It’s no secret, my grand love affair with books. I’ve also written about my obsession with bookstores, big and small. Flipkart has replaced Landmark in my affections because it’s so much more convenient. But I do miss the adventuring that went with real world, poking-through-shelves book browsing.
There is a larger experience that makes buying a book, more than just shopping. That’s why there’s even a different term for it – book browsing (which is not the same as window-shopping for books). A book is a journey into someone else’s mind. A good bookstore is a travel guide to any place in the imagined world. And there’s other people – what they’re reading, what they’re looking at and what they add to the journey.
Secondhand bookstores add a whole new dimension to this. A secondhand book is the original book plus the memories of the person who read it before you – inscriptions, dogearing at pages relevant to them, comments in the margin – all of these tell a meta-story about the book and its last reader. As the next reader, it becomes your privelege to read both stories, what’s written on the pages and what’s been imprinted in other ways afterwards. I do miss those days.
I was in one such bookstore recently, one of a dying breed of such shops that stack books as high as they’ll stand, let you walk (stumble) around unchaperoned and actually know which book to shelve where. Here are a couple of nuggets from my latest book adventure:
Spotted in the bestsellers rack: Jeffrey Archer, Eric Segal, Sidney Sheldon and……SIDANEY SELDEN.
Remember this one? The author got a big press splash for being a teen wonderkid having written a best-selling book. And then suddenly, she was accused of plagiarism and the book was withdrawn from the shelves and printing stopped. You’d only find the book in a store such as this:
I actually didn’t buy anything this round, given that my bookshelf is overflowing with books to read. But yes, it was the perfect afternoon treat.