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On Bookstores and Why I Don't Visit Them Anymore

Jorge Luis Borges once said, “I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.”

The sense of belongingness a reader derives from entering bookstores is intricately linked to the act of reading itself.

Many famous writers have explored this:

  • Marcel Proust had considered becoming a librarian early on in his career.

  • Virginia Woolf wrote about libraries as sacred spaces, vital centers for intellectual inquiry.

  • Sylvia Plath poetized the library as a sanctuary where one can find temporary respite from troubles.

Taking about libraries and bookstores… I’m no longer a fan.

A good portion of my reading life had been consumed by the thrill of acquiring paperbacks from the heart of bookstores.

I found myself compulsively drawn to books that I didn’t possess. With each bookstore visit, I couldn’t resist the urge to lose myself in the stacks. Pulling out book after book. Skimming through the pages, only for a whiff of what lay ahead.

These visits always ended up with me walking away with a book or two under my arm. Books that I always figured I HAD to read, but as it turned out, I didn’t.

Years passed this way and I accumulated more than 500 books over a span of 10 years.

a bookstore in Mumbai

a bookstore in Mumbai

a bookstore in Mumbai

The intensity of this compulsion had (inevitably) drained the joy of bookstore visits, rendering them hollow and uninspiring. Mostly because a part of me knew that I was neglecting what I had been building up, on my own, for years and years: my home library with over 700 books.

I’ve read maybe 350-400 books out of those. But the rest remain unread, as though frozen in time and place. 

For years, I looked elsewhere, outside of myself, for a library to feel like paradise, a sanctuary, a haven. Not realizing that I had one of my own. One that’s private, fully equipped, and perfectly aligned with what I want to read.

Book by book is how I want to now reclaim my love for reading, which seems only fitting. Not that my love for reading, in the past, steered me in any wrong direction.

But I have reached a point where I don’t know anymore where and how to draw the line. How to arrive at that unfrozen state where my passion for books and reading aligns.

Taking a step back might help me figure it out.


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