A unique second-hand book pop up shop offers book lovers an eclectic collection of titles including some rare finds.
In a first-of-its-kind books sale, book clubs and a co-working space have come together to bring in second-hand books sellers from across the city. Twice Told, a second-hand bookshop has joined hands with the book club Swap Books, and an online portal What Are You Reading Today? This pop up offers a curated collection of second hand books from sellers who have been in the business for decades. “The point of this pop up was to give these booksellers a place to sell their books during the monsoon. Since this is a sheltered space, they don’t have to worry about the rain,” says Mansi Shetty, founder of What Are You Reading Today? who has personally curated the collection.
The books are curated to suit the tastes of discerning book lovers who are on the lookout for a great deal on difficult-to-find and often out-of-print editions of rare books on Mumbai’s history and geography, among popular international and regional fiction. Inside the space, the books are arranged in three sections, with each collection being manned by the respective bookseller. “This gives people a chance to interact with the seller,” explains Mansi. “It’s the best way to find out about the rare books hidden in their collection,” she adds. Hitler, a bookseller who is as famous for his antique books as he is for his name, whips out a phone to show patrons photographs of some of the vintage titles he owns — an Ain-i-Akbari copy being one of them. Apart from well-known authors such as Vikram Seth, Khushwant Singh, Murakami and others, his collection also boasts books on palmistry and a rare collection of 100-year-old postcards.
Despite being hand-me-downs, the books hardly have any sign of wear and tear. Interspersed chairs and sofas provide the perfect set up for book lovers to grab a book and read. Weaving through the tables, Mansi points out some of the gems in the collections. “There is Second World War by Winston Churchill, an illustrated magazine of the Bee Gees, a 1957 edition of Enid Blyton’s Five Go To The Mystery Moor, a Roald Dahl and Quentin Blake illustrated paperback of Dirty Beasts as well as a Spiderman comic in which Spiderman is wearing a dhoti, because it was made for Chinese editions,” laughs Mansi. Other delights include a collector’s edition of Winnie-The-Pooh, well-worn works of Will Durant, translations of Premchand’s Godan and T.S. Pillai’s Chemmeen and even a book brimming with Pakistani stamps.
For children, there is an entire section on illustrated classics and Indian mythological stories, as well as rib-tickling offerings like Diary of a Wimpy Kid and the entire Harry Potter collection, original covers included. Comic book fans can dive into stacks dedicated to Batman and Robin, The Hulk, Tarzan as well as the Archie, Tintin and Asterix variety.
But many of the rarer titles don’t sit in plain sight and one has to pay careful attention to book names to spot the gems. Aadil Desai, Service Engineer with Air India Engineering Services, is a natural at this treasure hunt. Since 85 percent of his book collection comprises of second-hand books, he has become adept at spotting rare finds. “I got some wonderful books today like Al Beruni’s India, selected speeches of Subhash Chandra Bose, last essays by Charles Lamb, a book on Japanese floral arrangements and many others,” he says proudly. When asked how they manage to get their hands on these uncommon titles, Afzal, another bookseller says, “Junk shops are our key source. Apart from them, we get books from our clients, from other second-hand bookshops. We also frequent exhibitions to keep an eye out for rare books.”