Tome Homes: The City’s Best Specialist Bookstores
For a city that has produced several notable writers and fired the imaginations of many more, Mumbai has few truly good bookstores. Most of them stock a generic variety of popular titles and sell greater quantities toys and stationery than books. Yet there are a few stores, both recent and old, that either specialise or generously stock books of certain genres or languages. Here are six such shops.
Design books at Art and Design Book Store
The modest store with mirrored mosaic tiling and tall shelves is a dream for books on design of all kinds, from graphic design and interiors to photography and automobile design. It was started in 2011 by Pranav Upasani, who runs a design practice. Here you will find niche titles such as Understanding Art Objects, Contemporary Art in Eastern Europe and a collection of photography from Life magazine.
Where: Art and Design Book Store, 104 Ramnimi (on the first floor of the Cottonworld building), Mandlik Road, Colaba. Tel: 022 22822211.
When: Open Monday to Saturday, from 10am to 8pm; Sunday, from 1pm to 8pm.
European and American poetry and fiction at Wayword & Wise
Wayword & Wise sells all kinds of books, from graphic novels and children’s books to Indian and international fiction and non-fiction. But it’s their collection of European and American poetry and fiction that stands out. Poetry lovers will be delighted to find volumes by Cavafy, Rilke and Frank O’Hara. We had our eyes on a few contemporary novels: Serious Sweet by A. L. Kennedy, Robert Harris’s Dictator and Lauren Wolk’s Wolf Hollow.
Where: Wayword & Wise, Strategic House, 44 Mint Street, Ballard Estate, Fort. Tel: 022 2261 6651.
When: Open daily, from 11am to 7.30pm.
Hindi books at Hindi Granth Karyalay
The bookstore at C. P. Tank is housed on the ground floor of beautiful yellow heritage building Hira Baug. Inside the bookstore is a winding maze of bookshelves teetering with a large collection of Hindi books, ranging from self-help and self-improvement (such as translations of the Rich Dad guides to financial success) to biographies and fiction, including translations of English titles such as Salman Rushdie’s Shame and R. K. Narayan’s Malgudi Days. The poetry section has a mix of new Hindi writers as well as classics and Urdu shaayari. The store, founded in 1912, is almost as old as the building itself, which dates back to 1905. At the time, among the Hindi titles it published were Munshi Premchand’s works. The shop is manned by its friendly owner Manish Modi who encourages folks to browse.
Where: Hindi Granth Karyalay, Shop No.9, Hirabaug, C. P. Tank Road, Charni Road (East). Tel: 98208 96128.
When: Open Monday to Saturday, from 11am to 7pm; Sunday, closed.
Kids’ books at Butterfly Books
Butterfly Books is one of the best stops for children’s books in the city. They stock titles by Indian publishers such as Tulika and Tara, though owner Madhavi Gupta said these books are not as popular as foreign titles like the Dr. Seuss series and books by Julia Donaldson, which they also sell. Other popular titles include Martin Waddell’s Owl Babies, Ian Whybrow’s Harry and His Bucket Full of Dinosaurs and Lauren Child’s Charlie and Lola series. Gupta imports books from the UK and for the parents of her main clientele, keeps popular adult fiction books such as Agatha Christie’s novels and Jeffrey Archer thrillers. The year-old store in Prabhadevi functions more like a warehouse. They have exhibitions here once or twice a month and thrice a year at a hall in Churchgate. Patrons can message Gupta on 98210 26234 for regular updates.
Where: Butterfly Books, 83E Hansraj Pragji Building, Ground Floor, off Dr. E. Moses Road, Worli. Tel: 022 2491 2377.
When: Open daily, from 8am to 6pm during exhibitions. On other days, open by appointment.
Leftist Literature at People’s Book House
Titles by Spivak, Omvedt, Foucalt, Durkheim and Gramsci share shelf space in People’s Book House, which stocks Leftist books and tomes on philosophy and the social sciences. Here you will also find detailed histories of India from the perspective of Leftist historians like Bipin Chandra, a large collection of Marathi and Hindi books on Dalit history and simplified versions of the works of Marx and Engels. The store managers here make you feel like you’re in college, and have the brusqueness of textbook salesmen. Their attitude isn’t unpleasant because it fits in with the atmosphere of the collegiate, Leftist store. Buy a book and read it next door at Yazdani Bakery over a cup of chai.
Where: Meher House, 15, Cawasji Patel Road, Ballard Estate, Fort. Tel: 022 2287 3768.
When: Open Monday to Friday, from 10am to 8pm and Saturday, from 10am to 6.30pm; Sunday, closed.
South Asian language literature at Sahitya Akademi
The government-run Sahitya Akademi offices across major cities in India also have a small bookstore in their premises. In Mumbai, the book shop is in Dadar. Don’t be fooled by its appearance. While the small bookshop in the basement resembles an archive, with books tucked into rows of grey almirah-like cabinets, the collection is phenomenal with books in 24 Indian languages and English translations of literature from Burma, Pakistan, Nepal and other countries in the subcontinent. This is where you will find Tamil poet Subramania Bharati’s work, English translations of S. N. Pendse’s Marathi fiction title Wild Bapu of Garambi and Manik Bandopadhyay’s Bengali novel The Puppets’ Tale and The History of Dogri Literature. The staff here is reserved yet helpful when asked for help selecting books.
Where: Sahitya Akademi, 172, Sharada Cinema Building, Mumbai Marathi Granth Sangrahalaya Marg, Naigaon, Dadar (East). Tel: 022 2413 5744.
When: Open Monday to Friday, from 9.30am to 6pm; Saturday and Sunday, closed.