You go to Landmark when you know it’s just about time for the new Alice Sebold to arrive in India or when, after reading the Lounge column Cult Fiction, you want to get your hands on Absolute Watchmen . No book store in Mumbai—perhaps even in India—can match Landmark’s eclectic collection of literary fiction and graphic novels. It has been the zany, cool intellectual’s destination.
But the store in Andheri is also a mini retail paradise—the latest Hidesign bag as easily visible to shoppers as the new Yann Martel or David Mitchell cover. You have to negotiate screaming children and heavy plastic bags hanging from tired hands to make your way to the books section of the store in order to unearth the best. Like most big book-store chains across the world, Landmark believes a family has different kinds of shoppers and the bibliophile (nerd) will only shop at Landmark if the entire family gets to shop there too.
Versatile: (left) There is a gaming area before the books section begins; sketches and artworks adorn the walls. Abhijit Bhatlekar / Mint
At the new Landmark in Palladium, Phoenix Mills, in central Mumbai, there is enough space and shelf for all kinds. The 42,000 sq. ft store, sprawled across the basement of Palladium, stocks at least 5% more in all categories than the other store in Mumbai—and all the 14 other stand-alone outlets in India.
The day before it officially launched with the release of Jeffrey Archer’s new book And Thereby Hangs a Tale, we took a guided tour of the store through its various sections. Designed by a UK interiors consultant firm Fitch, the new Landmark looks like an oversized art gallery, with wooden floors, a ceiling dotted with spotlights, drawings on makeshift pillars and the walls (I particularly liked a painting of Tom Sawyer). The place has a friendly SoHo vibe to it.
They have introduced a spacious gaming console with all PlayStation and Xbox games, where you can play new games all day if you so wish. There’s another new small section on vinyl records of classic rock and house/electronica music meant primarily for DJs. You will cross attractive racks full of painting paraphernalia, toys and games before you get to the Books and Music sections. Every category in Books is larger and more diverse—history, cinema, graphic novels, comics, fiction and non-fiction get more than two aisles, and Indian fiction and other categories get one long aisle each. Business and management books—the “most lucrative category in books,” says Himanshu Chakrawarti, COO of Landmark—get the biggest shelf next to a wall.
The head of merchandise pointed us towards the graphic novels section for Lynd Ward’s Mad Man’s Drum (1929), the first graphic novel ever written (Rs437). It is a novel in woodcuts. I also saw Une Semaine de Bonté, a surrealistic novel in collage by Max Ernst, another story told entirely in beautiful, intricate drawings (Rs828).
Fiction is as diverse as in their other stores, but I spotted some gems in non-fiction—for example, The Rest is Noise, in which author Alex Ross, the music critic of The New Yorker, depicts the 20th century through its classical composers.
In music, the new store has expanded its collection to include more Western classical music titles (consciously so, as Chakrawarti later said, because of the store’s proximity to south Mumbai, where most of the city’s Western classical aficionados live). There are concert DVDs of Herbert von Karajan, the Bolshoi ballet and many of Luciano Pavarotti (even before visiting it herself, my Parsi colleague is sure her mother will insist on trips to the store every weekend). The regional music section is much bigger too, with much more choice, especially in Bengali music.
After you’re done browsing, buy yourself a big Moleskine notebook (made famous by Matisse and Picasso, and later Oscar Wilde, Rs450-1,200), made of coarse handmade paper. It could work as instant inspiration. Or grab a chair (not bean bag) next to the large windows, away from the browsing area, and start reading.