Pick Up Rare Books For A Steal At These Secondhand Bookstalls

    Anuradha posted on 26 April

    A Treasure Trove Of Bargains And Finds

    Every book lover in the city knows about the Golpark book stalls. This is the biggest secondhand books area in town – College Street stalls have been full of outdated academic tomes for a long time now.

    Just about anything that could be described as reading material goes on display at Golpark (and that’s what makes the browsing so interesting): old books, journals, magazines, catalogues covering every conceivable subject (English and Bengali, and even reach, German, Russian, Spanish and other European languages).

    The books are stacked up in tall piles – you can easily spend several hours here browsing. So we suggest you put on a pair of comfy shoes, grab a decent-sized bag and a pocket full of notes {they only accept cash} and spend a weekend day at Golpark. Who knows what treasures you may dig up here – rare handbound hardbacks to odd volumes on needlework, drama scripts, incomplete sets of Tagore’s Rachanabali, Wodehouses or Tintins {for a steal} and whatnot.

    Just to give you an idea, where’s what I found after spending less than an hour here.

    Rare Finds And Ancient Tomes on History

    This marvellous book on world history, chipped at spine ends was mine for just INR 300. I loved the descriptive letterpress of the front-page and the accompanying colour plates. I tend to come back home with these treasures and then look them up online. Often you will find them listed on websites {like Abe Books and eBay} that talk about rare books.

    Remember to bargain at these stalls {the ask price for this was INR 600}.

    The shop also had the usual series of encyclopedias on world history {which the kids may like}.

    Memories And Notes

    You will often stumble across personal messages, jottings, and folded letters inside these old books, which kind of add to their charm. I have found faded, pressed flowers between pages in books long undisturbed.

    This Tintin { INR 200} had a message inside. And this marvelous book on needlework styles around the world had a slip of paper with a traced design and notes.

    The needlework book was a great find – it’s out of print and combines the “what it is” and the “how it is done” for a huge range of styles both historical and contemporary sewing, stitchery, and embroidery. And it includes 56 color plates, 300 drawings and 350 photographs. I can already see some of these going up on my wall as framed prints. For INR 600, it was a steal.

    Talking Points

    A unique thing about the Golpark stalls is the freewheeling conversations you can strike up with fellow browsers. You will always find people here, book lovers just meandering around looking for interesting finds. Go ahead and strike up a conversation with them – in Kolkata, it is pretty much the done thing to do that with total strangers {at roadside tea shacks, bookstore, buses and shared autos}. Most of the time the people you come across here will be regulars who will have interesting info to share.

    I came across this guy, Soumik, who was looking for art books. He saw me looking at a book by French historian, biographer, and philosopher, Andre Maurois {who I had never read} and proceeded to tell me all about all his works!

    Bestsellers And Popular Works

    If rare books or interesting finds  are not your thing, this place also stocks popular titles from fiction to cooking, and psychology to poetry. I picked up this Mindy Kaling book and The Girl On The Train for INR 70 each.

    The booksellers here know about their wares and can help you find what you are looking for. They may not have passed school, but they can reel off the names of writers with such panache that it will seem like you are speaking to a English Literature scholar!

    I like rifling around for old PG Wodehouses here with vintage covers which you cannot get any more. Their collection of crime fiction is envy-worthy {stacks of Agatha Christie, PD James, and all the Scandinavian writers} with some vintage editions nestled in. If you are looking for a 36 Clues series book {they are bloody expensive}, you will find it here – the YA lit collection is huge with everything from JK Rowling and Rick Riordian to the Lemony Snickett series.

    Strange And Interesting Titles

    Browsing among the shelves is rewarding in a way that surfing the big book shops or Internet {read Amazon} can never be. You can lose hours just poking around here. I love the Taschen book The Silent Orgasm that I picked up for a steal at INR 400. I checked Amazon and it’s going for INR 2.900!

    Another POV On Tagore

    Customers of secondhand booksellers are a rum lot. What kind of person spends hours wondering indecisively over whether to pick up an old copy of The Calcutta Municipal Gazette? Well, I did – for just INR 300, because it had the most marvellous black-and-white photos of Tagore and accompanying essays!

    USSR Throwbacks

    I was looking for a not-in-print Russian book, and came across a whole load of them here, including a Gothic fairy tales compilation from USSR days! The person who was standing next to me {pictured here in the beige sweater} turned out to be somewhat of an expert on USSR books. He revealed that the book’s publisher, Raduga, had shut down after the USSR was dissolved.

    He also gave me the name and contact of a prolific Bengali translator of Russian books who had lived in Moscow for many years!

    The Booksellers Are Just As Interesting

    This area is a treasure trove, and not just of books. The bookstall owners are interesting too. This old man is one of the oldest sellers here. He saw me looking at a bunch of Bernard Shaws in hardbound library editions and promptly whisked out Shakespeare, Henry Miller plays, and a Herman Hesse!

    What always puzzled me is that despite Kolkata’s love for books, the city still does not have proper shops and stores dedicated to secondhand books the way Mumbai and Bangalore does. In their absence, these pavement book sellers fill the gap.

    I recently read in The Telegraph UK that libraries around the country {UK} are disembarrassing themselves of 17th- to 19th-century books because, rarely consulted, they are deemed to waste space that could more usefully be devoted to computer stations and multiple copies of Dan Brown, much in demand.

    Let’s hope that does not happen to Kolkata! Head here on your next weekend, pick up treasures and let’s keep them in business, people!


    Just a 5-minute walk away from Golpark are some of the best cafes in Kolkata – like Sienna, Byloom Canteen, and Wise Owl – where you can sit with a cup of cha-coffee and browse through your buys.

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      Location Details

      South Dum Dum, Kolkata