There are certain establishments that rank as "happy places". For some people it's Spotlight or Bunnings, while stationery stores do it for others. And then there are the bookshop lovers. There's just something about the smell of a bookshop, the staff who dig on books as much as you do and sifting through new releases or revisiting classics. Long live the bookstore!
Knowing that you'll never be lonely or bored with a book, further expand your collection by visiting the best second-hand bookshops or rifling through pre-loved literary treasures at one of Melbourne's markets.
The best bookstores in Melbourne
Best for: genuinely thoughtful and extremely knowledgeable suggestions from owner Ben Kemp.
One of the best second hand bookshops in Melbourne (and there are many, excellent entries for that big prize), Bookhouse is just a haven of awesome among the hustle bustle of St Kilda's Fitzroy Street. It's also surely a contender for some of the best window displays, with an almost dark magic ability to draw you in with the weirdest of titles brazenly displayed. It's only tiny, but has a whole lot of heart, and an uncanny way of swallowing entire afternoons. Owner Ben Kemp says he often finned mementoes of other people's lives in the books he finds, and loves leaving them for their new owner to discover.
Best for: the finest selection of queer counter culture on this fine continent.
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 most timid 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: its outstanding indigenous range and grafiti books.
While both of Melbourne's national galleries have a fantastic book store, it's the fancy pants new(ish) 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: blowing an obscene fortune on one tiny, ancient little book that will make you happy ever after.
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: fashion and textiles books for the bookworms who love their glad rags.
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 has a jaw-dropping collection of specialist books on everything form pop culture and photography, to architecture and graphic design. The baby blue shelving and Japanese-style counter are a sight to behold.
Best for: perusing the works of the latest paperback writers while supping an espresso from Pellegrini's next door.
One of Melbourne's most iconic book stores, The Paperback has been championing the independent scene since the 60s, and will no doubt long outlive the dying chain stores like Borders. 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: the most awesomely obscure titles in town and the freaking cool contemporary art displayed on the walls.
A relative newcomer to Melbourne's crowded independent book scene this little beauty busts open the up and coming strip 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: shopping at the world's best bookstore (!).
Though the Readings empire is as big as you can get while still very surely maintaining an independent status, 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 two 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. Oh, and 10 per cent of all profits go to literacy, arts and community charity projects. Nice.
Best for: those crazy cats and the weirdest sci fi and fantasy books known to this dimension.
Possibly Melbourne's kookiest book store, and definitely a contender for loveliest staff. Penny has run this joint opposite Windsor Station 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. Penny may runt the joint, but it's her cool cats who own it. True story: I once picked up a bundle of three awesome books and when my wallet proved empty, Penny told me forget about the money and just love them. Penny, we love you!