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Readings Carlton
Photograph: Josie Withers/Visit Victoria

The best bookshops in Melbourne

Whether you’re on the hunt for a classic or something straight off the press, we’ve got your (paper)back

By Time Out editors
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There are few greater pleasures in life than getting lost in a really good book. But what happens when you're running low? At the moment, you can't exactly cram into cozy bookstores and wander through shelves to your heart's content. So we've put together a list of the best bookshops in Melbourne – and whether they'll deliver juicy reading material straight to your doorstep. In these uncertain times, let's not underestimate the quiet power of a book to take you to imagined worlds. 

Knowing that you'll never be lonely or bored with a book, further expand your collection by checking out Melbourne's best second-hand bookshops. Want to know exactly what to read? These are the best books written about Melbourne.

The best bookstores in Melbourne

Readings Carlton
Photograph: Supplied

1. Readings

Things to do Carlton

Delivery? Yes! There's also free delivery to anywhere in Australia with online orders over $60.

Though the Readings empire stretches to St Kilda and the State Library of Victoria, it's the Lygon Street store that really holds the hearts and minds of Melbourne's faithful. Readings opened its original doors back in 1969, before relocating twice to its current premises. The jolly so and sos donate ten per cent of all profits to literacy, arts and community charity projects. A massive book depository filled with uncanny characters on both sides of the counter, it's a legend that will surely never die.

Best for: shopping at the world's best bookstore (!).

2. Hares & Hyenas

Gay and lesbian Fitzroy

Delivery? Yes!

Probably the best gay and lesbian culture bookshop in Australia, and quite possibly the world, Hares and Hyenas is a warm and friendly place that welcomes even the timidest and unsure young gun yet to explode from out of that closet. It’s a gorgeous space on Johnston Street and they make a mean coffee while you peruse everything from queer fiction to glossy coffee table books full of big cocks.

Best for: the finest selection of queer counter culture on this fine continent.

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3. The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

Art Melbourne

Delivery? Sadly no. The NGV design stores are temporarily closed but note this one down for a perfect post-social distancing Saturday morning browse.

While both of Melbourne's national galleries have a fantastic bookstore, it's the fancy pants one over at Fed Square that really makes us proud to be Aussie. The beautiful design lane is worth a gander, especially if you're a fan of Fed Squares kooky architecture. Situated as it is in the garden central walkway of the square, with only a small frontage onto the actual museum's foyer, it is a welcoming space that's chock full of the most glorious art and design books. You can pick up some nifty homewares and jewellery, too.

Best for: its outstanding Indigenous range and graffiti books.

4. Hill of Content

Things to do Melbourne

Delivery? Yes! If you call them up they'll even give you book recommendations. 

Hill of Content has all the characteristics of a quintessential bookstore. Across two elegant and serene levels, the cosy shop features a broad yet considered range of contemporary fiction and non-fiction titles, along with an expansive selection of international imports. The staff talk with all the fervour and knowledge you’d expect of an established bookshop – it first opened its doors in 1922 – making it one of the best in town for casual browsing.

Best for: CBD dwellers looking to kill a few hours between coffees.

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5. Kay Craddock Antiquarian Booksellers

Things to do Melbourne

Delivery? Yes!

This is the sort of proper ye olde shop you expect to find magical amulets, never-ending stories that take you to a far-off land of flying dogs and unicorns or, at the very least, find Gizmo and be told in no uncertain terms not to feed him after midnight or get him wet. It's a fantastical place full of the finest, rarest books, and probably a gateway to Narnia if you look hard enough. 

Best for: blowing an obscene fortune on one tiny, ancient little book that will make you happy ever after.

6. Metropolis Bookshop

Things to do Melbourne

Delivery? Most definitely! There's free postage on orders $50 or more, too.

Any shop that brings to mind Fritz Lang's sci-fi genius or Superman's adopted home is fine by me, but Metropolis has so much more to offer than that. For one thing, it's in the beautiful old setting of Curtin House. Secondly, it's run by knowledgeable staff. And thirdly it has a jaw-dropping collection of specialist books on everything from pop culture and photography to architecture and graphic design. The baby blue shelving and Japanese-style counter are a sight to behold.

Best for: fashion and textiles books for the bookworms who love their glad rags.

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7. The Paperback Bookshop

Things to do Melbourne

Delivery? Yes!

One of Melbourne's most iconic bookstores, the Paperback has been championing the independent scene since the '60s, and will no doubt long outlive the dying chain stores. With an outstanding fiction collection, as well as an awesome array of Australian non-fiction, the paperback also nabs some nifty numbers not available on these fine shores. Staying open way after dark, it is a beacon for book lovers with insomnia. 

Best for: perusing the works of the latest paperback writers while sipping an espresso from Pellegrini's next door.

8. Perimeter Books

Things to do Thornbury

Delivery? Yes!

A relative newcomer to Melbourne's crowded independent book scene, this little beauty busts open the hip suburb of Thornbury. Run by arts columnist Dan Rule and Monkhouse girl Justine Ellis, Perimeter is a champion of independent titles and short-run goodies. If you love to gorge yourself on the most obscure design magus, these guys are most likely packing.

Best for: the most awesomely obscure titles in town and the freaking cool contemporary art displayed on the walls.

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9. Syber's Books

Things to do Malvern

Delivery? Hell yes! Penny and David will happily organise Australia-wide delivery on whatever item you're after. Give them a call or check out the website.

Possibly Melbourne's kookiest bookstore, and definitely a contender for loveliest staff, Syber's has been running since time immemorial, one suspects. A haven of second-hand science fiction and fantasy novels, it’s also a hot spot for true crime and war history.

Best for: those crazy cats and the weirdest sci-fi and fantasy books known to this dimension.

The Little Bookroom (Carlton)
Photograph: Supplied

10. The Little Bookroom

Kids Carlton North

Delivery? Yes (!) with free, same-day delivery to a bunch of suburbs.

Bookshops are magical places, and the Little Bookroom is a fine example of providing that magic to adults and children alike. Stocking everything from picture books for toddlers to young adult fiction, comics, graphic novels and a carefully curated range of fiction and non-fiction for adults, the Little Bookroom has been supplying tomes to locals since the 1960s.

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Avenue Bookstore Richmond
Photograph: Supplied

11. Avenue Bookstore

Shopping Book stores Cremorne

Delivery? Yes!

In a world where the humble bricks-and-mortar bookshop is under threat from online retailers, Avenue Bookstore is bucking the trend by doing a roaring trade in their Albert Park, Elsternwick and Richmond shops. The independently-owned shops stock a wide range of local and imported titles, with a particular focus on fiction, children's books, and non-fiction books in areas ranging from food and wine to architecture and design.

Get thrifty at these shops

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