Colombo’s second hand book shops

The row of second hand books located on D.R.Wijewardena Mawatha in  Colombo have been, for many years,  a big  draw for  those of us who love books and are on the lookout for a good bargain.

Recently I paid a visit there after many months.  The initial plan was to quickly sift through what is available and make a hasty exit but I ended up spending a considerable period of time there talking to the shop owners and browsing. Here are some scenes from that day.

The photos are all courtesy my colleague Saman.K.


Peter Appuhamay who has been running the shop for over 40 years
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Looking for safe ways to store books at home

One of my new shelves

Book lovers and collectors are well aware how difficult it is to find proper storage for your precious paper possessions, especially   if you live in a tropical country like I do.  The hot and humid year around weather conditions are ideal for “book worms” of all kinds to thrive in and I can tell from experience that they are experts in devouring paper, the destruction left behind unimaginable given their tiny appearance.

At one time I made the cardinal mistake of keeping books stored in cardboard boxes and learnt the hard way that it’s a very unwise thing to do. Insects can bore into a thick encyclopedia with the same efficiency as an electric screwdriver bores holes in a wall and what is left behind is not a pretty sight.  What a shock it was to see the pages of some of my precious books crumble when I opened them after keeping them stored away in paper boxes for several months.

Wood, I realized, is also not the best friend of books. I ve had books that were stored on a wooden shelf attacked by termites, particularly books that were on the lowest shelf. What we found out was that placing the shelf too close to the wall had allowed the termites to find their way to the books and attack them.

All these bad experiences made me go on a quest to find an alternative to cardboard boxes as well as wooden shelves and it was then that I came across some steel cupboards which were termed “library cupboards” at a furniture store near home.  A cupboards is a little over five    feet high and has  four shelves. It can be closed so not only are insects kept out but also dust.  The glass on the two door panels also makes it easy for me to spot a book that I am looking for but right now it’s a bit messy and I need to arrange the books in order.

But my book storage problems are far from over. I still have books filling up all kinds of places; on shelves attached to the walls, by the bed side and on open wooden shelves. I can’t keep buying more steel cupboard because I need space to keep them and that too is limited.  At least for now, the two cupboards will have to do until I figure out how to find better and safer storage for my books.

An overhead book shelf

By the bed side
The steel cupboard