A recipe for a chocolate soup, thulasi straight from the precincts of Srirangam temple handed out by an amiable bookseller, a heap of eco-friendly bags, some stretching and balancing exercises, and of course a ton of books later, it is clear that ‘Trichy Book Fair’ affords an experience that may appeal equally to the serious bibliophile and the ravenous bookworm or the bargain hunter and the casual browser.

The first outing of Trichy Book Fair organised by National Book Trust, India, along with the Rotary Club of Tiruchi and the district administration may not have everything on your list, but ensures you carry something home.

With a whopping 175 stalls, the book fair is bigger and better in terms of numbers, variety and presentation than many regular affairs.

Apart from good walking shoes and a few balancing tricks (in case you end up with more than two parcels), the fair demands time and patience, particularly if you belong to the tribe that swears by English as the proportion of exclusive stalls stocking English books is easily less than 20 per cent.

Ambling amidst book covers

Granted that today you can ‘just Flipkart it’, but in a city where bookstores have been converted to retail outlets or books are relegated to nooks in stores that pile up gifts, stationery and what-not, the fair lets you rediscover the long-lost pleasure of ambling through the spacious carpeted corridors, ogling covers, reading excerpts and running fingers through spines of hardcover and paperbacks.

For readers of Tamil literature, the range is all encompassing, including Sahitya Akademi recipients, historical novels, pulp fiction, poetry and translated works.

Cooking, health and astrology are among the popular fare, obvious by their recurrent presence in any number of stalls. On the other hand, while those on the lookout for some big names in Indian writing in English and Booker Prize winners may draw a blank, popular bestsellers are easy to find including J.K.Rowling’s just released ‘Casual Vacancy’ and the recent works of Orhan Pamuk, Paul Coelho and Jeffrey Archer. Romance, fantasy and popular fiction abound.

Classics for a song

Other than a handful of multimedia stalls, the fare for children include Indian tales, illustrated picture books and condensed editions of masterpieces.

The highpoint of the fair are exclusive sections catering to spirituality, Marxist writings, history, art, psychology and philosophy. For those who visit fairs for strictly academic purposes, there are entrance exam preparation guides, sample papers, engineering, science and coding and programming reference books.

Bargain hunters can get classics and masterpieces for a song and collectors may stumble upon interesting anthologies.

Baskets, carts or trolleys to cart books can make the experience a pleasurable one, just as more table fans would make it breezy despite the number of ceiling fans which hover many feet above the stalls. Some sellers would do good to follow the route of the majority of stalls that hand out eco-friendly bags to make the fair a plastic-free zone. The fair is underway at St.John’s Vestry Anglo-Indian School grounds till October 14 between 11 a.m. and 8 p.m.