When I was little, my mum used to take my brother and me on trips to Melbourne; I was so in love with the buildings, sounds, smells, and feel of the place. Melbourne is unique, in it’s moody weather, street art, and juxtaposition from derelict architecture to creatively modern and back again. Although it’s predominantly famous for it’s art, fashion, and food, we are certainly not at a loss for the book nooks we have hidden in laneways and quirky shops. Having moved here in my adulthood, I’ve grown to find some favourite bookish places to lurk, and as I was writing this feature, I was so excited to discover even more.
State Library of Victoria
328 Swanston Street, Melbourne
Ok, let’s begin with the obvious choice. The State Library is renowned for the LaTrobe Reading Room, pictured below. There is also a Chess Room, and a giant stained-glass Shakespeare artwork on the 5th floor. It’s not difficult to lose your way through the myriad of rooms in this epic building, but if you’re discovering the library for the first time, it’s a most wonderful adventure, weaving your way through galleries, reading rooms and archives. On the ground floor there is a cafe and bookstore, Readings, a local Australian franchise, which pride themselves on a extensive range of Australian literature.
City of Melbourne Libraries
If you’re wanting to get some research done in a quieter setting, there are the major City of Melbourne Libraries located in Flinders Lane, Kathleen Syme in Carlton, Library at The Dock in Docklands, East Melbourne, North Melbourne and Southbank Library at Boyd. (The one in Flinders Lane has an amazing cafe aptly named Journal attached to it).
|121 Elizabeth Street|
Minotaur is a favourite of mine, because if you can mix pop culture with books, and fangirl paraphernalia, then you’re the best store that ever happened, as far as I’m concerned. The guys who work here are super helpful and lovely, and are certainly benefiting from the success of Big Bang Theory and the acceleration of Marvel and DC helping the world realise that being a geek is actually the best goddamned thing ever. I had a yarn to one of the gents who was kind enough to let me take some happy snaps, and I asked him what the strangest product that a customer had requested to be ordered, there were a few, but one that came to mind was a set of bookends of 70’s porn star Seka. However weird, wonderful, and wacky the item is that you’re after, these fellas are certainly more likely to track it down than most.
Their book range, of sci-fi and fantasy is more extensive than you’d find in your mainstream retailers. Plus they have specialty items that no doubt would otherwise be a little tricky to find. Ranging from Video Game art, Manga, Comic books, instructional material, film, television and video game accompaniment publications, and autobiographies of rock stars. Also, if you’re not able to get into town to pay the lovely lads a visit, their online catalogue is impressively curated to help you find what you’re looking for remotely. This is my go-to place for books, Harry Potter and Tim Burton paraphernalia (although there is an adorable plushie face-hugger I’ve been eyeing off for a while).
The Haunted Bookshop
15 McKillop Street, Melbourne
This little hidden treasure is set away from busy Bourke street, squished in between jewelry stores and cafes. The low-key nature of it is part of the appeal, as it’s the perfect little escape to spend an hour or two perusing material on the paranormal, serial killers, witchcraft, ghosts, fairies, politics and specialty fiction. As well as a bookshop, it’s a stockist of one of my favourite jewelers, Alchemy Gothic, with many of the items tipping the proverbial hat to some of the literary greats (like the gorgeous Frankenstein necklace I may have taken away with me alongside my new copy of Orwell’s Animal Farm). The lovely gentleman who runs the shop also conducts Ghost Tours on the weekends, so if you’re wanting to learn about the paranormal from someone in the know, get along to The Haunted Bookshop.
Level 3, Curtin House
252 Swanston street, Melbourne.
An independent bookshop specialising in the best of graphic design, architecture, photography, popular culture, fashion, film, music, art books as well as a curated collection of fiction, non-fiction, children’s books, cooking and craft titles.
Other great genre bookstores, is Kay Craddock Antiquarian Bookseller; for secondhand, rare and fine books. Embiggen Books for lovers of philosophy and science books, The Little Bookroom for kids books, and Hares and Hyenas, Melbourne’s queer and alternative bookshop, which also functions as a performance venue.
Readings – Carlton
309 Lygon St, Carlton
Of course I couldn’t go without mentioning Melbourne’s literary pride and joy, bookshop Readings, located in my favourite food street, Lygon street, in Carlton. This year the London Book Fair crowned this little gem International Bookstore of the Year as part of the LBF International Excellence Awards. The bookstore was praised on”its community outreach, support of Australian authors and its help for non-profit organisations working on literacy initiatives”.
Readings is an independent retailer of books, music and film, based here in Melbourne, with locations in Hawthorn, Malvern and St Kilda, as well as a boutique shop in Palmer Hall at the State Library of Victoria. Despite the fact that these bookstores all belong to the same retailer, each store has its own personality.
More about Readings here
Other bookstores that with beautiful layouts and a comprehensive range of items, are Reader’s Feast Bookstore, Dymocks Bookstore in Collins street, (yeah, I know it’s a franchise, but the set-up is gorgeous, the range is huge, and there’s a little cafe with yummy cakes and coffee).
The Little Library-
Level 2, Melbourne Central Shopping Centre,
La Trobe Street
A wonderful little book exchange, where visitors are encouraged to take books in exchange for titles they no longer want. A really great idea, as well as a convenient little reading nook when you’ve got to kill time in the city for a couple of hours.
This little library is not the only one like it, free book exchanges have been popping up all over Melbourne, in the city and in suburbia. A list of more little libraries around Melbourne here.
With this being such a wonderful city of literature, there are bookstores to cater to any whimsy, and great festivals such as The Emerging Writers Festival, Blak and Bright, Melbourne Writers Festival, Melbourne Rare Book Week, and the Feminist Writers Festival, as well as numerous events year round held at various venues such as The Wheeler Centre, and the plethora of book stores we have here. This is the ideal city to find book nooks, meet writers, discuss ways to navigate the intricate world of reading and writing, and just generally celebrate the written word. (Now I’ve just got to convince some of my fellow Book Rioters to come for a visit!)