Sunday, 8 October 2017

Photo Essay: Browser's delight, buyer's paradise

Secondhand books have the tantalising aroma of a Goan vindaloo or a Malwani curry.

Browsing through books is half the battle. Buying books is not necessarily winning the fight. I have spent a greater part of my reading years doing no more than looking up books, admiring covers, flipping pages, reading back of the book, searching for bookmarks, and envying other people's choices and purchases. I find as much joy and satisfaction in browsing as I do in buying books. Of course, there have been many occasions when I have walked out empty-handed and instantly regretted not picking up a coveted title or an out-of-print book, and I have rushed back the next day only to find it gone. Book kismet.

Old or new, shops or footpaths, books will always be around, to mock, deny, bond, and befriend. Let me take you through some of my secondhand book haunts, mostly in South Mumbai, where I have browsed more than I have bought. A few of these pictures are old and have been reproduced before; the rest are as recent as yesterday.


The footpath libraries of Flora Fountain (Hutatma Chowk).

Abraham Lincoln in not so strange company.

My pick of the box — Jack Higgins, of course.

A pavement seller on Mahatma Gandhi Road opens for the day.

The suburban bookshop where I browse or board a bus.

The English historical novelist on my wish-list.

Fiction rubs spine with self-help on Mahatma Gandhi Road.

No customers yet but this footpath bookseller knows his books.

British crime writer Martina Cole at Books by Weight.

A closeup of the pavement seller on Mahatma Gandhi Road.

Heavyweights jostle for space at a suburban bookshop.

Take your pick or toss a coin.

Spy fiction writer Craig Thomas is an old school friend.

Books in a haystack near the old Central Telegraph Office.

© All photographs by Prashant C. Trikannad


32 comments:

  1. Wow. Just: WOW! If I had anything like this near me, I'd spend ALL my time looking through those stacks and stacks and there would go all my money. As it is now I have to control myself from ordering more than just a couple of used books online - but this, Prashant, is like book heaven. How do you tear yourself away???

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    1. Yvette, I'm trying not to hoard any more books though I do buy a few every year. It's I started reading novels from my collection.

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  2. I love the idea of the pavement sellers - we get too much rain here for that. Mind you, probably the last thing I need is more temptation to acquire books... :)

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    1. FictionFan, I'm always tempted to buy some of these books but my left hand has a vice grip on my right. A good thing, too.

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  3. Prashant – Thanks for the photos. I would like to spend an hour or two looking through that pavement seller’s mountain of books on the orange tarp.

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    1. You're welcome, Elgin. You'd need more than an hour to look through those books or even the ones at the Books by Weight exhibition.

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  4. I am like Yvette. I would not be able to walk out without some books. I mostly like to find older books, but on the other hand, filling in some holes in my collection on some new authors would be great too. You are much smarter than I am, Prashant.

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    1. Not really, Tracy. I'll be smarter only when I read the books I already have instead of buying new ones and not reading them.

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  5. I'm reading a Jack Higgins right now, The last place god made. sure would love to browse these stacks

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    1. Charles, THE LAST PLACE GOD MADE is Higgins at one of his best. It ranks in my Top 5 of his novels which includes THE EAGLES HAS LANDED, A PRAYER FOR THE DYING, and THE SAVAGE DAY.

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  6. Prashant, you are one lucky fellow. There used to be many second-hand book sellers in Delhi, now those that remain usually sell either Romance or the latest Best-Sellers. The Sunday Book Bazaar has also changed over the years with an emphasis on course books or those for competitive exams....

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    1. Neer, what happened to the famous book market at Daryaganj? I have heard much about it.

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  7. Prashant: It was very interesting to read of the booksellers available to you.

    How much would a kilogram of books cost when sold by weight?

    Saskatchewan's climate, especially the long winters, would never permit such outdoor sellers. I would be interested in knowing how much trouble they have with rain.

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    1. Thank you, Bill. At the Books by Weight exhibition in Bombay, Rs.100 per kg will fetch you five or six novels, and maybe a couple of hardbacks owing to their weight. During monsoon, the pavement booksellers build a makeshift roof of tarpaulin or large plastic sheets and one can still browse through all the books.

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  8. What a positive comment all these book stores are on Mumbai, thanks for sharing these wonderful images

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    1. You're welcome, Mel. Weekday or weekends, those are my go-to places. It's like vacation.

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  9. Oh, Prashant, I love these 'photos! I love how welcoming they all are. I know I could browse for days through those displays.

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    1. Margot, browse is all I do most of the time. I have too many unread books already. I feel guilty for buying and not buying!

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  10. Fascinating photos. It looks like most of the stuff is modern (apart from that Perry Mason). Do the sellers have much stock from the seventies and earlier?

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    1. Thank you, Paul. The Books by Weight exhibition in Bombay often has a few cartons of mid- to late 20th century paperbacks. It also has a decent collection of sf, fantasy and horror novels. Just not this time. Probably they were all sold out.

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  11. Dramatic reminder our public library's book sale is coming up soon, altho your photos, Prashant, dwarf the selection we will have in ours.

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    1. Thank you, Mathew. I don't go to library book sales often mainly because I don't know what time of year they are held, and besides, the libraries are located city-side while I live in the suburbs.

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    2. With what you have, Prashant, you don't need library sales!

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    3. That's true, Mathew. I can get hold of some fine secondhand books throughout the year. The sixth picture from the top is that of a small bookshop in my suburb which sells 20th century paperbacks for a few cents. I have bought many over the years.

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  12. I need to thin out my collection. I'm starting to pile books on shelves.

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    1. David, that's the reason I have cut down on books. I have got to try and read the ones already in my collection, not counting dozens of ebooks.

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  13. Haven Prashant, pure and simple :)

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    1. Thanks, Sergio. I have spent many happy hours just browsing through all these books.

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  14. fabulous photos Prashant, and I'm surprised you ever get anything done with those stacks of books on offer to search through....

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    1. Thank you, Moira. I'm glad you liked them. You can go through all the books at Books by Weight provided you spend the greater part of the day there.

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