there I said, it and I am better now 🙂

    loved loved loved the way you have narrated this, I feel I am right now at Blossoms 🙂


  11. When I was in college, I used to go to the Daryaganj market on Sundays where a big books bazaar opened up on the streets. It was quite an experience.
    And then I started earning. 🙂
    I don’t know why but I never liked second hand books. I never got a feeling out of them that they were really mine.
    Anyways, its good that there are people who love them and give them a second home. 🙂


    1. @Amit

      Oh, I love second-hand bookstores. I admit there was a stage when I didn’t like second-hand books, but then I realised their charm. It is much better than buying pirated books off the street. To each his own, though, I guess.

      I have been to the Daryagunj book market in Delhi, and LOVED it! 🙂


  12. Ahhhh, I love second hand bookstores! I recently learned of one in my town that I was unaware of until now (how, I don’t know). There’s a particular smell and feeling of used bookstores – like these books have been loved before and have faith that they’re going to be loved again. Thanks for this glimpse into yours!


    1. @Jaclyn

      I agree – the books in second-hand bookstores have that air of having been loved about them. 🙂

      You are most welcome. It would be great if you could do a photo post on the second-hand bookstore in your area. Would love to read it. 🙂


  13. TGND,

    Huuuugs – I was just so happy and just so happy happy reading this – I can so relate to this. Honestly, I was thinking of writing a post too on the thrift shop I told you about. I will soon 🙂 And when I read this, I was like so so much able to relate to you ! I agree – iagree with every letter and every sentiment there. I cannot really travel and today I was pestering K to take me stationery shopping – infact started but came back after coffee (just couldn’t keep upto it). Loved this post so much – I can’t tell you how muc. The National Lib os S’pore gives away book for bookcrossing as well. Infact there are some coffee shops known for bookcrossing. I love looking at their hand writing and wonder about them, their lives and their favourite authors. Really, such bliss! Thank you for such a beautiful post TGND !
    You do know how I feel, don’t you?


  14. Couldn’t agree with you more 🙂 Pre owned books have a charm of their own 🙂 As a child I remember my dad used to get me second hand books from Fort area in Mumbai. Most of my Enid Blytons were from there… and I too loved to wonder about the previous owners of the books…


  15. I don’t think there is Blossoms in Pune or I would have also been as much in love with it. I can feel the passion for books in your post and that’s what I love most about it.


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