9 best-loved bookstores across the country, from Mussoorie to Mumbai
No matter which city you’re in, you have a friend
I wouldn’t call myself a kitaabi keeda. I seem to have lost the patience to sit in one place and read. (If you feel the same, try this list of quick page-turners) But I still am a book-lover. I can’t go on vacation without a book — even if I don’t read it, it’s nice to know I have it. I hoard them under my bed, and I’ve never met a bookstore I didn’t want to befriend.
Walking into a bookstore is like walking into another dimension. One where everything makes sense, is familiar, and smells as comforting as a hug from your grandmother. Shelves housing thousands of stories just waiting to pop out from their pages, cosy couches that call to you… bookstores are everyone’s best friend. It’s the place where most of us fell in love for the first time and had long, torrid affairs with characters we wished were real.
So when Crossword Bookstores announced the opening of a 20,000 sq ft flagship at Kemps Corner in Mumbai, we felt that familiar rush of emotions. Just thinking about the day I get to visit this new paradise makes me as giddy as a 5-year-old who has eaten too much Nutella.
While this behemoth is impressive, every city has its own treasured bookstore, that have fuelled a love of reading across generations. We asked our Tweak tribe to nominate the best bookstore in their hometown, and they did not disappoint. Now, no matter which city you’re in, you know you have at least one friend there.
Best bookstores across the country
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Blossom Book House, Bengaluru
This maze of towering bookshelves features narrow aisles, packed with countless books, both new and pre-used. One of the oldest in the city, it has readers like Shefali G convinced of its selection, “Standing at three storeys high, this building has a wide variety of second and firsthand books on multiple subjects. You will definitely find all possible fiction authors here.”
Blossom Book House also offers its customers an ingenious reason to keep coming back: “They also accept old books which you can sell here at half its MRP, then use the same money to buy more books.”
The English Book Depot, Dehradun
A cosy space with one of the finest cafes in Dehradun, the English Book Depot (EBD) has everything you could ever want in a bookstore. Established in 1923, the EBD offers a quiet nook for you to peruse books and unwind. A reviewer on World Orgs writes, “My favourite book shop in Dehradun, a place I have been visiting since childhood. Played an important role in inculcating book reading habits in me during my school days. I hope the place becomes more popular, despite changing consumer patterns and declining book reading culture.”
The EBD has an extensive collection of fiction, non-fiction, travelogues, YA novels, magazines, journals, and newspapers. If you’re lucky, you might also find rare books related to the military and the British Raj that you will probably not find anywhere else in the country.
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Said to be the oldest bookstore in the country and one of the largest operating bookshops in the world, Higginbothams has stood tall since 1844. It’s an underrated gem that deserves way more celebrity than it is awarded. The sloping roof, the beautiful stained glass paintings, the classic black and white tiles, the ticking grandfather clock on the stairway, and the vintage wooden furniture all paint a picture straight out of an Enid Blyton novel. It’s impossible to walk in and not feel like you’ve time-travelled a hundred years in the past.
An iconic landmark, the Higginbothams bookstore now has branches all across the city and one in Bengaluru. Manasa declares, “They also have decent artwork and souvenirs available. One must visit this store not just for the books but for the history, the stained glasses, and the old grandfather clock.”
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Kitab Khana, Mumbai
A quiet haunt for book lovers in Mumbai, Kitab Khana is nestled in a peaceful lane in Mumbai’s Fort area. The quaint shop is owned by husband-wife duo Samir and Amrita Somaiya, and is housed on their family’s 150-year-old property. C Saumya writes, “One of the most elegant bookshops in Mumbai… just the right collection of books for both adults and children. The cafeteria serves great meals and I am a fan of their Italian food and New York cheesecake.”
While the ground floor is overflowing with bookshelves carrying books from every genre known to mankind, the mezzanine is dedicated to literary classics, from non-fiction to poetry, self-help to regional masterpieces. If you go in looking for a particular book, Kitab Khana won’t let you down.
On the other hand, if you visit the bookstore just to look around, I would suggest carrying a pocket full of breadcrumbs. You will get as excited as a puppy who knows it’s about to be adopted and forget the way out.
Kitab Khana also has a small cafe that serves hot tea or coffee, sandwiches, pasta, and other delectable treats, making it an essential pit stop every time you visit Kala Ghoda.
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Once Upon A Time, Kochi
Once Upon A Time in Kochi has been raking up attention since it was established in 2020. In fact, it had become all the rage among bibliophiles even before its doors were opened. Once Upon A Time is no ordinary bookstore, nor does it make an attempt to seem like one. It shot to fame when author Paulo Coelho posted a picture of the bookstore’s facade on his social media.
The four-storey building is designed in a way that from the outside, it looks as if four books are stacked together. The four books are: The Alchemist, Moby Dick, Aadujeevitham, and Harry Potter. If you’re in Kochi, this bookstore is impossible to miss. The 3,400 sq ft interiors don’t disappoint either. All four floors are painted in different eye-catching colours and the railings of the 40-ft steel staircase have the ability to house a truckload of books.
Oxford Bookstore, Kolkata
Located on one of the busiest streets of Kolkata, the Oxford Bookstore is an escapist’s dream hiding in plain sight. It offers a quiet nook for all those who want to get away from the noise of the city streets as well the voices inside their heads.
Kaustav B writes on Trip Adviser, “This place is a heaven for book lovers. Even in this digital age, the smell of fresh books energises me. It has a huge collection of books, starting from every genre to every category.”
The Oxford Bookstore is also home to ChaBar, a space dedicated to all chai lovers. You can skim through your favourite books while sipping on organic and herbal teas or the classic masala chai. Who said the perfect Sunday is a myth?
Cambridge Book Depot, Mussoorie
The oldest bookstore in Mussoorie is famous for more than its extensive collection of books. This little treasure-trove of the written word is frequented by one of our favourite authors and the best Bond of all time, Ruskin Bond (catch our conversation with the legend himself).
Since its establishment in 1952, this bookstore has been a constant in the ever-changing landscape of Mussoorie. Here, the books aren’t picture-perfectly organised and the Dewey Decimal system is scorned. They’re haphazardly assembled in the narrow aisles of the store. It’s almost as if you’re crawling into a rabbit hole of books. One that you wouldn’t mind getting lost in.
ThatIndianPilot left a Google review that said, “This place is every bibliophile’s dream. It has almost every book you could ever dream of. Most people come here to try and meet Mr Ruskin Bond himself.”
Bahrisons, New Delhi
The story of the Bahrisons booksellers begins a few years after the partition of India. The store was established by Balraj Bahri Malhotra in 1953. He and his family had fled from his native village near Lahore and crossed the border into India. At the time, Khan Market was still under construction with a lot of the shops being allocated to refugees to aid them in earning a livelihood.
Over the years, the face of Khan Market has changed beyond measure. It is one of the prime shopping locations in all of New Delhi. However, the family-run Bahrisons bookshop still stands representing a little fragment of our history. It is home to thousands of stories and I don’t just mean the ones that live in the books that are sold there. In an article for Scroll, Anchal Malhotra (whose family owns Bahrisons) writes, “I think of how I feel every time I walk into the shop; the way it smells of printed paper, the way there is no surface devoid of books, the way the air is filled with a passion for reading.”