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Travel and reading are natural companions. Some of my fondest travel memories have been related to books, and I’m always on the lookout for nice bookstores wherever I go. There’s something comforting about stepping inside a well-stocked book store—even if you don’t like being in a particular city, a visit to a nice bookstore can brighten a gloomy mood.
Delhi, thankfully, is blessed with many bookstores. For many, chain stores like Oxford, Om Books and Crossword hit the spot. Others prefer smaller outlets with a carefully curated collection of books, and some love bookstores with a mad hodge-podge of books, with no particular logic guiding their choice of stock.
With this in mind, here’s the vistor’s guide to some of Delhi’s best bookshops, which will hopefully appeal to both pernickety bibliophiles and casual browsers alike:


Midland bookstore, Delhi

1. Midland (South Extension or Aurobindo Market)
Midland is a quiet, unassuming book store, hidden in the middle of a busy market, and very easy to miss if you’re not looking out for it. Though the branch in Aurobindo Market is better-known, the South Extension’s basement branch is arguably better. Since it’s not as well-known, and is frequented by loyal customers, it’s mostly always uncrowded. The staff are helpful without being intrusive, and Mr Baig, the manager, is immensely knowledgeable and seems to know where most books are kept off the top of his head.
Best for: literary fiction, travel guides and graphic novels.



Full Circle

2. Full Circle (Khan Market; GK I, N Block market)
The collection of books here is a nice mix of ‘popular’ and ‘literary’ (if one is pressed to use those terms). In addition to this, one of its best features is the large collection of children’s books occupying prominent shelf space, which is almost unheard of in most book stores. Full Circle’s USP is the in-house coffee shop, Café Turtle, which is distinct from the book store, but where most customers end up after purchasing their goods. The café also has a small collection of books (fiction, non-fiction, coffee-table) for you to peruse as you drink your coffee.
Best for: Children’s books and picture books (both Indian and international).



The Book Shop, Delhi

3. The Book Shop (Jor Bagh Community Centre)
One of the oldest book stores in the city, The Book Shop occupies a singular space in Delhi book lovers’ hearts. Established in 1970 by the iconic KD Singh, it’s located in the quiet, residential Jor Bagh Community Centre. The cosy little store is filled with a small but extremely diverse collection of books and thus you’re likely to stumble across some titles you won’t find in other Indian bookshops. The helpful owners and managers will gladly source books for you if asked. Over the years, The Book Shop has been a favourite of many of Delhi’s literary and political celebrities. It remains dear still, especially for those looking for literary fiction and titles not easily available in India.
Best for: literary fiction, international books not found in bestseller racks.



CMYK bookstore

4. CMYK (Meherchand Market)
In the middle of the hip Meherchand Market is this hip little bookstore dedicated to books on art and design. An initiative of the publishing house Roli Books (specialising in design books and coffee-table books), CMYK is a one-of-its-kind store in Delhi. From adult colouring books and books on tattoo art, to books on graphic design and cookery, CMYK has a small but wonderful collection. There’s a small collection of fiction but this place is really for students, aficionados or lovers of art. They also sell some gorgeously designed stationery.
Best for: coffee-table books, art books, photography books.



May Day bookstore

5. May Day Bookstore (Shadipur)
May Day Bookstore is unusual for two reasons: it’s located in west Delhi (an area not really frequented by tourists), and it is a left-wing bookstore, stocking the greatest hits of left-wing literature, literature on gender, politics and caste issues, as well as progressive fiction. They also stock some secondhand books. The bookstore has a great line-up of events every May Day (1st May), so if you happen to be around, do drop in. Getting there might seem complicated but is really not: take the metro to Shadipur station and then take a rickshaw from there.
Best for: Progressive, left-wing non-fiction and Indian literary fiction, second-hand books.