Book shops in Sydney
Oxford Street has undergone more changes in recent years than Shane Warne’s face, but Berkelouw has remained a fixture. The three-level emporium next door to Verona Cinemas has been keeping bookish types happy for over two decades. Downstairs you'll find new books, magazines, curios and gifts. The next two levels hold a sizeable collection of secondhand titles covering fiction, art, culture and history. The second floor is where you'll also find the store's licensed café that looks out over Oxford Street; it's the perfect place to hunker down and watch the world go by with a coffee or a glass of wine.
This a store for biblio and audiophiles alike, selling secondhand books as well as vintage vinyl from the good people at Pigeon Ground Records. There are retro touches throughout: Scrabble letters for signage, a vintage typewriter and handmade patches with quotes like "what would Nietzsche do?”. Rather than the usual latest releases, staff recommendations are an eclectic mix of classics and oddities to encourage reading off the beaten track. Desire is all about supporting local writers and creatives – there’s monthly open mic nights and a ‘Writers Rumble’ where pen smiths can workshop their writing.
Gould’s secondhand cornucopia is a King Street institution. The vast, two level space is charmingly shambolic, with books bursting from its seams. Used and rare books, magazines and records are piled high on shelves that look liable to fall down under their own weight. It’s possible to find anything here, especially what you're not looking for. Early 1970s sex guides? Sure thing. An illustrated history of trout fishing in Australia? Of course. The shelves bear the fruit of half a century of operation and staff are more than happy to help you navigate your way around the somewhat confusing filing system.
The family-run Gleebooks have been in the book business for over 40 years, and it's fair to say they know their Descartes from their Dahl. We love the original – the secondhand shop just down the road – and the dainty Dulwich Hill outlet, but our heart belongs to number 49. This split-level space services everyone from uni students looking for the latest political tome to picky toddlers (and their parents) on the hunt for Dr Suess. Talks are hosted throughout the week and feature an impressive roll call of authors and public figures spruiking their new books and debating the issues of the day.
Set at the top of the Galeries, Kinokuniya is an oasis in the city. The spacious shop sells most books that are worth reading in just about every genre. Wear comfy shoes because you'll likely cover a lot of ground browsing the shelves as you work your way from classics to fantasy, baking bibles to philosophy. One corner of Kinokuniya is dedicated to Japanese and Chinese books and magazines, including a huge collection of manga. You could easily spend a day looking around in here. Luckily, Black Star Bakery has set up shop within the store so you can rest and refuel. Bakes and books – it doesn't get much better than that.
This beautifully appointed biblio hub in Newtown attracts a steady stream of locals from morning till night. The downstairs area houses all the latest fiction and has an excellent children's section for mini readers. Head one level up, and you'll come to cookery, gardening and other ephemera, while the third level contains some impressive artworks on loan from the Corrigan Collection. Book club meetings are hosted in store and kids can get in on the action too, with meetings for ages 7-12 as well as young adults. For adults, our top pick is the ‘Bad Women Book Club’, which explores the ‘difficult’ women of literature.
Entering Gertrude and Alice is like stepping inside a good friend’s house – a friend with an insatiable appetite for books. This cosy bookshop-cum-café is full to the brim with new and secondhand titles; all jumbled together, piled high to the ceiling and stacked along the walls. Bondi’s not known for its thriftiness, but if you’re willing to do a little digging you can find a bargain here. Tuck into a text or put your writer's hat on at one of the communal tables and while away the hours over a cuppa. Literary doggos even have their own Gertrude and Alice hashtag on Insta. We always suspected they could read.
Sappho is like a somewhat dishevelled, oddball uncle who you love in spite of – or maybe because of – their eccentricity. The converted terrace house in on Glebe Point Road is packed to the rafters with secondhand books. Downstairs you’ll find a treasure trove of fiction, from Amis to Zelazny. Wend your way up the stairs, and you'll come to books on history and culture. Venture further up again to a room dedicated to solely to secondhand music books and sheet music. When you’ve finished foraging, settle in in Sappho's courtyard café with a book in hand. There are open mic nights and poetry readings here on alternate Tuesdays. Would be Byrons, beware: there’s a two-minute time limit for readings, so keep it snappy.
Unlike many other secondhand bookshops where musty titles are chaotically assembled under decades of accumulated dust, Love Vintage Books is refined in every way. Step into the store, and you enter another era, with antique touches throughout marking a bygone era. There's an emphasis on quality over quantity here, and the shelves are lined with classic titles, rare and first edition texts and out-of-print books from art and architecture, travel, history, classic literature and children's favourites. You'll also find postcards, maps and retro pamphlets. Such is their dedication to the preservation of books, Love Vintage even offers dustwrapper covering.
Inside Cronulla's strip mall, this sanctuary for book lovers more than lives up to its name. Beach babes and laid-back locals browse the aisles of this two in one shop. In the slick front half of the store new books are on sale, while things get a little Mr Hyde in the back half of the shop. Here order gives way somewhat to chaos, with shelves of used books and their familiar musty smell. The excellent secondhand collection of children’s books is worth a visit alone. Locals can get involved in the monthly book club or sign on for regular book launches and talks.