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A Chennai book lover’s guide to the past

By May 31, 2018No Comments

Source : The Hindu

SA Govindaraju has meticulously put together a collection of old books at his garage-turned-second-hand bookshop


SA Govindaraju is one of the oldest residents of RA Puram in the city. One will mostly find him at his garage, his favourite spot. He sits behind his desk, surrounded by hundreds of books. The garage is a book cave; a marvellous chaos that houses his second-hand bookshop that he calls Rare Books.

Govindaraju started with collecting Penguin books. As his collection grew, he initiated a quest — “To own the biggest second-hand bookshop in South India.” Eventually, he collected over 10,000 books, which he sold off about eight years ago. Since then, he has been rebuilding his collection. “I could not be without my books,” he says.

The 82-year-old has a glow on his face when he talks about his book store. “I started collecting books when I was 24,” he says. His father, a voracious reader, was his inspiration. Talking about his father’s view on collecting books, he says, “He said, ‘Everybody wants to leave a fortune for their children. I will not be able to do that. But, you can collect books. They will be of help to you in later times’”. He laughs and admits how relevant his father’s words are. It’s books that keep him active and lively.

Most valued possession

As a youngster, Govindaraju would go around the whole of Madras searching for books, “North, South, West… except East,” he laughs. Now, he mostly gets books from scrap dealers. He says that his most valued possession is, “Anything on Gandhi. He has so much to teach us.” He has even preserved some editions of Harijan. The works of Bernard Shaw and Jawaharlal Nehru are his favourites too. He is a fan of literature and political pieces.

Ask him if e-books compensate for printed ones and he says, “No distinctions can be made. As long as you read, it doesn’t matter what medium it is.” But he personally is used to and prefers printed ones.

Govindaraju is happy host to anyone who wants to look around his place. He also welcomes fellow book lovers who wish to sell him books and magazines (that date back at least 50 years).

For details, call 9941132756. Write to him at

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