Saturday, 1 October 2016

A book pilgrim’s journey to Books by Weight


I was a model of restraint during my biannual pilgrimage to the Books by Weight exhibition at Churchgate in South Mumbai, last week. I picked up only four used paperbacks in mint condition. The books had a familiar musty smell, as if I’d pulled them out of a rusty trunk in the attic. I like the way old books smell. Some people religiously sniff pages of novels and newspapers before reading them. It’s supposed to bring good luck. A quaint habit and one I indulge in occasionally.

The four titles I picked up, out of a million-odd books, were Guzman Go Home by Alan Sillitoe, another of my favourite authors; The October Country by Ray Bradbury, whose paperbacks have some of the best illustrated covers; And So To Bed by William Ard, whose western novels I’ve read as Jonas Ward; and Lie Down Killer by Richard S. Prather, whose crime and mystery have been on my wish-list for a long time. See the topmost picture.

I found these in one of a dozen open boxes strewn across the floor in the large and roomy auditorium at Sunderbai Hall. There were at least two cartons filled with mid- to late 20th century fantasy, sf and horror novels mostly by authors I’d never heard of. I can’t imagine what I missed, especially since I was the only one pouring over this section. Most people were picking up popular and contemporary authors, such as, Stephen King, James Patterson, Michael Connelly, Danielle Steel (still widely read in India), Jonathan Kellerman, Elizabeth Gilbert, Peter James, Mary Higgins Clark, Ian Rankin, Joanna Trollope, Ellis Peters, and J.K. Rowling, to name a handful.

Apart from the boxes, there were eight rows, each the length of a bowling alley, stacked with hundreds and thousands of paperbacks and hardbacks across several categories. The books were pressed so tightly against one another, their spines facing upward, I was afraid they’d suffocate to death. Books have life, after all.

The one carton I eyed with unconcealed glee at Books by Weight was the one that contained my most favourite writer—Jack Higgins (Harry Patterson). I pulled out many of his Book Club hardbacks only to drop them back into the box. I’d enough of his novels at home. And yet, when it comes to books, there’s never too much of a good thing.


© Photographs by Prashant C. Trikannad

31 comments:

  1. Prashant – Books sold by weight sounds like fun. A few weeks ago, I was in Chicago and read about a place that sold books that way. But I did not have time to get over there. I will make an effort on the next trip. – Enjoy the Sillitoe.

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    1. The books sold by weight store (Market Fresh) is in Evanston not Chicago. The bulk of the store's stock is devoted to non-fiction business books, children's books and home schooling books. The fiction section is very poor and consists of multiple titles of the usual bestsellers and popular authors. You didn't miss much other than the novelty of seeing books being placed on a scale prior to getting the grand total.

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    2. Elgin, it's an excellent book exhibition for readers like me who are constantly looking for rare, overlooked, and forgotten books; the ones that you don't find easily elsewhere in the city. Sillitoe can drag on at times but that's his narrative style.

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    3. John, I guessed books by weight is not a new concept and is probably borrowed from your end of the world. Selling paperbacks by the kilogram is a nice way of marketing books.

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  2. Books by Weight sounds a little like the big book sale in Phoenix each year in February. Thousands and thousands of 'em and you can pick up a box for $1 or $1.50 on the last day.

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    1. Oscar, it's something like that over here. Sometimes I'm tempted to buy hundreds of these cheap books and resell them elsewhere. But that wouldn't be right.

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  3. The October Country by Bradbury has a gorgeous cover, Prashant. You showed great restraint at that sale.

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    1. Tracy, I'm building a small collection of Ray Bradbury's novels because I genuinely like his stories and the covers illustrations too.

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  4. You showed much more restraint than last year, if I remember correctly. Well done, but isn't it hard to leave all those other books behind!

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    1. Richard, Butterfly Books, which owns Books by Weight, holds the exhibition in at least three other places, one of which is close to my suburb. I can actually go back for more anytime during the year.

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  5. You found some fine books, Prashant! It sounds like such a great event, too. And I agree with you about the scent of books.

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    1. Thanks, Margot. I'd to toss a coin to decide which four books to buy. And then I went back the following week and bought four more!

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    1. Thanks, Col. Not much restraint, really. I went back and bought two each of Jack Higgins and Tom Sharpe.

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  7. How could you pick only four????????????!!!!!!!!!!!! I wish there were such exhibitions in Delhi.

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    1. Well, at Daryaganj, Delhi there is a Big Book Bazaar which sells books by weight.
      http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/delhi/Darya-Ganjs-Big-Book-Bazaar-Where-pure-love-costs-only-Rs-99/kg/articleshow/54450741.cms

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    2. Have you been to that shop at Daryaganj Santosh? I have come to know of it only recently.

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    3. Neer, I always thought there were far better book exhibitions and secondhand bookshops in Delhi than at least in Bombay. I know Bangalore and Calcutta have some great book haunts.

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    4. Santosh, I have never been to Delhi but I'd definitely like to visit the secondhand books and comics market at Daryaganj.

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    5. Yes, Daryaganj at Delhi has a big second hand book market. College Street at Kolkata also has a very big second hand book market.

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    6. I have heard of College Street in Calcutta. Visits to bookstores and book exhibitions are such a personal and experiential thing.

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  8. Oh, books by weight sounds like such a great marketing concept, especially for addicted book-lovers (e.g., yours truly). I have not found anything comparable in my neck of the woods. The library annually purges its shelves through a sale, but books are priced individually. Enjoy your reading adventures!
    All the best from a new crime fiction blogger, Lillian B.
    http://crimefictions.blogspot.com/

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    1. Lillian, thank you for visiting my blog and your kind feedback. I always thought such exhibitions would be par for the course in the West, especially in the US. We have some fine public and private libraries too, including American Centre and British Council, but they are rather out of the way.

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  9. Very impressed Prashant - picking just four books shows considerable discernment.

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    1. Thank you, Moira. The truth is I went back and bought a few more—so much for my restraint!

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  10. I have the Bradbury too, I think the same edition. All those book look like heaven to me Prashant!

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    1. Sergio, it is a heavenly place, I'll say. There have been times when I have spent entire mornings and evenings and stepped out without a single book.

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  11. I would have needed a truck to haul away those boxes of books! You showed remarkable restraint limited yourself to only four books!

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    1. George, I was contemplating taking a front-loader! I bought just these four books initially and then promptly went back for more.

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  12. Oh my heavens! You only bought FOUR books! I would have walked out of there with a wagon-load. HA! When it comes to old books, I simply CANNOT be trusted, Prashant. I would have run amok. I wish there was a Books By Weight by me. But there's not even a bookstore in my town. Though there is one in the next town over. However we do have a library here in which the outer room has shelves of used books. I've gauging my time. :)

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    1. Yvette, I'm surprised there are no bookstores in your town. I always thought there was one in every nook and cranny in America. The book exhibition was so huge that one can't decide how many to buy. What would be a good number? Especially when you want them all!

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