The garden city of the South – a.k.a. Bengaluru – is a cultural hub, a melting pot of people who have migrated from various places around the country. Many people who live here are from the middle class, or are students– basically, those who have a knack for reading. While heading home from their offices, colleges, and universities, these bookworms prefer to get down at the MG Road metro to spend their evening strolling through Church Street, munching on street food, casually browsing through the many bookstores here, and ending their day with a cup of hot coffee at the legendary Koshy’s at the junction of St. Marks Road, where Church Street ends.
Located in the heart of the city, Church Street is a 750-meter long street with some of the best eateries in town and serves as a pilgrim trail for bibliophiles. You can spend hours here searching for vintage classics, old textbooks, second-hands, and new books of numerous genres and authors. We have curated a list of bookstores that you should never miss when you are on the street full of stories.
When you get down at MG Road metro station and tread on the sidewalk towards Brigade Road, you can spot this heritage building on your left, established in 1897 in Bengaluru. Higginbotham's is the country's oldest bookstore chain, initially started in Chennai in 1844. It began as a small ground-floor bookshop with the manager living on the first floor and has flourished and transformed into a large renovated bookhouse. It has a vast assortment of genres and is also a haven for stationery enthusiasts. The architecture shows the influence of the colonial era. Higginbotham's boasts an enviable collection of books on various topics, ranging from religion and spirituality to culture, crime, culinary, contemporary fiction, and more. Due to its vast collection of textbooks for schools and undergraduate courses, it is also a favourite among students in the city.
Upon entering Church Street from Brigade Road, you will find ‘Book Home’ on your left, opposite Starbucks. It was founded after the Covid-19 pandemic by Chander and is currently run by her daughter Poongualali aka “Poo”. She is pretty cheerful and a fellow bibliophile and shared with us the changes in customer demographics, and taste is one of the newest entrants to the biblioverse of Church Street. “When we started, we used to have a lot of fiction readers”, she says, “But now we have people who are more into happiness and wealth.” She attributes this change to the pandemic having made people reevaluate their mental peace and financial strength. “Everyone wants to make quick money now through trading or invest in their happiness by fighting off their depression. The pandemic has restructured the priorities of the people, and we are here to cater to their changing tastes.”
The bookstore's interior is pleasant and relaxing by using bright, lively colours. One interesting point to note is that the books are arranged in alphabetical order, so it is easy for customers to visit a particular book they may have seen last time. “Books are a solace for people who are depressed or generally jaded with their life, and despite the digital revolution, there will always be people who love the texture and smell of a new book in their hands,” says Poo.
Blossoms Book House
Mayi Gowda is a celebrated name among book circles in Bangalore. He is, after all, the proprietor of one of the most successful and famous bookstore chains in Bangalore, Blossoms Book House. “I used to work a regular job, but after some 10-15 days, I left it to chase my dream of opening a bookstore”, he says with his charming, infectious smile. Blossoms now has a second store outlet above the Matteo Cafe in Church Street. They have a vast collection of books across multiple genres, and even rare books and collectables. They have segregated the books into sections based on genres to make this collection of over 50,000 books manageable.
Gowda finds several changes among current readers and those who used to frequent his store 20 years back when he started. “When we opened in January 2002, we generally had older people who used to read PG Wodehouse, Arthur Riley and Sidney Sheldon. Now we have people who are more inclined towards coming-of-age fiction. We have significantly more younger people coming in. Our comics and graphic novels section has also seen quite a crowd, thanks to the success of superhero movies.” He adds that his bookstores have weathered the entry of Kindle and online shopping apps, and people have shown their resilience in buying books after handpicking them off the shelves despite it all. “Books give ideas and ignite the dreams of people, so keep reading and be happy."
The Book Hive
When you walk down a little more towards the Church Street gate of the MG Road Metro, you will find The Book Hive on your right. Established in 2017 by Keshava R., the Bookhive has a unique collection of comics, including Manga, and a good second-hand books section. Genres like science fiction, non-fiction books (political reads, biographies, history), management and business-oriented books are found in abundance at The Book Hive. They offer a discount of 20% on all new and second-hand books.
The Book Hive is an abode to many well- known books and publications, ranging from Penguin Classics by Charles Dickens to contemporary authors. “We can procure any book that you might want. We encourage you to keep reading”, says Keshav Gowda. "Keep supporting independent bookstores."
“Rare, out-of-print books, that is our USP”, says Krishna Gowda who owns The Bookworm. You can find this gem on your left after crossing the Church Street exit of the metro. The cute and small green matchbox exterior is quite deceptive. As you go in, there is ample space leading you on a treasure hunt for books, including those whose new edition has not come out in years or even decades. “About 50% of our books are comprised of such rare gems, and our greatest satisfaction when an avid collector or book hunter finds a book in our store that they may have been searching for a long, long time. Nothing pleases me more.” says Gowda.
Another exciting feature of this store is the library-type book return system. “A buyer may return their book to us after reading it at any time, and we reimburse them with 50% store credit that they can use to buy other books that they like.” His advice to young readers out there: “Read a book every day for 30 minutes before hitting the bed. It helps build a strong and healthy mind.”
Goobe’s Book Republic
Towards the ending of Church Street, if you head to St. Marks Road, you will see a small signboard on the sidewalk on the right. That's the famous Goobe’s. The bookstore is tucked in the basement of the building that you could almost miss if you don’t actively search for it. The intriguing name translates to 'owl' in Kannada/ Goobe’s Book Republic’s owner Ravi Menezes says the store was established on April 1, 2009, that's April Fool’s Day. Interestingly, an owl is also a pejorative for a foolish person, which somewhat gives an idea behind the store's name. Furthermore, the owl is culturally a bird known for its wise and nocturnal nature. Goobe’s Book Republic plans to keep its reader reading their unputdownable books through the night, and make them wiser when they rise next morning. Albeit, they might just make a fool of themselves when they go to the morning meetings, not realising if it is day or night. Such is the infectious nature of the books that they provide.
The majority of the crowd that comes to the store, from teenagers to people in their mid-thirties, are interested in science-fiction or non-fiction these days, including self-help and mental health books, says Menezes. The prices of the books start from Rs 25, and don’t make a hole in your wallet. You can buy, sell and rent books while spending hours on end in this store cum library, reading peacefully and disappearing into the world of books.