I love bookstores.
Big, chain ones with outlets all over the country; small, tiny ones in which only one person can actually fit; lovely, comfortable ones that play the blues in a corner; beautiful bookstores for which I am willing to visit a whole new country; bookstores with reading rooms that even F Scott Fitzgerald used to frequent; stalls that sell second-hand books or pirated books; vendors on footpaths with old, fraying books; bookstores whose books only the shopkeepers can find.
You can gauge reading habits of a whole town from its bookstores, sometimes.
I know that Landmark in Hyderabad has a horrible collection, but Landmark in Madras is always rich in the books they have. Blossoms in Bangalore is possibly my most favorite bookstore of all time. Bookstores in Delhi are usually eclectic. They have shelves and shelves full of academic books (neatly arranged by printing press) often just behind the section with poetry or graphic novels. They'll have three different translations of Marx or Dostoevsky and depending on how the bookshop owner leans politically, he'll tell you which one to buy. (I've come across very few women who sell books. Barring the Full Circle in GK, I can't remember a single one). Bombay is strange about its bookstores. They're commercial and mindless, except may be Strand when it's in a good mood. I never found a bookstore I liked in all my time in Bombay.
Bookstores are how I find new things to read. They are where I experiment. They open my eyes to new books, writers, genres, ideas, styles like nothing else. I have never made a friend in a bookstore, but I've never needed anybody's company but my own in one. Sure, I buy more off Flipkart and Infibeam these days, but I mostly buy books that I've already looked longingly at in a bookstore or read parts of in a library or borrowed from someone else. And I do it only because the discounts are amazing when I buy online. (Student, okay?)
Bookstores make me happy in any shape and form.
They make me happy because I always end up looking at more books than I can buy. (They make me sad for about the same reason). I have found the strangest, loveliest books just browsing in bookstores. It's how I found American Gods by Neil Gaiman (at Blossoms, was I 15?). It's how I found Kari by Amruta Patil (in Chennai, I was bored), Em and the Big Hoom, Hush, Sita's Ramayana (all in Yodakin while waiting for people to show up). Spending hours and hours in bookstores with friends or cousins, before or after or during coffee also yielded great results. I was introduced to lots of wonderful books like this: Nick Hornby, Aminatta Forna, Sandman (frikkin' Sandman!), Jasper Fforde. Actually, if I think about it, that's how I spent much of my time as a kid in Walden, with my grandfather.
Bookstores make me happy for the smell of old paper and the promise of a new book. I know it's a romantic thing to say and we're all against the idea of being romantic about bookstores these days, but I don't think I'm going to apologise for it. I love bookstores because I can get lost in them. (Not like a library, where the book isn't yours to write your name in and hide in your cupboard or write little notes in and stick pretty flags in).
Bookstores make me happy, and that's about that.