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: shopping at the world's best bookstore (!).
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 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: 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 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: its outstanding indigenous range and graffiti books.
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: CBD dwellers looking to kill a few hours between coffees
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: 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 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: perusing the works of the latest paperback writers while sipping an espresso from Pellegrini's next door.
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: 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 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: those crazy cats and the weirdest sci-fi and fantasy books known to this dimension.
Possibly Melbourne's kookiest bookstore, and definitely a contender for loveliest staff, Syber's has been running 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.