Premier Book Shop, Bangalore, India.

Although I haven’t lived in India for a while, and have not been to Bangalore for over 4 years, my favorite bookshop in the world is still Premier on Church Street off M.G. Road, in Bangalore. 

It doesn’t look like reader-friendly ground.  No coffee or squashy couches–in fact, there’s little standing room.  Unless you’re a Size 0, you have to scuttle crab-fashion between the shelves, whose contents are stacked vertically.  Extracting a book without causing the pile to keel over necessitates a speculum. It’s not a place to visit if you suffer from claustrophobia or dust allergies–or an addiction to Real Simple.

But. But. But. The owner loves books. He discounts everything at least 10% under the marked price, and more if he likes your style. Based on the stack currently absorbing the sweat of your armpits (baskets to carry books?  dream on…), he recommends other titles you might like. There’s an insane variety of titles packed in this tiny space, but the owner knows where each one of his books is. There’s also an agile salesman who leaps on top of shelves to pull down the book that caught your eye. 

The place has nothing but books–no CDs, cards, or gift wrap. You’re mostly in the company of serious bibliophiles who are content to spend their earnings on books instead of on the newest Berry-Pod plastic currently making the rounds in techie Bangalore.

Landmark in Chennai once owned my heart, but we parted ways when it re-engineered itself into a Claire’s Accesories, with books. Please don’t change, Premier!

21 responses to “Premier Book Shop, Bangalore, India.

  1. Awww I would like to look up that bookstore if I ever get a chance to visit Bangalore. In fact I have a friend who might be going there soon, I will pass on the recommendation! Thanks.
    -RED

  2. Sounds great… I’ll be sure to take my personal speculum with me.

  3. R-E-D: I really hope Premier hasn’t turned ‘modern’ since I last was there! Do let me know if it still is the same if you visit Bangalore.

    Shripriya: Don’t forget the forceps…

  4. I’ve never had enough discretionary income to really get to know a bookshop… but I have many of the same feelings about libraries and librarians.

    The library I grew up using kept the children’s books on the top floor and then descended, stack by stack, into a series of underground levels. Imagine my ten-year-old delight when, climbing down the stairs to venture into some “grown-up” non-fiction (I don’t remember what I was looking up, but it probably had something to do with theatre), and discovering that, on the very bottom floor, deepest underground, there was a set of couch and armchairs tucked into a corner.

    I had another “secret reading spot” in my undergrad library, until they remodeled the building to make way for one of those new “coffee shop and study carral”-type places. Much less interesting than the musty chairs hidden in out-of-the-way places. The same, it seems, with bookshops.

  5. Hi Blue,

    I love the complicated underground geography most libraries have. During my grad school days, I had ‘my’ carrel in the library too. It was in the basement, and it came with a PC. No-one ever came there, and I would store my documents on the hard drive–no back-ups– because no-one ever used the PC.

    Lonely libraries always remind me of the story in Alice Munro’s ‘Who do you think you are’ where Rose is in the stacks, and a man suddenly grabs her leg and runs away…which leads to her meeting her future husband etc.etc.

  6. Also try Blossoms down the street. A second hand book store with a selection of great books

  7. SloganMurugan: Thanks for the tip!

  8. niranjana, I heard rumours that premier is closed shop.. but, that was a few months back.. I will go and check it out..

  9. Sathish: That is heart-breaking news…please tell me once you check it out that Premier is going strong.

  10. Well, I drove past it yesterday and it was open. Can’t confirm if the owner is still the same.

    And the reason I drove past as opposed to going in is because of the crappy parking situation around Museum Inn and Koshy’s.

    ———-
    Whenever I have a friend who, I know, is a bookie, I definitely coax them into going to Premier atleast once.

    It’s such a joy to be in a store like that.

  11. Vinit: I’m so glad to know it is still open. There are other good bookshops in Bangalore– I also like The Strand–but Premier has always been THE place for book fiends.

  12. Niranjana,

    M again! I was in India just this past December, and yes, I am from Bangalore – and yes, Premier *Was* supposed to close, but the owner Mr. Shanbhag decided not to, because his customers made *such* a fuss!🙂 The store is exactly the same – my favourite place in Bangalore! I simply cannot figure out HOW they know where certain books are – but they do – always!

    M

  13. Priemier is active and still the same.

    For Biblio(philes / maniacs) … here is the address and contact information.
    Shanbhag
    +(91)-(80)-25588570,25091220
    No.46/1, Church Street, Bangalore – 560001.

  14. Vasundhar: Thanks for that reassuring piece of news!

  15. The shop is closed now. A friend of mine found out. I’m hoping it’s only relocated.

  16. @ Ambuj: That is sad news indeed. I do hope he relocates, preferably down the road from me🙂

  17. I have been visiting the place for last two months hoping that he might have reopened. But no luck.
    Does any one know of other bookshops in Bangalore which are as rich in collection and offer good discount?

  18. @ Kunal: It has been a while since I visited Bangalore–I hope other commentors are able to help you.

  19. hello there..i’m searching for the book by alexander cordell-the song of the earth..the trilogy..i’v searched all over town but i’v not found those book..its really sad…i’d like to know if any one has it and would like to sell them or if anyone knows how i can get them.

  20. @ Justin: I hope you get a response to your request, but I would suggest the internet if all else fails.

  21. I just loved Premier Bookstall. I even remember breaking from office for a quick peek at the books and ending up spending an era picking titles. Now, I miss it having moved out of Bangalore. The other places where I have bought tons of books are at the Strand Sale, MLBD & Ramakrishna ashram.

    I remember the landlord of Premier wanted the space back due to old low rent and then, there was some strong support from readers that sustained him for more time. To my understanding, Mr. Shanbhag must have been forced to move out by now.

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