Holidays and Christmas and used bookstores

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and Hanukkah!

I’ve lived fairly close to Disneyland for the last five years without ever visiting it. So last Friday S and I decided to make a trip of it.  I donned my kiddie hat  determined to enjoy my first trip to Disneyland. As children, my sister and I dreamed of visiting Disneyland- the fairy princesses, the dressed up characters; we even made up ‘Santa Claus’ stories mostly describing to each other the magical toys that Santa might make.  So I missed her as I entered Disneyland.  I did enjoy parts of  it, like the blue curtains in Winnie the Pooh’s house (above picture) and the Splash Mountain Ride with creatures singing ‘Zip a dee doo dah’ on the landing. But mostly I felt too old for it and as if I was trying too hard to love  it. I felt much more at home the next day at a used bookstore in Downtown LA, browsing, buying gifts for my husband and generally lounging on a sofa with a few classics. Used bookstores are one of my favorite places to be, but more on that later. Oh, I did find a perfume store in Disneyland and entered it much to my husband’s annoyance (‘Not here too’, said he). I was curious about the modern version of Miss Dior (which is quite nice, by the way) and resniffed Shalimar Parfum Intial, which I sometimes liked, but mostly found too sweet.

The sight of a Christmas tree with gifts underneath always warms my heart and this post by Undina inspired me to make an effort to bring a little bit of the holiday into my home. Here’s my itsy bitsy holiday tree.

I spent the day watching one of my favorite Disney movies : ‘Beauty and the Beast’ (who doesn’t love a heroine with her nose buried in a book?) followed by  ‘It’s a wonderful life’ which we thoroughly enjoyed.

Used Bookstores

Aah..used bookstores. To me nothing compares with the joy of prowling through a used bookstore, with stacks and stacks of books, not knowing exactly what I might find. In Bangalore, where I spent most of my teenage years, I loved Select Bookshop which came with the stacks of books as well as a wizened old owner who had his own stories to tell and often quite willing to chat. Later, a new bookstore called Blossoms opened up which also had a pretty good collection of used books that I would hungrily dip into. But my favorite bookstore in Bangalore was this tiny bookstore called Premier Book Shop. To be honest, it wasn’t even a used bookstore but it deserves that honorary status owing to the piles of books lining the walls all the way from the floor to the ceiling. And the 20% discount that the owner, Mr. Shanbagh, always gave his customers. I’d find a chair or a stool, place it near the stack that looked most inviting to me and climb it as I looked through the books, lovingly touching a few here and there.

When I came to the U.S, I managed to find a darling used bookstore called Webster’s Bookstore and Cafe in the small University town in which I lived. I have spent hours hidden in the corners of this bookstores on rainy afternoons and other difficult days.

In the city I currently live in, there aren’t too many independent bookstores, leave alone, used bookstores, but we do have a wonderful public library and a tiny bookstore associated with the library where I’ve managed to snag amazing finds for not more than a couple of dollars.

I’ve only recently started exploring the used bookstores in LA (which is less than an hour from where I live). I really enjoyed browsing through the ‘Last Bookstore‘ which has a small but well-edited collection of books and lovely customer service. Their collection of books on film and film makers was especially impressive. Next, I look forward to exploring the Iliad Bookstore about which I’ve heard great things.

One of my favorite bookstores in the U.S is probably Green Apple Bookstore in San Francisco which I visited very recently and mentioned in this post. I don’t know what it is about this bookstore. Maybe it is that warm dusty book smell that envelopes you when you enter.

Maybe, it is the amazing collection of books.Maybe it is the tiny notecards that are placed in front of some books with comments by the employees. Like this

And this.

What are some of your favorite bookstores, used or new?

And wishing you all a very Happy ‘rest of the break’ and if I don’t post soon- a very Happy New Year filled with all your favorite things!!


  1. Lavanya, thank you for the link. I’m so glad you’ve got your tree. Was there anything perfume-related under it?

    I heard that one should grow up visiting Disneyland to appreciate it being adult. I know at least three people (30+) whi still enjoy going there from time to time. Since I grew up knowing absolutely nothing about that place I decided to skip that experience. But once I dared to visit Universal Studios. It was OK but I do not think I’ll need to repeat that experience.

    I do not like used book stores. The simplest explanation would be that I’m allergic to something in those stores but I’m not sure because I don’t have the same reaction to libraries… I don’t know.

    I do like libraries. And I really like Barnes & Nobles. In all the cities where I visited it it was warm and inviting. And I like the idea of people reading right there, in the store – we didn’t have anything like that where I gre up.

    • Nothing perfume-related under it…yet..(My husband hinted darkly that he wanted that tree there till January end- so one never knows..;-))

      I think I had waay too many expectations of Disney and initially it didn’t match the fairyland of my But once I reset my expectations I enjoyed parts of it..:)

      Re: used bookstores-But I think you might like the last bookstore LA – it is very clean and big and arranged like Barnes and Noble with couches and empty spaces..I love working and reading in B &N – though the last time I checked they seem to have done away with the comfy couches..:(

  2. Nice post! The handwritten comments are lovely.

    //What are some of your favorite bookstores, used or new?//
    Will admit off the bat am not much of a bookstore gem-digger.
    Mostly, it’s been aimless one time scrounges with partial rewards.

    So I’ll comment about my experience with used book in general.

    The weird – and I see weird because I am not able to call it charming – thing about used books is, seeing them signed by someone to someone. The easy romanticist in me gets started on, how such a book could land up in a used bookstore in the first place.

    Once I tried complimenting an author (whose debut novel I had bought at a used bookstore and duly liked) by trying to say: ‘I can’t believe I bought your novel at a used bookstore’. I ended up emphasizing the first half of the sentence, rather than the second half. There was an awkward silence.

    Then there is the annoying phenomenon of the phantom of the previous owner having underlined something that I do not find special – heck am I missing something?
    The pressure is on me then to make it a point to like something he did not.
    When borrowing a book from someone I know, this pressure is inversely proportional to the esteem with which I hitherto regarded the lender.

    I have my cousin’s Gone with the Wind – unread of course – signed by someone, with whom things didn’t work out later.
    Possibly one of the reasons was, my cousin isn’t someone who reads Gone with the Wind, in the first place!
    So it exists now as an uneasy snapshot. Either that or I overread everything.

    My father has some books in his library which are affectionately signed by him to someone else. i.e. generously given and duly borrowed back forever.
    All is fair I guess.

    Happy New Year!

    • lol- yes the inscriptions on old books are very interesting to read. I usually don’t like underlined used books- it biases my reading in a way, as you said, that is not very desirable and is hugely distracting. But I love yellow pages.

      That is too funny about the books in your father’s library..:D

      Happy New Year to you too, Prabhu!

  3. Cricket Anorak

    Hey Lavi,

    Happy New Year and a wonderful post on second-hand bookstores. Sadly, like Premier, fewer and fewer people seem to be going to Select as well. Blossoms still thriving, though, and has some wonderfully obscure books that I don’t even know I want till I see them. Despite ease of online shopping, I still go to Blossoms regularly just for those accidental discoveries. Rarely been disappointed so far.

  4. Lovely post! I used to LOVE used bookstores in Bombay- in the US the public library is my book fix and I hardly buy books any more. However, I was just thinking of seeking out some used book stores to get board books for my baby doll.

    • Oh- yes- Bombay must have the best used bookstores.. Let me know your favorites for the next time I visit(my sister lives in Bombay). Actually, now I am remember- when my dad was posted in Bombay- we visited this used bookstore near a temple- forgot the name though.
      I LOVE the public libraries in the U.S too!!
      How is darling Lila doing?

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