Cityscape Booklovers rejoice! An 8,000 square feet book shop makes its presence felt in the city

Somewhere in our lifetimes, we’ve all met one of them. That stranger who showed you the book you never knew you were interested in till you were; who dug out the first edition of a classic with worn edges and dog-eared pages; who found you just the right do-it-yourself book.

More often than not, they’ve been at bookshops — peering between rows of books for the one that fell in between and sneaking in quick sniffs of that fresh paper. You may find this kind at Sapna Book House in R.S. Puram. In an age where bookstores are glorified toy and stationery shops, here’s one that’s refreshingly, about books.

“I first saw a Sapna in Bangalore, where the chain began in 1967. It was later recognised as India’s largest book mall by Limca Book of Records. I wanted Coimbatore, being the educational hub that it is, to have one,” says V. Karthikeyan, chief executive of the Coimbatore branch, the first in Tamil Nadu. He found that students in the city often used old editions of reference books and study guides because the newest editions never reached the city. “Since Sapna is a large and established chain, publishers give us the latest. So you’ll find even the 2014 edition of some books here,” he says. Sapna’s patronage thus far has predominantly been colleges and schools looking for a wider range of study material, and they’ve returned pleased. Just the ‘Engineering’ section of the store takes a while to walk past. It has entire shelves devoted to ‘Mechanical’, ‘Electrical and electronic’, ‘Computers’ and ‘Civil’.

There are also well-stocked academic sections on language, history, biography and autobiography, self-help and religion, maps and geography. The collection on art is especially vast.

Books abound on the nature of different genres in art, life stories of renowned artists and of course, the how-to draw/paint/sculpt are a-plenty. The ‘Hobby’ section, just adjacent, has whole rows devoted to cooking, painting, gardening, food and wine, photography, home-decor, automobiles and music — replete with the teach-yourself-an-instrument instruction manuals. For sheer visual pleasure, do pull up a stool and unwind by at the extensive coffee table book section. There are gorgeous collections on the history of the Cholas, the changing landscapes of cities, photo essays on the Kumbh Mela sadhus and collector’s editions such as Raghu Rai’s The Indians: Portraits from My Album .

The literature and literary studies division opens with solemn volumes on the history of Indian literature and other such critical writing. It gives way to the less-daunting fiction and nonfiction segments with devoted space to Tamil literature and children’s fiction.

Literary collection

Sure, there are overflowing copies of the usual suspects — Chetan Bhagat, Agatha Christie, Dan Brown and Jeffrey Archer. But tucked away are slim paperback editions of gems such as Benyamin’s Goat Days and Jerry Pinto’s latest translation of Sachin Kundalkar’s Cobalt Blue . The ‘Classics’ category too leaves little to ask for with its complete collection from Plato down to T.S. Eliot.

There’s even the latest edition of The Great Gatsby with Leonardo DiCaprio’s eyes piercing through the cover. “We’ve had a few customers ask us for lesser known fiction titles. If we don’t have them just yet, we procure them in a few days and inform the customer,” says Karthikeyan. As for me, I found everything I went looking for and returned several bucks lighter but satisfied for having well indulged guilty pleasures.