I was in the process of planning my next vacation when I remembered all the bookstores I went to during my last. Whenever I go to a new place, I feel compelled to make a list of all the bookstores I need to visit while I’m there. While this works perfectly when I’m travelling solo, family vacations prove a little trickier. Bookstore hopping during family vacations still work perfectly for me, but they also mean I have a disgruntled parent in tow.
These are the book stores responsible for my holiday book haul.
Apollo Books sat perched outside my favourite restaurant in Mamallapuram, Le Yogi (the friendliest staff I’ve ever met). We stayed in Mamallapuram for three days and dutifully trotted the bookstore every single day. While I was trying to decide which books to buy on my last day there, I overheard an intense discussion on politics, war and society between two men from Indonesia and Israel. I ended up buying a secondhand copy of My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell and Insects Are Just Like You and Me Except Some of Them Have Wings by Kuzhali Manickavel. The store has a mix of new books, secondhand books, and books in French, German, Russian and Spanish. You can also go in and exchange one old book for another.
I followed my guidebook to visit the Immaculate Conception Cathedral next door, spotted this bookstore and happily rushed inside instead. According to my guidebook, it’s run by the Aurobindo Ashram and had a fairly interesting collection. My favourite find here was Glimpses of Pondicherry by P. Raja and Rita Nath Keshari.
The bookstore near the Auroville Visitor’s Centre was tiny and looked vaguely cave-like, except it was much more cheerful than a cave’s dark drab interiors. It had a large collection of books by independent publishers including an in-house brand.
I also visited the Romain Rolland Library near the large Bharathi Park and next to the not-so-large Pondicherry Museum. The shelves at the back on the second floor looked like they had been deserted for a while, a suspicion that was confirmed when I walked into a spider web. This sign was in the non-deserted part of the library and almost made me engage in literary vandalism. Instead, I just settled for clicking a photo of the unnecessary apostrophe.
A bookstore full of secondhand books that look like foreign remainder stocks. The most expensive secondhand store I’ve ever visited; the bill at the end startled me a bit. But the sunshiney yellow villa is gorgeous and I found three books from my wish list so I just smiled sagely. Horseradish by Lemony Snicket, The Chronicles of Prydain: The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander and Terrible Times: The Eddie Dickens Trilogy by Philip Ardagh in case you’re wondering.
I also bought a book at the start of my vacation from the Mumbai airport and one right at the very end from the Chennai railway station. Yes, it’s a disease. No, there is no cure.