Wednesday, May 15, 2013

A love affair with bookshops, books and leisurely reading...getting your fix in Sri Lanka

I have a long-standing love affair with ALL things associated with books, bookshops and reading. It probably started at a very young age with my parents taking me on trips to their favorite bookshops   or our local library on the weekends. I would take my book bag and fill it up with lots of picture books and books that I'd get my parents to read to me. It was a wonderful part of my upbringing, and it's stayed with me to this day.

These days I devour books. I admit I can get fully absorbed in a book (or e-reader) and have developed a natural ability to speed read.

One of my main concerns when moving out here to Sri Lanka was how I was going to get my book fix. In London, I was so used to strolling into new and second-hand bookshops, as well as charity shops that stocked books.

In my travels, it'd be more of the same... you know how people travel and they collect souvenirs like shot glasses, fridge magnets, charms, lighters etc? Well, in my case I can safely say, I've traveled the world and collected bookshops and books!

So, back to Sri Lanka. This country isn't what I'd call a "booklovers paradise". Far from it actually! Don't get me wrong, there are bookstores, but they don't stock everything, and it's not as tantalizing an experience as I would normally enjoy. *sigh*

That said, there are a few places I frequent. One is Barefoot's bookshop in Kollupitiya. They tend to stock some great literary reads and have a decent enough stock of books. While I'm there I might take my time checking out the books, make my selections to purchase, have a drink in the courtyard and maybe take a squizz at the gallery. I also wander through Vijitha Yapa's store located in Crescat, Kollupitiya or the one in Unity Plaza, Bambalapitiya. The former usually has something for me every now and again, whilst the latter is sometimes hit-and-miss for my tastes. Occasionally, I might also happen to pick up something mainstream from Odel's main store in Colombo 7. They tend to source popular novels in paperback.

There are other bookstores scattered around Colombo (like Sarasavi, MD Gunasena, Samudra Books and Publishers to name a few), but I hardly buy much from them as their stock is old or it doesn't suit my tastes or it stocks largely educational and academic books. Lake House Bookshop in Colombo 2 has a decent range of books but I don't venture there much. A few of my friends visit some of the reading library-secondhand bookstores, but they tend to go for the murder-mysteries, chicklit and romance novels that were published eons ago. Nothing wrong with that by the way.

Outside of Colombo I am not so familiar with what's available by way of books and bookshops, other than the main book chains in Sri Lanka.

I also buy books directly from India. The prices are attractive and from my travels in India I've made friends with some very good bookshop owners who do international sales. Plus, there is also the usual suspects like Amazon, iTunesBarnes and Noble, Smashwords etc. for e-book purchasing. As much as I'm enjoying the "lightness" of carrying my books in an e-reader and being more eco-conscious, I have to admit that I'm still a lover of the printed book.

Apart from general book browsing and shopping, there is the annual Colombo International Book Fair (14-22 September 2013 at BMICH) and the Kandy Book Fair (4-7 July at Kandy City Centre) organized by the Sri Lanka Book Publishers Association. I usually attend if I'm in town and have a stroll through the book stands to see if anything grabs my fancy.

I've previously blogged about my enjoyment attending the Galle Literary Festival. You can read that blog entry here. This annual "lit fest" brings together authors and readers for a four-day literary lovers heaven. It is usually held at the start of the year, but dates vary year-to-year. There's plenty of opportunity to purchase paperback books and get them autographed by the authors while you're there.

Back in 2011 a floating book fair on the MV Logos Hope docked at Colombo Port for about two weeks and offered a range of over 7,000 titles for sale. I think it then sailed down to Galle and Hanbantota, and travelled on to neighboring India, Hong Kong, Phillipines and other countries. It was quiet a novelty to board the ship; even better to have access to such a large range of books; and the ship's crew and staff were all non-salaried volunteers too!

Well, in the meantime... I might enjoy a bit of reading this afternoon (seeing as I don't have to work today!).

~Happy reading~

Update #1 - I've added some other bookshop recommendations / suggestions in the comments made by Google+ and Twitter friends...


Eva Stone said...

Two secondhand bookshops recommended by @Dili on twitter:
Maradana Secondhand Bookshop: Dr Wijewardene Mawatha, Maradana
Senanayake Book Shop: No 366 Galle Road Wellawatte


Eva Stone said...

I totally forgot about that nifty and well-stocked little bookshop in Liberty Plaza next to the LG showroom. Thanks for the reminder from Pradheep Rajasingham on Google+

shenali said...

Hi, the above article regarding the selection of book were really helpful and also I have recently explored website and they have the vast collection of books available in all the categories. Further, the service is really good in the delivery of books.

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