Old Bookshops and Nostalgia
I am a voracious reader. I can literally read at any time, day or night, and if I find a book that speaks to me, I will not stop until I have read it, cover to cover. When “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” was released, I made the 7 AM trek out to Liberty Books, bought my copy, and then ran home and locked myself in my bedroom for the next 9 hours. My husband thought I was mad, but my mother-in-law understood. She was a reader herself. She knew what it was like to lose yourself in a story. Understandably, bookshops are my haven.
I have my grandfathers to thank for my love of reading. Both my maternal and paternal grandfathers were veritable bookworms. I remember long lazy Isloo summers, where trays of afternoon tea and pakoras were placed next to bedside tables, tables which were piled high with novels, magazines, and periodicals. That was the golden hour when we would just read and snack and then snack and read some more. I was very close to my Nana and some of my most cherished memories are of him taking me for our weekly trips to the plethora of old bookshops in Jinnah Market, Islamabad. There was no Saeed Book Banks or London Book Companies back then. Us book aficionados would make weekly or monthly treks to old bookshops, and dig through the merchandise that had come in. Thirty years later, in another time and another city, when I walk into an old book-store, the musty scent takes me back. I find myself reminiscing about my childhood when my Nana and I would cut fresh roses every morning, read books in the evenings and follow that up with long walks along Margalla Road.
When I moved to Karachi, I was deeply home-sick and sought refuge in my books. From Georgette Heyer to David Eddings, Jacqueline Carey to Clive Cussler, I needed my favorite authors about me at all times. Although Sunday Bazaar, its clapboard tables piled high with paperbacks, was a God-send, I found myself gravitating towards those small, narrow little bookshops in Khadda Market and Boat Basin.
I’ve spent ten years in this city but whenever I want to feel like myself, from a simpler time, I seek refuge in these shops. Sometimes I find one of my grandfather’s favorite books, and it feels like a hug from the past, a tap on the shoulder from my Nana.
OLD BOOKS COLLECTION: CLIFTON
Old Books Collection, situated next to Baloch Ice-cream Shop in Boating Basin, Clifton, is a personal favorite. Unassuming at first glance, it’s a lovely place where one can sit and browse peacefully through all the shelves. You never know what you might find. An old staircase leads to the fantasy and science fiction section, which is my kryptonite. I have found everything from Ursula Le Guin’s Earthsea Quartet to Guy Gavriel Kay’s Summer Tree Trilogy here. If I’m lucky, sometimes a bundle of Tintin comics comes in and I get a chance to add to my collection. They have an excellent children’s book section as well. It’s incredible how cheap the books are. More often than not, they are in excellent condition. National Geographic for Kids, Ladybird and Penguin collections, lots and lots of Enid Blyton books (be still, my heart!), the list goes on.
OLD BOOKS COLLECTION: KHADDA MARKET
A shop which calls to me is yet another Old Books Collection, located right next to Hot and Spicy in Khadda Market. A serendipitous location as I can indulge in hunting down my next read, while my husband can indulge in his quest for the perfect paratha roll (a story for another time). Its tiny, quaint and simply stuffed to the gills with books. I just love the fact that stools are scattered around the store, inviting readers to sit back and leisurely go through the merchandise. I recently purchased a wonderful book, “City of Dark Magic” by Magus Flyte, from that book-store and am itching to go back and rummage through those shelves for more delicious, decadent novels.
AREEBA BOOKS: KHADDA MARKET
Areeba Books, also located in Khadda Market, deserves a shout-out for their insane collection and equally amazing prices. It’s not a cozy, comfortable little nook by any means. It is laid out like a long corridor with towering piles of books perched precariously over any available surface, but the kind of books they have are incredible. Of course, you’ll have your cheap copies of the latest thrillers/Dan Brown novels etc, but sometimes you can find a real gem. A friend, who loves collecting cookbooks, found a Jamie Oliver recipe book there for only Rs 300.
Second-hand bookstores, with their cozy vibe, eclectic collection, and soft, mellow atmosphere call out to me. New stores, with those lovely new books and glossy covers, are wonderful no doubt. But I’d rather be in any old bookstore, patiently searching for my next addictive read.