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Second hand books
I am not a big proponent of second hand books. Being the eldest of the two siblings in the family ensured that I always got new school textbooks while my sister got my hand me downs. (It’s a different matter altogether that she would refuse to use my sketch-riddled tattered bundle of loose printed pages that I would try to pass off as “books”). I therefore have been fortunate to have lived my life by the adage – Wear an old coat, buy a new book (I don’t wear a coat – old or new - in balmy Bangalore weather but I still buy new books).

There are however exceptions to the rule (if what I’ve stated in the first paragraph is to be treated as a rule). Books go out of print for many reasons. More often than not it is driven by economic compulsions of the publishing business. If a book is a failure to start with, chances are that it wouldn’t see a second print. Also, a book after a stipulated time (make that very very long time if we are to go by the recent amendments to the copyright law by congress in US), might fall into public domain and therefore might cease to be lucrative for the publishing house, leading to its discontinuation. There could be other reasons too (like the publishing house itself going out of business) and all of them collude in making a book almost impossible to acquire from a ‘regular’ bookshop. What you can’t buy, you borrow, and what you can’t borrow, you look for in a second hand bookshop.

A year after I had moved to Bangalore, I got introduced to a second hand bookshop by a friend. ‘Select’ bookshop is at the end of a small alley which joins right in the middle of the busy Brigade road. The shopkeepers have made little or no attempt to draw attention to the bookstore and so it operates in obscurity which is surprising for its provenance (though not for its moniker). The store spans two stories. The ground floor mostly stocks books on literature. In a small store-room attached to the main bookroom you can also find volumes on science, computers, economy and management. The second floor is given entirely to history. You may also find more than a decade old issues of National Geographic here. I have brought very little from this shop; a little unusual for the amount of time I’ve spent there. I’ve either not found the books I’ve been looking for or the quality of the books has been marginally better than the quality of my school text books at the end of an academic year. And at times I’ve had to leave a book out of concern for the families of silverfishes; which given the profundity of their tunnels, must be profiting greatly from the deep study of classics several years older than them.

I have always rushed past Blossoms bookshop at Church Street (opposite Amoeba); partly because I would wince at very sight of the garish green background on which the shop’s name is printed in maroon and partly because the pani-poori seller at ground floor, surrounded by merry chat eaters, always made the exercise of getting to the first-floor bookshop seem unworthy. They’ve been claiming upto 90% discounts on books since they opened. Sooner than later a bibliophile is bound to yield to such temptations – I did. The source of their fat discounts is the fact that they deal exclusively in second hand books. Like Select, this too is a two storey shop but has a collection which is much larger and better organized. My first visit to the shop was a hurried one (with a colleague breathing down my neck), second late at night when they were rushing to close and third a relaxed one which yielded the proverbial pot of gold at end of the rainbow bookshelf. I found four volumes on musicology which if not out of print already are extremely hard to procure in India:

  1. An outline of the history of music – Karl Nef – Columbia University Press, 1935

  2. Milton Corss’ Encyclopedia Of The Great Composers And Their Music – Volume I – Milton Corss and David Ewen – Doubleday and Company Inc, 1962

  3. Milton Corss’ Encyclopedia Of The Great Composers And Their Music – Volume II – Milton Corss and David Ewen – Doubleday and Company Inc, 1962

  4. Chamber Music – edited by Alec Robertson – Penguin Books, 1967

The first three books are hard bound and all four of them are in great condition. So far only my olfactory senses have lodged a minor protest against the musty old-book scent; understandably so as it is a slight deviation from the fresh-print smell they are otherwise used to. The olfactory organ is being recalibrated.

Update: Since a lot of people come to this page while searching for Blossom, I thought I'll add their contact information as part of this post:

Blossom (House of Used Books)
#84/6, Opp. Ameoba, Church Street,
Bangalore - 560001

E-mail: blossombookhouse at rediffmail dot com
Ph: 080-25320400
posted: 13.3.05


Whenever you buy a secondhand copy of a "good" book, you'll rarely find signs of use. It's either been left unread, or handled with a lot of care. In the first case, its moving on to another reader is a happy thing, but in the second, it breaks my heart to think someone had to sell it. The smell in either case, is the smell of sadness.

By Blogger Ink Spill, at 14.3.05  

Even sadder is the case of books where the front page carries an affectionate little handwritten note.

By Blogger Deepak, at 14.3.05  

Lovely post :-)

I share your feelings bt second hand books - if the book has to look well-read it has to be coz of me, and I mean well-read and well-cared for, not tattered like your school texts. ;-) My own school texts would look as good as new, so that the store would get a better second hand price for it...they quite loved me for it!

Anyways - you know those book-wallas (Bouquinistes is what they are called in Paris - they are all over by the Seine) in Fort, Mumbai and near the Fort Campus of Mumbai Univ? They sometimes have real treasures - you just have to have the patience to scan the books in each stall, in like blazing sun and then bargain with them....

By Blogger Geetanjali, at 14.3.05  

Thank God for Select & Blossom, I always say! :)

By Blogger Manjusha, at 15.3.05  

Any tips on how to recalibrate the olfactory organ? It would be a very useful skill, I'm thinking.

By Blogger Deirdre, at 23.3.05  

Thanks Geetanjali. I was never careful with my books during my school days. And then I learned page-flip animation which meant that the empty margins of my books were no long dull or boring ;-)

Never visited the Book-wallas near Fort Campus. I'll make it a point to see them the next time I get to stay in Mumbai for a while. Do they put up their stall on a particular day or is it a seven days a week affair?

Thank God for these bookshops indeed Manjusha!

Start with a laundry clip Deirdre and gradually lighten its grip ;-)

By Blogger Deepak, at 28.3.05  

Hey gr8 words on 2nd hand books ...as a book lover i am wondering where is this select bookstore??? or anyother 2nd hand books stores


By Anonymous Anonymous, at 29.3.05  

Hi [friend], Select Bookstore - just hit the Planet M store at Brigade Road and keep walking down that lane. Take the first left you encounter, you should be able to see the bookshop.

Blossoms is at Church Street opposite Amoeba and is hard to miss.

Don't know of any other second hand bookstores.

By Blogger Deepak, at 30.3.05  

Thanks. I was trying to locate Blossoms and see if Maugham resides there in the old Penguin print.

By Blogger S, at 12.5.05  

Welcome S. If there is one shop where you are likely to run into it, it is this one! Best of luck!

By Blogger Deepak, at 12.5.05  

Deepak, it will be great if you tell about this shops with better direction. May be even i hit a pot of gold :)


By Anonymous Anonymous, at 24.5.05  

There is also the nalanda bookshop for secondhand, but prices are higher than in brigade.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2.8.05  

great , i exactly reached ur page searching for blossom add, i used to buy
from their old facility which they relocated, i stay in chennai now...but its still my fav hobby to hunt books in
bangalore ...(when i get to visit).

By Blogger prasad, at 5.3.06  

Thanks for the information on Blossom. I was looking for a second hand bookshop in Bangalore and I found two here! I noted the contact info of Blossom, but couldn't find any info on Select. Can you please give me their contact info?

By Blogger Whatever, at 4.4.06  

Thanks Buddy. You make banaglore a better place for second hand book lovers. Wanted Blossoms phone no. and got it at your place. Thanks again.

By Anonymous HM, at 24.5.06  

Nice post!! Many thanks for posting the contact details for blossom ... they should give u few books as complimentary for this generous thoughts!!

By Blogger Swatantra, at 14.9.06  

I was heartbroken when i moved to bangalore from Mumbai as I had imagined my college life including buying atleast one book per week from the churchgate bookwallas. I used to longingly at them whever i went in that area(though My mum did buy a book everytime I was still longing for the other books there. I am greedy for books). Now I bangalore I want to know a good book store selling second-hand books. Chruch street is also on brigade road right? ANd any libraries in that area?

By Blogger Vaidehi, at 10.7.09  

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