Adventure · Books · India · Personal

A Book Fiend’s Fantasy

I’m still recuperating from the most exciting Sunday in my life. Last week I booked a train ticket to Delhi because I thought it would be fun to spend the weekend with my aunt and cousins. But I must admit that I went with another less familial intention as well. That other intention being the exciting sport of book shopping! Now it may be a little baffling to think that I went all the way to Delhi to buy a couple of books I could have easily bought from a bookshop closer to home. But I didn’t shop at any ordinary book shop. In fact I didn’t even shop at a book shop! The place I picked to let loose and book binge was the Sunday Book Bazaar in the Daryaganj area of Old Delhi.

The reason I haven't written in a while
A picture taken in the beginning. As we moved on we found that it was increasingly difficult to take pictures, and much busier.

Although this area of town is known to be busy throughout the week, Daryaganj is most famous for its Sunday Book Bazaar. Every Sunday the footpath of this market is transformed into India’s biggest second hand book market. This book market, guaranteed to make any book owl swoon in delight, goes on for over a kilometer and a half. And this being my first experience of the Daryaganj Book Market I was a little more than shocked to see books sold like clothes at a discount sale. Although some of the books were arranged neatly, most of the books were piled together or simply thrown together according to price. It kind of felt like I had stepped into a Farmer’s Market except instead of vegetables and fruit there were books, magazines, notebooks and journals.

One of the reasons these books are sold so cheap is because the book sellers don’t realize the value or the difference between the rare and the ordinary books. I don’t know what wisdom is used to separate the 20 Rupee books from the 30 Rupee books, but I have a strong feeling that the size and general appearance more than the content of the book plays a major role in the division. There was only one book seller who seemed to know his books well. But even his books were extremely cheap by regular standards. Of course most of the books here are discards by people who have no use for them, others are unclaimed books found on buses and trains later auctioned by the transport authorities to book sellers, and still others are old surplus copies of an edition that publishers aren’t able to sell. With the different sources that contribute to this unique second hand bazaar it isn’t surprising that all sorts of books can be found here. From the ubiquitous Nora Roberts to rare editions of the classics, this market appears to have it all. All you need to shop here is a keen eye and a love for wading and digging through stacks of books.

Me having a difficult time zipping up while my cousin watches incredulously

It goes without saying that the key to dealing in this particular market is a good bargain. It’s also very important to come here looking bored and uninterested, more so if you spot a book you want to get your hands on. As long as you’re able to keep the glint out of your eye you’ll find that bargaining is a breeze and buying 20 Rupee books is like everyday business. I still can’t believe that I bought The Bridges of Madison County for only 20 Rupees! The Daryaganj Book Market is, like one article in a Delhi newspaper put it, an Aladdin’s cave to the penniless book lover. And when I stepped off the bus and found myself surrounded by books, books, and more books! –I knew exactly how Aladdin must have felt in that cave. I bought 22 books plus 3 proper drawing pads and I spent only 800 Rupees!

If you’re ever in Delhi and if you’re as crazy about the written word as I am, you must make it a point to visit this part of Old Delhi on a Sunday. But be warned, the Daryaganj Book Market is not a place for snobs. People of all kinds can also be found here pushing and shoving their way about. But this is really an extremely small price to pay in the bargain of getting to buy your favourite books at throw away prices.

Catching up on some Peanuts and Garfield while waiting for the bus
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280 thoughts on “A Book Fiend’s Fantasy

  1. Books, books…and more glorious books by the hundreds (if not thousands), just waiting to be discovered and brought home. This is my idea of heaven. Thank you so much for sharing these photos of your great book treasure hunt. If I ever get to India (which is a dream of mine, and has been for years now), I will definitely go to New Delhi on a Sunday and immerse myself in the Daryaganj Book Market, and probably stay there for hours, hopefully bringing dozens of hidden treasures home with me. Wonderful post, and a wonderful blog.

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    1. And wonderful pictures too! This world of books on cell phones keeps threatening the magic of turning a page (properly from the upper corner). It’s so refreshing to see the books by the thousands and all the readers still hungry for the magic!

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      1. Thank you! I was thrilled to shop here for exactly those reasons. Usually I have to resort to reading ebooks since I can’t afford to buy proper books on a regular basis.

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  2. Just the way you described the book market made me excited ! Would love to visit the book market in Old Delhi sometime when i am in India.

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  3. wow.. Sounds like a book paradise.. There is also a bazaar similar to this in Chennai ,India πŸ™‚ Funny thing is , the sellers sometimes give suggestion on what book you can purchase and strangely the suggestions are quite good πŸ™‚
    Anyway thanks for sharing πŸ™‚

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    1. That’s a little worrying. I would be very sad if I were able to discuss books with a seller because that would also mean that a good bargain would be difficult πŸ˜‰

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      1. ha ha ha.. a little.. but it’s like bargaining with an Auto Driver… Just storm out if he doesn’t agree for your price.. He’ll automatically give in ..

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  4. This looks awesome – heaven indeed! girlsinforme.wordpress.com – check us out for literature comments! Recent article on the Amazon Kindle and how it might provoke the death of books everywhere…really sad, especially after reading this post x

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  5. That looks divine! I love old books and old book shops. There’s just something about the smell, the feel of a good book in your hand…and to get them cheap, well, that’s the best part! πŸ™‚ I will likely never visit India (one can always hope however), so I thank you for sharing your thoughts and images from the day!

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    1. If you ever do manage to come to India you will love this particular book market in Delhi. One of the books we bought this time had a photograph in it. Old books have character πŸ˜‰

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    1. I don’t think anyone in this particular book market even knows the meaning of the word organization. It’s an ocean of books. You can find a Barbara Kingsolver book next to a Philip Yancey book here.

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  6. Hi Geetanjali…
    Interesting post which makes me nostalgic about my own monthly trips to Dariyaganj!
    I still miss those days of buying ‘rare’ books at rates cheaper than that of B grade comics πŸ˜‰
    And just like you, it was a close cousin who used to accompany me on my adventures!
    I once traveled all the way from Rajasthan (not my home) to spend some quality time on a Sunday in Dariyaganj!

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  7. I already have so many books but I would just have to look… might be something I couldn’t live without! I’m so jealous of my friend who went to India, she also went to New Zealand… and I’ve never even left the United States, grr! At least I can travel to those places in books, films and now, the internet! Thank you πŸ™‚

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  8. When In college, Daryaganj for me used to be almost an ‘every sunday’ affair. Haven’t been there in a while. Reading your post reminds me of a visit that I should be planning soon,
    Nice post πŸ™‚

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  9. Now, wracks brain- will I save enough on the cheap books to recoup my plane fare to Delhi? Sadly, no- have to make do with London’s South Bank, but it’s a lovely thought. Congrats on FP

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  10. Wow, that really does look like the place to go for book lovers! Maybe one day I’ll go…but until then, I still get to enjoy that through your post and pictures! Thanks for sharing and congrats on being freshly pressed!

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  11. Your post, both its text and pictures, makes me want to make a trip to Delhi just to visit the book market. It sounds like a book-lover could spend all day there. By the way, I just read a great science-fiction story set in India, “Infinities” by Vandana Singh. Have you ever heard of her? It’s just a fantastic story.

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  12. A book lover’s paradise! I would feel like I’ve died and gone to heaven! I read so voraciously, I’m always running out of books to read. I have a Kindle now which, since I read so quickly and run through books like a child through diapers, is a goldmine, especially when traveling. But I must say, I love the feel and smell of a papery bound book any day. I love to haunt old used bookstores, poking in the nooks and crannies. My idea of the perfect rainy day.

    Kat

    http://askepticaloptimist.wordpress.com/

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  13. This makes me want to fly over to India! Actually, there are several reasons that make me want to visit, but this would be the icing on the cake. I live in an area with some very good used bookstores, but alas, everyone is pretty well aware of values, so true bargains are rare. Still, it’s exciting, and I’ve found some wonderful stuff over the years. Can you imagine a bazaar of old web sites? E-books lumped into a pile? Oh, future generations will envy us!

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    1. Sadly, since this was the first time I visited a book market like this I was a little overwhelmed and was unable to take as many pictures as I’d have liked to. But there’s always next time πŸ™‚

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  14. That’s really cool! A mile of books… and I thought St. Louis’ yearly book fair was big!

    My wife would never let me go!

    If the sellers are up for haggling, so am (would be) I.

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    1. Then you should bring your wife along. She wouldn’t be able to say no then. And apart from being a paradise for avid readers this book market is also great for a good bargain!

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  15. Wow… just wow. I wish somewhere like that existed closer to home but now visiting this book market is on my list of things to do! It looks like you had a ball and I hope you’re enjoying all of your finds!

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  16. I just love the idea of buying books as much as I enjoy reading them. we have the same type of book bazaars here in Italy, where people go to sell and buy second hand books but it does not compare with what you’re showing here. great post, I could almost feel the smell of books from here.

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  17. The printed pages of a book are indeed treasures. I don’t think I could be calm at a book sale, though! As soon as I see lovely gardening books, I am lost. The photos are just wonderful. Keep up the good work!!! A.M.

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  18. It’s so wonderful to know that books are still loved and avid readers can still be found. Here in the US it’s all about the e-books and some of the wonder of finding that worn, well traveled book is lost. Or even the pleasure of opening the pages of a book for the first time, knowing another journey awaits in the pages. Thanks for the post, it gave me a boost today.

    Eric Hotchkiss
    author@inkedkisses.com
    inkedkisses.wordpress.com

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  19. I stumbled across this post by accident and I’m quite glad I did. I swear my eyes boggled out of my head when I saw those pictures- so many books in one place? I never heard of something like this before- thank you so much for sharing! It sounds like an amazing experience, and I must admit, I’m quite jealous!

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    1. I’m sorry, because what I’m going to say may make you a little more jealous, but, these pictures were taken in the beginning. As you walked on we found that there were even more books in even bigger piles! And when a book pile got smaller the seller walked out of his shop with a huge sack of more books to add to the pile. So one can actually walk up and down the entire market for hours finding new books every time.

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  20. Absolutely wonderful images of all those books. My mouth is watering just thinking about them. But how to look disinterested in a book you really want – hmm. Difficult.
    Great stuff and many thanks for sharing.

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  21. How would it be? I’d love to spend a weekend in a book bazaar. I can’t get enough books. Thanks for your post. It was fun to read.

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  22. Oh- Oh my. So many. If I had stepped out into that market without knowing before had I would have believed I had somehow died and gone to heaven. To think there were so many more you couldn’t show us. Its just amazing. Thank you so much for sharing!

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    1. That description fits very well –I felt the same even though I went prepared with a bag. In fact, I had planned to take a trolley bag with me but my family thought it a little over the top :/

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    1. I was actually thinking that would be a good topic for my next post πŸ˜‰ I found that I was drawn to the rare YA books more often than not. Mostly because these were books I’d read in school and they made me feel slightly nostalgic.

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  23. Well, these are sorta illegal markets where second hand books are sold. I actually love them, there is one in Chennai too, called Moore market. As a kid in Delhi I spent my days trying to get low cost famous fives and five find-outers to finish my series.
    In my more grown up days in Chennai, I used the Moore market to hunt down out of print or expensive textbooks.
    Amazon might have changed things a lot, now that I am in the USA.
    Amazon always reminds me that the core idea was the same as that of the book vendors in India, and how a bit of internet can make them seem so much more cooler.
    I will always be a fan of these books in India, and their sellers, in the days without the internet, they relied on their memory! I remember an old uncle in Moore market who had a photographic memory of each book and would tell you where exactly you can find it, whether he does not possess it, if a copy is coming up soon, or if another seller has it.

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  24. This book bazaar is one beautiful sight! I would love to visit Delhi one day and I hope I can attend this book bazaar. What other titles did you buy, I’m curious?! Happy reading!

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  25. Adventure in two ways. Shopping for the books and then getting to read them. Experiencing the words and watching them come alive via your imagination of the scenes. A book store or anywhere where books are sold is a bliss. πŸ™‚

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  26. Great topic! My 2 favorite things combined; books and treasure hunts. This isn’t the type of thing covered in your average travel book. I can’t imagine that any of my relatives in India would even know about this. I’ll def be checking this out next time i am in Delhi.

    Cheers,
    Manisha

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  27. This is simply amazing! I think I have just found something more to add to my bucket list! What a brilliant place – why can’t countries all around the world have something as wonderful (and cheap?) as this?! Just thinking about what treasures this market holds with its piles of books excites me greatly! Thanks for sharing this! I hope one day I get to go to the Daryaganj Book Market because it definitely sounds like my kind of place πŸ˜‰

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  28. We have the same range price here in the Philippines. But we don’t have that kind of bargain shop. We only have two-three per city in a small bookshop. I’m still jealous!!!

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  29. My head is reeling from all those bound pages. You were lucky to escape with only 22 books! And three “proper” drawing pads – that’s hilarious. I imagine you writing, doodling and sketching on whatever might hold ink. Now, with proper drawing pads, you need only to remember to have them with you when inspiration strikes. I really enjoyed your blog and humor.

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    1. I’m not very good at sketching really but I try :/ I actually bought them for my cousins. And I wanted to buy more books but we didn’t have any place to keep them. I kept reminding my aunt about the trolley bag she’d convinced me to leave at home when we’d started out in the morning.

      Thank you so much for reading and for the lovely comment!

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  30. This sounds amazing! I would love to see India and am a sucker for bookstores. I can’t not buy a book once I’ve walked into one. I’m especially a fan of secondhand stores as they seem to have more random, interesting finds than barnes & noble.

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  31. Geetanjali: Fabulous!! Reading is truly one of the best hobbies and ways to expand your mind. Your description of the market makes me wish I could be there as well. I am especially jealous that you are there during Diwali time! (I just posted some photos on Diwali as well!!) Congrats on fp!!

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  32. wow! seeing all those books in public is a scene i miss. unfortunately in places like my hometown independent book sellers are vanishing quickly. you certainly cant find the book on the sidewalk flirting with the passers-by. such a shame.

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  33. Wow! I’ve been to New Delhi twice and am a super fan of books. I should have gone on this place, too. When I get back, I am surely going to put his on my top list πŸ™‚ Great post!

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  34. All I can say, Geetanjali, is WOW!!
    You have taken my breath away!

    So, this happens EVERY Sunday? I would be penniless!

    I must share this story with my sister, who owns a second-hand book store.

    Happy Reading!
    Patricia

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  35. Oh, Geetanjali !! I forgot!

    Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed!!

    Nice for you, and good for those of us who chose to read your post!

    Enjoy your moment!

    Patricia

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  36. Hello….its incredible how much I have the same feelings about India. I lived in Bangalore for 6 years. One of the things that I missed most was the easy and cheap availability of books. And also if you dint want to keep it, you just had to sell it… gain on the road… real heaven

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      1. …. And I used to buy romance books(ya ya i love romances…) for 25 bucks and sell them for 15!!! And I think that I bought the whole Chicken soup series on the road!!! I miss Bangalore ….

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  37. It sounds like an incredible experience. I do so love books… and having to wade through piles makes me feel like I am searching for buried treasure. I will have to put this on my to do list. Great post!

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  38. Your blog is superb! I really enjoyed reading your thoughts and how cinematic it feels seeing your day. keep up! (am new to the word-press !).
    Shaheen Sultan Dhanji
    blog under: bloodinkdiary

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  39. Oh wow, this like a dream. I feel like if I ever went here, I would never leave. I was trying to convince my husband that we should go to India anyway, now I’m going to be even more zealous in my approach. Thank you for sharing πŸ™‚

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  40. Hey there
    Congrats on FP
    With the new rules in hawking pavement booksellers of Flora Fountain, Mumbai have disappeared which is a sad loss for book lovers in Mumbai but I will be in Delhi, hopefully, for my fix! Thanks it was a lovely post

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    1. My father will be upset to hear that that sad new about Flora Fountain. He used to buy his books there in his younger days. Thank you for reading and commenting. I appreciate it very much!

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      1. yeah those days are done with..as a college student and when i did my teacher’s training i used to haunt the place. i even found a perfect ‘Ogilvy’ there later… i hope i get to go through the treasure trove…

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  41. Been so busy lately with work and studies that I can’t remember last time I opened a book just for the sake of entering a new world because I’m curious about it. You just manged to inspire me to let go of all the “musts” of today and choose a book to get lost in. Love it! Thanks for this feeling!

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  42. Glad you had such an adventure (fun pics too!) My daughter and I love to go to used book sales as well. The libraries in our area have these sales every once in awhile as fund raisers. They sell their books and people can donate some of their own to help as well. Nothing replaces the printed pages.

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  43. Oh wow. I’d love to go to something like this. The closest thing to it here in America would be a flea market . . . bit like an outdoor bazaar, but with more furniture.

    Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed!

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  44. I have been there few years back(may be more than few years), when i was in college.Although I hate going to those kind of ultra-crowded place in the city, I just loved this one- Its a paradise. Thanks for evoking those memories

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  45. What a lovely blog! I’ve posted it on my daughter’s Facebook wakk, because she is also a CHRONIC reader! I have also shared it on my own Facebook wall. Your blog resonates me, because I am attracted to books like a small pin to a powerful magnet!

    Thank you. Veenu.

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  46. It looks like heaven to me too. Great photographs as well. When I worked in Baltimore about 8 years ago, there was a nonprofit called The Book Thing. Russell, the founder, traveled all week collecting books people wanted to discard and then gave them away for free on the weekends. I heard that he got in trouble for selling the rare books since it was a non profit. But in my eyes it was a small crime, because I picked up hundreds of books every weekend for two years and gave them to the poorest kids in the city.

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  47. I am such a book worm! My friend took me to a huge library book sale once…I just about went nuts! I can only imagine how exciting this book sale would be though!

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  48. This is great. I just love books in general (I refuse to EVER buy a kindle or anything of the sort), especially old books. Just something about them! Great post!

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  49. firstly congratulations for making it on freshly pressed!

    and most importantly. thank you thank you thank you so much ! I’ve stayed in delhi for 10 years now and I’ve never heard of this bazaar ! I feel like a pure idiot because books are everything for me, and not knowing something like this… pfft* pathetic!

    thank you so much =) *you just made the coming sunday seem more interesting now ;)*

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  50. There is a used book sale here in Colorado that I go to once a year that has over 30,000 books for sale. I literally bring a cart on wheels and bring home close to 100 books, most all under $3.00. Your pictures are fantastic, I’m envious you have the opportunity every Sunday.

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  51. My god, why didn’t I stumble across this post this summer? I went to Delhi when i visited India, but we only saw the usual tourist attractions. It was way too hot-although it was monsoon season there. I would have totally felt at ease in that book market! I suppose it’s better to research local even if you think you know the place. Next time I go to India, although I probably will only visit Delhi in winter, I
    m definitely ding research!

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    1. That would be a very wise decision. And I think it would be more pleasant to come shopping here in winter anyway. Hope you get to visit the Daryaganj Book Market, because you will love it!

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  52. Wow! I wish there was a market like that near me (SoCal). That will surely keep you busy πŸ™‚

    – Lisa @ BitchinRants.com

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  53. Oh my…. I wish we had something like that in Los Angeles.. What a book lovers dream that would be.. Although I think 1 backpack would not have been enough for me!!!! I would be in sooo much trouble!!! Daryaganj Book Market here I come.. Only in my dreams…

    Like

  54. Hi, I am receiving all your comments and it’s flooding my inbox – is there a way to take me off – I may have accidentally chosen to receive your comments. Help me.

    Like

    1. Uh oh. You must have checked the ‘Notify me of follow-up comments via e-mail’ box. You should be able to change it by going to one of the emails which ‘notify’ you of new comments. Under the comment there’s an option ‘Want less mail?’ and then ‘Manage Subscriptions’. Click on on Manage Subscriptions and uncheck Open a Book. I think that should do it. Let me know how it goes.

      Like

  55. They used to have these guys near Churchgate in Bombay, out on the pavements selling the oddest variety of lit.
    I was always extra excited if I ever found a ‘foreign’ comic or better yet. MAD magazines. (no high brow lit for me)
    My best MAD acquisitions came from ruddiwala type booksellers

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  56. It’s so funny that you chose to write about the book market this week…I only just found out this existed and was absolutely gutted as we completely missed it whilst we were in Delhi last month. Next time!!!!!! I do find the haggling and hassling difficult though…my poor English sensibilities πŸ™‚

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    1. That must be very disappointing 😦 Maybe next time you could visit this market with someone who knows the place (and whom you know well enough) to keep you from getting ripped off by overly shrewd book sellers πŸ˜‰

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    1. Thanks! My aunty actually had a difficult time dragging me away from this book market. Even while we were leaving there were books that caught our eye and beckoned us to stay a while longer πŸ˜‰

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  57. Do you mind if i really write what i have just started feeling?? No, you would do!
    I have just end up reading your 5th post here, and I would really like to buy a book when you write it, so keep me close and let me know if you write a book!
    so fresh is your makes me remind of strawberries!! so fresh..and i have never felt so much attraction to someone else’s words.!
    Nice work man!! Hats off.
    please give me your mail id, my email is on my profile!

    Like

  58. Do you mind if i really write what i have just started feeling?? No, you would do!
    I have just end up reading your 5th post here, and I would really like to buy a book when you write it, so keep me close and let me know if you write a book!
    so fresh is your writing, it makes me remind of strawberries!! so fresh..and i have never felt so much attraction to someone else’s words.!
    Nice work man!! Hats off.
    please give me your mail id, my email is on my profile!

    Like

  59. This sounds like heaven on earth. I get to India every year and this coming year I will be in Delhi in March. Thanks for writing this blog—I will most certainly stop at the market in Old Delhi (I love Old Delhi!_

    Like

  60. I am from Southern India and while I no longer live in India anymore, I have never seen a books spread out like that for sale! Next time I visit India, I’m going to check it out for sure! πŸ™‚

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  61. I was there just yesterday! The place was crowded and the traffic moved painfully slowly so just took a quick look without stopping. I also think the books are sold based on they appear to be, a book that looks new costs more.

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    1. Yes, it was dreadfully crowded the last time we were there too. And I hear that that’s how it is everyday!

      I guess that the book sellers base the prices solely on intuition πŸ˜‰

      Like

  62. I remember going there when I was in college to pick up magazines for my Zoology scrapbook. Would end up picking up stacks of books totally unrelated to the subject :). Lovely post, brought good ol’ memories back.

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  63. Good day! I could have sworn I’ve been to this site before but after reading through some of the post I realized it’s new to me. Anyhow, I’m definitely delighted I found it and I’ll be book-marking and checking back often!

    Like

  64. i just came across your blog on sunday and i am finding myself all of a sudden hounded by the thoughts of that market of which i was a regular visitor an year ago….thanks for refreshing my memories ..how i can’t wait for the next sunday to go there ..these ebooks have really killed our real dreamlands of books …thanks a lot…keep writing …

    Like

    1. I’ve actually written a post on the books I bought during that trip. I think it’s the next one after this.
      Yes it’s possible to get rare and famous books at this market. The only problem is that you’ll have to hunt for it.

      Like

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