Book lover’s dream

Having opened her home to readers , Layla Gonaduwa believes there’s a vibe about her second hand books and she enjoys meeting like minded book lovers

When Layla Gonaduwa couldn’t find the books she wanted in local stores, she decided to open one of her own. Now Read and Seed is a reality, one charming little room out of a book lover’s dream. Though her stock maybe small – Layla estimates she has approximately 1,500 books – her collection is carefully curated or “edited”. These are her favourites or at the very least, books she thinks people will never regret adding to their collections.

Layla Gonaduwa

They’re all second hand, but in her eyes that only makes them more special. Little annotations and dedications personalise each book and give one a sense of connection to its previous owners. “A second hand book has a certain vibe to it,” she says, adding “the journey a book takes is so important.” Personally, Layla loves nothing better than to open a book and find a little note on the inside.

Second hand books also have the not inconsiderable advantage of being more affordable. Layla’s books cover the price range from Rs. 50 to Rs.2000 – the latter being hard bound or illustrated books that would sell for 7,000 – 8,000 elsewhere. In general, she says she charges less than 50% of the market value, with the average paperback selling for between Rs.300 – Rs.500 at the store.

Her books are sourced from all over the world. Her siblings abroad send her cases filled to overflowing. They come in every genre and include works of both fiction and non-fiction. Currently, her children’s section could use a little work, but Layla says she’s hoping to rectify that. She’s also taken to stocking unusual books that local readers might have heard about but never expected to lay their hands on.

“I’m very particular about what I put on the shelves,” she says. Layla personally sorts through all the books to ensure not only that the book is in good condition, but that it is in fact a good book. She says she has a knack for this – just skimming through a novel is enough for her to get a sense of whether it’s a keeper. If you’re not happy with a book you bought from her, you can always return it, but Layla says this rarely happens.

In the 8 months since Read and Seed opened its doors she’s found plenty to be happy about. “There was this part of me that wanted to foster reading,” she says, pleased to have found a way to accomplish that. She values the freedom to choose exactly what goes on her shelf – especially since each new batch of imported books has a few personal favourites which she quickly claims for her own library.
Layla has always been a reader – some of her earliest memories are of pouring over her father’s complete works of Oscar Wilde. The illustrations were what first drew her in but she stayed for the stories. “I’ve always thought the perfect end to the day is to curl up in bed with a good book.”

An unexpected advantage to owning the book store has been the opportunity to meet likeminded souls. The only person happier to see strangers in the house is the adorable Stella. The little dog of indeterminate breed is always welcoming. “She thinks that everyone who comes in there is there to pet her,” says Layla ruefully. For her part, Layla likes meeting people who read. Customers often feel comfortable enough to linger for hours, she says. “I love it. I love it that they’re there.” She’s happy to be nurturing a community of readers.

Accordingly, Layla hosts a monthly book club where a group of readers sit down for involved discussions on book they have decided on by popular vote. Often they end up nibbling on snacks prepared to suit the theme or setting of the book itself. Layla says she would like to extend the invitations to artists of every stripe and that she will consider offering a space for those who want to hold events or meetings in her house.

Layla is an artist herself and has become known for her 3D enamel sculptures using bronze and enamel. She’s currently preparing for an exhibition in Bangalore, where she’s experimenting with brass, copper and aluminium. For her, the various passions of her life blend beautifully – and the whole process is one of discovery. “It’s just about opening yourself to new ideas,” she says.

Read and Seed is located at 119/6 Kynsey  Road, Colombo 8

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