Crinkled covers of classic books couldn’t find better bedfellows than retro vinyl and a glass of Merlot. Thankfully, the Whistler Street bookshop Desire Books and Records know that good things come in threes, which is why they’ve expanded their reach beyond literary fiction to monthly music and poetry events (wine included) and a partnership with former Camperdown store Pigeon Ground.
Since closing the Camperdown nest, the Pigeon Ground crew had been on the hunt for their next location for months before collaboration with Manly’s revered bookstore was on the cards. It was the perfect fit. Since September 2015, shoppers are now greeted with boxes of black gold from the Beatles’ Help! to the Supremes’ A’ Go-Go, with records selling from $20-$50.
On Time Out’s visit, shopkeeper Julia Ehemann tells us that their ongoing events, such as the open mic night called Bonfire at Desire (last Tuesday of the month) and a writing group called Writers’ Rumble (third Thursday of the month), are just a small part of the effort to engage the community in creative events.
Whether you pop in for a morning browse or hang back for one of the late-night events, Desire is the kind of bookstore that feels like the friendliest of libraries. From Penguin Classics to popular titles like Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children and the recent The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton, Desire is still a second-hand bookstore at heart. It’s just that now you can add to the experience by picking up a humorous birthday card, a $7 Desire Books tote bag or a cute handmade patch.
The store has been trading in the Art Deco arcade of Whistler Street for over ten years, so they’ve built up an impressive collection. Aside from the A-Z fiction, where you’ll find Graham Greene through to Cristos Tsiolkas (depending on what’s left in store), there’s also an extensive range of historical books and biographies, mostly paperback. A shelf of children’s books graduates from The Famous Five to YA titles, and that lime green armchair at the back of the store is crying out for ten minutes with you and The Woman Who Shot Mussolini.
If you’re just here for a copy of King Lear or that Collins German Dictionary (whatever’s on the university shopping list), do yourself a favour and try those headphones attached to the record player – you might hear something you like. While you’re there, sift through the cellophane-wrapped comics like Famous Fantastic Mysteries from 1940 or Science Fiction Planet of the Knob Heads, $25 and $40 respectively. For the truly skint, stick to the boxes outside marked ‘$5’. Last we checked there was an Idiot’s Guide to the Internet going for grabs.