Every September since 1999, the Bandaranaike Memorial International Conference Hall, colloquially known as BMICH, has become a hotspot for bookworms from all around the country. The thought of books of all genres, for all age groups and for all tastes, all collected at one easy-to-access location is a temptation that few reading enthusiasts can resist. And why should they?
We were all disappointed last year when it was announced that this book-lover’s paradise would not be opening its gates to the public (what with COVID-19 and curfews and social distancing), but we’re super-stoked to let you all know that the Colombo Book Fair is back this year, bigger and better than ever before!
Books will rule supreme at the Sirimavo Bandaranaike Memorial Exposition Center (the mini hall next to the main hall) and tents set up all around it, from the 16th to the 25th of September 2022, from 9AM to 7PM. Organised by the Sri Lanka Book Publishers’ Association, this year’s book fair boasts 400 local and international book stores. There’s an information desk at the Exposition Center lobby that will direct you to whichever stall you want to visit, or you could use the strategically placed maps placed around the premises. Entrance tickets are priced at just LKR 20 and even that is waived if you show the officials your university identification card.
Here are a few things you can expect to find.
1. Modern Fiction and Non-fiction Books
These range from Julia Quinn’s beloved Bridgerton novels, Game of Thrones and Twilight to autobiographies and biographies of global icons like Elon Musk, Steve Jobbs and Nelson Mandela. Whatever your favourite genre is, whether it be romance, thriller, mystery or everything else in between, you name it, the Colombo book fair has it. If this is what you’re looking for, your best bet would be to check out the stalls by Jeya Bookshop, Makeens, Samayawardena Bookshop and Vijatha Yapa Bookshop inside the Exposition Center, or the big Sarasavi Bookshop tent set up just outside.
Price – LKR 1500-5000 per fiction book
LKR 3000-10,000 per non-fiction
If your favourite thing to do in the evening is curl up with a steaming hot cup of coffee and Jane Austen’s timeless “Pride and Prejudice”, or Charles Dickens’ unforgettable “Oliver Twist”, or Louisa May-Alcott’s masterpiece, “Little Women”, this section is where you’ll be most happy. We feel that the most classic-friendly place was the Sarasavi tent. There’s an entire shelf dedicated to the classics, where the books are maintained in orderly rows, not just haphazardly thrown around.
Price: LKR 1200-3500
3. A Range of Children’s Books
Every parent knows the struggle of trying to get their kids to read and the joy and relief that comes when they actually start doing it and get hooked. Go treat your kids to Percy Jackson, Magnus Chase, Harry Potter, the Famous Five, the Secret Seven and much, much more! Obviously, you don’t necessary have to be a child to read books bought from the kids’ section – you just have to be young at heart!
Price: LKR 1000 – 5000
4. Textbooks and School Past Papers
This includes text books for both local schools and international schools. We spotted the best collections of textbooks at Sarasavi, Vijitha Yapa and Samayawardena. Sarasavi even had a separate set of shelves for textbooks that could come in handy for students studying medicine. They also had a huge table spread out with stacks of past papers for local school syllabi.
Price – LKR 500 upwards
4. Sinhala Books and Translated Books
The Colombo Book Fair is absolutely PACKED with stalls selling books written in Sinhala. We also noticed a huge increase in books translated from other languages (mainly English), to Sinhala, and we’re not just talking classics. We noticed translated versions of kids’ books like Percy Jackson, Narnia and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and modern fiction like Jojo Moyes’ “Me Before You”!
Price: LKR 500-2500
5. Stationary and Art Supplies
It turns out that books aren’t the only thing available at the Colombo Bookf Fair. There’s also a great selection of stationary, paints (these are so pretty to look at), crayons, paintbrushes and sketch pencils. Most of these stalls have been set up in the little corridor that joins the two halves of the Exposition Center. There’s also an enormous ProMate tent set up write opposite the Sarasavi tent outside.
Walking around the premises and fighting your way through crowds to reach your must-have books can be tiring and hungry work. But worry not, there are dozens of food stalls set up around the book stalls outside, including KottuMe, Maggi, Pizza Hut, Elephant House Icecream and Imorich Icecream.
We suggest you visit the fair on a weekday before 5PM if possible. It’s definitely less crowded.
In our opinion, there’s no such thing as too many books or too much reading, so get yourself to BMICH right now!