84, Charring Cross Road

Thanks to Instagram, I discovered this book. Or how else a book first published in 1971, can come to my hands. These days I make it a point to read a book end to end - appreciations for the book by newspaper columns, acknowledgements, contents, introduction, epilogue, end notes, indexes, appendix etc. whatever be it. This one is the most apt statement:

"A 19th century book in a 20th century world. It will beguile an hour of your time and put you in tune with mankind."

"As we get to know Helene, and through her, Frank and Nora Doel, and Cecily Farr and Megan Wells and the rest at 84 Charing Cross, we recognize that the books desired, located, sent and received are the happy vehicles for much else : conversation, friendship, affection, generosity, wit -- in other words, for all the best things life can share with us."  - from the Introduction by Anne Bancroft who played Helene's character in the movie.

We book-lovers just love to indulge in books that talk about our shared bibliophilia, have several more book recommendations for us inside and date decades back. Old world charm of letters. I watched the movie first and then read the book. I guess there is a TV adaptation too. It is based on life of the author Helene Hanff and letters exchanged with a London bookstore Marks & Co.'s chief buyer Frank Doel and others there, a bookish relationship built and cherished for over 20 years. It is such a feel good book and the movie has done perfect justice to the book. It is short and crisp read and watch alike. 

How easily a friendship is forged talking about books. She never bought a book that she hadn't already read from the library first. She loved to collect and re-read them. A book for every mood, every season, every festivity and every holiday. And how beautiful it is that in this world of a few decades ago, people sent each other greeting cards, generous gifts and just helped each other out in life without even having ever met in person. And this quote from the few final letters in the book says it all-

"I remember years ago a guy I knew told me that people going to England find exactly what they go looking for. I said I'd go looking for the England of English literature, and he nodded and said: 'It's there.' 

Maybe it is, and maybe it isn't. Looking around the rug one thing's for sure: it's here. The blessed man who sold me all my books died a few months ago. And Mr.Marks who owned the shop is dead. But Marks & Co. is still there. If you happen to pass by 84 Charring Cross Road, kiss it for me? I owe it so much. "

I downloaded The BookLover's Anthology that was available free over Project Gutenberg. Essays of Elia too. One of the letters in the book mentioned it. It's a joy reading the names of so many old books of the past century here. I may not read them, but reading about them is joy nonetheless. I indulge more in bookish articles and 'not-a-book-review's these days than actual paperbacks.

"Reading makes immigrants of us all. It takes us away from home, but, most important, it finds homes for us everywhere."


Movies like 84, Charring Cross Road: 

You Have Got Mail. We are the internet and email generation. We might not be familiar with the excitement and thrill of getting a letter by post, but long emails from dear friends in far-away lands, that we can relate to. You Have Got Mail is one such romantic take on the wonder that written words exchanged over e-mail inboxes are, how we anticipate a reply, forge friendships, and share our lives and thoughts.

The Reader. Most of you won't agree with this choice, but somehow I missed this gem of a movie while watching 84,Charring Cross Road. Kate Winslet being read to by a young man, so many books - me watching her paying rapt attention to him and internalising and expressing all the emotions that the characters in those books go through- this particular memory comes to mind.

This post is a part of Blogchatter Half Marathon.


  1. What a lovely idea - a relationship based on the shared love of books. I have seen You've Got Mail a number of times and adore that movie.

  2. It seems like i would enjoy reading this book and watching the movie too.

  3. "Reading makes immigrants of us all. It takes us away from home, but, most important, it finds homes for us everywhere."

    I absolutely agree and I love this comment. I loved You've got Mail. I am definitely going to read this book and watch the movie too. "The Reader" has been on my watchlist forever!


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Queeristan by Parmesh Sahani

  Queeristan (Amazon Link) Thanks to Audible Free Trial I listened to this amazing non-fiction on LGBTQ inclusion in Indian workplaces. Author Parmesh Sahani identifies as gay Indian, working closely with Godrej higher management and employees for years to create an inclusive workplace, both legally and in spirit. This book is a result of those years of experience, research, collaboration with individuals from difference spectrum of the society and organizations who has successfully transitioned into a queer friendly one.   Indian history is inclusive. From the Khajuraho temple architectures, to Konark to the Rig Veda, there is existing proofs even 2000 years ago of Indian inclusiveness of queer. It’s the draconian British law that criminalised it, which was scraped in 2009, came into effect once again following a sad judgement in 2013 and eventually was scraped off for good in 2018. I am in awe of the lawyers who fought this legal battle- colleagues and partners – Arundhati Katju

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