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Readings Carlton
Photograph: Josie Withers/Visit Victoria

The best bookshops in Melbourne

For when you feel the need to read, these Melbourne bookstores have you covered

Adena Maier
Written by
Time Out editors
Contributor
Adena Maier
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There are few greater pleasures in life than getting lost in a really good book. Here in Melbourne, we're spoiled with opportunities to indulge in a little light reading, with ample interesting and independent bookstores across the city. Treat yourself or a loved one to a new book from one of these top bookstores in Melbourne.

Expand your collection on the dime 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

  • Things to do
  • Carlton

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 bookworms. Readings opened its original doors back in 1969, before relocating twice to its current premises. 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 (!).

Hares & Hyenas
  • Shopping
  • Book stores
  • St Kilda

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. The store has everything from queer fiction to glossy coffee table books full of big cocks. After several decades trading in Fitzroy, Hares and Hyenas now has a new home at the Victorian Pride Centre in St Kilda. The original Fitzroy store on Johnston Street has reopened as Harehole Melbourne, an inclusive performance and retail space. 

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

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The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia
  • Art
  • Melbourne

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 Square's 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.

Hill of Content
  • Things to do
  • Melbourne

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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Kay Craddock Antiquarian Booksellers
  • Things to do
  • Melbourne

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.

Metropolis Bookshop
  • Things to do
  • Melbourne

Any shop that brings to mind Fritz Lang's sci-fi genius or Superman's adopted home is fine by us, 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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  • Things to do
  • Melbourne

The Paperback is one of Melbourne's best-known bookstores, 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.

Perimeter Books
  • Things to do
  • Thornbury

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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  • Kids
  • Carlton North

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.

Best for: Stocking up on fun and educational books for the little ones in your life. 

  • Shopping
  • Book stores
  • Elsternwick

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.

Best for: Independent fiction by local Australian authors and beautiful coffee table books. 

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Syber's Books
  • Things to do
  • Caulfield South

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.=

Get thrifty at these shops

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