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Senanayake Book Shop

No 366 Galle Road Wellawatte

While it's not quite as charming as Maradana's second hand strip it's much better laid out and the books seems to be curated- classics at the back, pulp and pop towards the front and a box of more serious contemporary novels on one side.

"If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need." - Cicero


My oldest memory of a comic book was a Calvin and Hobbes issue titled "There's Treasure Everywhere". I read it day and night, flipping page after page, reading strip after strip. There really is treasure everywhere if you're looking for it. Bind-hard bookies know that Senanayake Bookshop is one of the dying breed of treasure troves around Colombo. It's a family run business, with the current owner taking up after his father.

Chapter I - The Gist Of It

Dealing in second hand books, it isn't hard to find civil and legislative books from the 1920's with old names like "Eugene Fernando" and "De Zilwa Van Twert" scribbled on the front page. With digital tech overtaking print, and computer literacy far outgunning literacy, places like Senanayake Bookshop are sadly closing shop. We went in search of another shop in Fort called Bibliomania only to find that its story had come to a sad end five years ago.

I visited Senanayake bookshop and got so excited I forgot to take a picture of the entrance and had to visit early morning the next day.  Rows upon rows extend toward the back of the shop with a plethora of dusty old books ranging as far back as 1910 to more recent second hand volumes. There may be older pieces of literature if you put in some elbow grease and look around the shelves with the ladder.

Chapter II - Treasure Hunting

I headed straightaway to the back of the shop where lay piles of old literature. I traced my hand along the bindings as I went reanimating a ghostly trail of dust behind me. Among old oxford dictionaries lay complete hard cover copies of Julius Caesar (owned and signed by Dulcie Wijeyratne 17 Jan 1931) , a copy of Lenin, Germania by Tacitus (signed 1928 by one G.G. Gomez), and an R.L. Stevenson from 1920. Going bonkers I bought the Shakespeare and Stevenson for Rs.150. I regret not buying the Tacitus. Things here are cheap and you can bargain for further reductions if let's say silverfish have burrowed a hole in a hard cover or so on.

Law students might appreciate the multitude of books on legislature dating back to colonial rule. There's even old national geographic magazine dating back to the 90s. If you're applying to university they've got cheap editions of TOEFL, IELTS, and SAT study guides. You should be able to get these dirt cheap. Buying them first hand is about Rs. 2000.

There's a book for everybody. Science enthusiasts will find old copies of biological books describing how to dissect the common Sri Lankan rat, political economists will find old 1920 copies of statistics on the British Isles, Children might be able to find a couple of second edition Treasure Island copies wedged at the back.

Chapter III - Find of the Day

I hope to do these Finds of the Day for all the old bookshops I review in Colombo. Had I got the Tacitus, it would probably have tied with Julius Caesar. The Caesar is in crisp shape for a book its age, much like when Caesar himself crossed the Rubicon. There's an editorial by Oxford and Cambridge what-nots about Shakespeare and the universality of his works. Unfortunately I didn't have the spare change to grab the Tacitus.

Et Tu Purse?

Heading back for it today. Dibs.


In my defence this was taken early the next morning. People gave me weird looks.

I have a lot of praise for Senanayake bookshop. It has an absolutely fantastic selection of books. University hopefuls must visit if you want to grab SATS and IELTs books for cheap. Let's hope Senanayake Bookshop's story is without end, like Game Of Thrones.


Don't under estimate the value of a second hand book as a gift. For a friend, parent, or boss who already seems to have everything rather than bankrupting yourself at Gandhara try busting out a thoughtfully selected second hand book - the Prince for a particualrly Machiavellian boss, a field guide to the birds of Ceylon for a nature loving aunty.... Unique and thoughtful sometimes wins out over big and bling


No 366 Galle Road Wellawatte


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