ANALOG AND INTUITION
WORDS BY DIVYA SEHGAL AND PHOTOGRAPHS BY JUHI PANDE
I have fond memories of the first bookstore I ever visited. Walden, in Hyderabad evokes images of my mum and dad walking me through the different aisles of children’s fiction, which eventually led to the “Pepsi and Popcorn” section for quick refreshment. At the time and for many years later, I thought it was perfectly normal that a bookstore sold fountain Pepsi and salted popcorn to six year olds who were in the habit of leafing through glossy abridged versions of children’s literature. Libreria Bookshop in Shoreditch would heavily object.
Perhaps you’ll find your next favourite read beside the book you were actually looking for. The experience of finding your book is meant to happen by intuition.
Libreria could easily become my second home. With its soft ambient light, snaky pathways leading to shelves of books and buried little nooks with yellow cushions for comfort reading, it almost makes me wonder if it’s the library room in a stately home. But this isn’t the only way Libreria differs from other bookstores. While the newest addition of Waterstones in Tottenham Court Road has a basement café for comfort reading and boozy events, Libreria doesn’t serve their customers lattes…or anything else. And while we’re on the subject of food and drink, let’s not forget the other suspects – mobile phones and Wi-Fi – which are neither allowed nor available in this glorious world of books. No sir, you may only click photos from the threshold of the store. Don’t think you can bring your fancy iPhone 6 plus and obsessively start Instagramming those photos of Jack Kerouac’s On The Road.
For those of you who welcome the fact that books at Libreria are being given the due respect they deserve, here’s another bit trivia about the bookstore that might interest you: the books aren’t divided by genres but by themes. The layout tells its own story. Books about “The sea and the sky” are followed closely by books about “The city”. If you’re looking for something on philosophy or the metaphysical, you might find it under “Enchantment for the disenchanted”. Perhaps you’ll find your next favourite read beside the book you were actually looking for. The experience of finding your book is meant to happen by intuition. Some may even call it magic.
It was an entirely new experience to me. I didn’t have a particular book I was looking for, but while I was browsing I happened to notice Aziz Ansari’s Modern Romance in the same area as Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility. And while the books are organised alphabetically, you’ll still find one particular book in two (or more) sections, depending on which “themes” they fall under. I found J.G Ballard’s Crash twice – once next to Moby Dick and then next to a book by Margaret Atwood – all in the hope that readers will find books attuned to their tastes.
I’m always amazed at the idea of curation, whether it’s in an art gallery (why did the curator pick this painting over another by the same artist?) or the display of books in shops. From big names like Foyles and Waterstones to the smaller second-hand bookstores of Charing Cross Road, there’s always a rationale behind the window display and curation of books. Libreria’s suggested themes celebrate a novel (pun intended) method of curation. It’s immersive and other-worldly. And in the world of Amazon’s algorithmic suggestions, it’s infinitely real.
Libreria, 65 Hanbury Street, London E1 5JP