Rare Editions, East European Writers & More: These Places Have The Best Books In Kolkata

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We all know that Kolkata is a city that loves books, a fact most evident in the number of specialty bookstores that thrive here despite all the big chain stores. We’ve compiled a list of some great indie bookstores in the city–because recommendations from an algorithm have got nothing on a face-to-face chat with the well-informed booksellers of Kolkata!

Earthcare Books

This bookstore on Middleton Street has one of the best collections of Indian writing in English (best for those who want to avoid gimmicky writing). The books here have narratives from different walks of life, from issues ranging about feminism and environmental activism to Dalit rights. They also have some lovely children’s books illustrated by some of the world’s best illustrators as well as some really kitschy, graphic work. Co-owner Vinita Mansata is the perfect guide to what books to buy and it’s always great to talk to her about the city, life, philosophy, environmental issues–generally everything under the sun.

Timings: 11AM to 7 PM

Seagull Books

With sculptures placed at the gate, photographs and minimalist paintings on its walls, this Bhowanipore store is probably one of the most aesthetically pleasing ones in the city. However, there are better reasons to visit this store than its décor. It sells English translations of European literature published by Seagull India. The book covers are lovely collages and montages of photographs, mostly done by their in-house designer. They have many books about the works of directors like Mrinal Sen and Ritwik Ghatak, academic works by Gayatri Chakravarty Spivak. They have translations of authors like Chinese Nobel Prize winner Mo Yan, Tariq Ali, Picasso, Max Frisch and many others.

Timings: 10 AM to 6 PM

College Street Secondhand Book Vendors

When you enter College Street, look out for the alley next to the Calcutta Medical College which is filled with roadside vendors who have some pretty incredible books for sale. From German photography magazines dating back to the 1980s, to some very rare editions of classics and modern philosophers, these stalls are always a pleasant surprise for anyone looking to stumble upon writings about different cultures, art and fiction that are very difficult to find anywhere.

Timings: 10 AM to 8 PM

Oxford Bookstore

In all honesty, the collection at this store isn’t what it used to be. But with new sections developing like the French books handpicked by the French Book Office, and an extensive collection of European writers, this 1920s bookstore continues to be intrinsically linked to the city. We can spend hours in this store, browsing through the art and photography books. These are the gems one visits Oxford for along with the much-needed dose of nostalgia to get through this city when things aren’t going too well.

Timings: 11 AM to 9 PM

Foreign Publishers Agency

Located on the Jawaharlal Nehru Road footpath near Grand Hotel, this store is very easy to miss. If you know what you’re looking for, you’ll find some great books on sociology, film studies, literary criticism and many other technical subjects. For all of you college students struggling to find those last-minute notes or struggling to make sense of course work, this store might be worth a visit. You never know what you might find!

Timings: 11.30 AM to 8 PM

Ananda Bookstores

Located above the famous College Street Coffee House, this Bengali bookstore at the hub of the College Street boi para has wonderful comic versions of Satyajit Ray’s Feluda, with panels illustrated in watercolours. Apart from this, you can find lovely books about art in Shantiniketan, Bengali translations of books by Jhumpa Lahiri, old classics like Chander Pahar with original woodcut illustrations, children’s books and recipe books. If you’re looking for some interesting books about the city and its fiction, head here. You don’t need to be able to read Bangla to enjoy these comics and art books.

Timings: 10 AM to 8 PM

Golpark Secondhand Stalls

A range of secondhand book stores line the Golpark area. On a good day, you can stumble across some absolute treasures–like a copy of Anais Nin’s journals, or Penguin Paperbacks of authors like Aldous Huxley and H.G. Wells (for INR 40), and their science fiction collection can be quite rewarding. You also get Taschen’s art books about Miro, Lempicka and some really interesting books about Indian art, catalogues from past exhibitions.

Timings: 10 AM to 7 PM

Bahrisons

Delhi’s most loved bookstore recently opened its doors in Kolkata, guaranteeing a new and unique experience for all book lovers in the city. Well, it has definitely stood up to its promise. Bahrisons has an old-world charm to it. It makes you feel like you’ve entered an old library that has managed to keep its charm intact in the modern world. The massive and diverse collection of coffee table books and rare hardbound classics left us mighty impressed because we’ve never seen anything like it in any bookstore in the city. The kids’ section has a lot of activity and pictorial books as well as fiction, non-fiction, and mythology. Bahrisons has something for all kinds of readers. Their staff is extremely well read and knowledgeable enough to guide you and answer all your doubts.

Timings: 10.30 AM to 8.30 PM

Bingsha Shatabdi

Hit up this cat-themed bookstore in Park Street for foreign language books as well as comics and novels. To be honest, their collection of multilingual books made us swoon and fall in love with them. French, German, Spanish, Bengali—they have it all. The collection of French books, especially, is impressive. We also loved the collection of translated comics from Tintin to Tenida, Shirshendu to Sharadindu and Asterix as well as the range of Bengali comics and the YA section. Also, you can’t miss the nerdy cat that always seems to be watching over you.

Timings: 10 AM to 8 PM

Sparrow Publications

Sparrow Publications is a tiny bookstore just off the AJC Bose Road Flyover that stocks the most rare books (you probably won’t even find them online!) and also publishes books by budding and talented writers. Find a wide range of collector books right from a picturesque Beatles biography to a book about China. We also found a collection of WB Yeats’ work as well as a book of feng shui. In case they don’t have what you need, let them know and leave your number. They’ll get back to you when they have it.

Timings: 12 PM to 8.30 PM

The Storyteller Bookstore

This 1,500 square foot bookshop is the only one that allows pets in Kolkata. They regularly hold studio and writer-understanding meetings and devote a lot of time to supporting children's writing. They have a great selection of realistic books and comics, including well-known titles like the original DC and Wonder comic book series, Tinkle's Suppandi, which is a part of 90's kids childhood, and less common titles. Here, you can also view manga comics, which are extremely popular among today's generation.

Timings: 9 AM to 8 PM

Niyogi Books

The publishing house is renowned for its broad selection of books in a variety of subjects, including literature, history, art, culture, photography, and more. It has a sizable presence in the Indian publishing sector and has established a wonderful haven for bookworms in Kolkata. Niyogi Books is praised for its contribution to Indian literature and efforts to make more people aware of lesser-known facets of Indian culture.

Timings: 11 AM to 7 PM

National Book Store

For many years, the city's literary and reading needs have been met by the eminent and storied National Book Store. This renowned bookstore offers a sizable selection of books in a wide range of categories, including academic books, fiction, and literature. It has developed a reputation as a gathering place for bookworms, academics, and readers of all ages. The National Book Store is not only a bookstore but also a significant part of the city's vibrant literary culture.

Timings: 10 AM to 9 PM