Recent studies have shown that reading books might help you live longer. While a chapter a day may keep the grim reaper away, there's also something magical about books in the age of the Kindle. The weight, smell and feel of paper as you turn a page is wonderfully grounding in a world of speed-reading, black mirrors and low batteries. Books can act as life markers — holidays, a blossoming romance, a rainy Sunday — in a way that technology simply cannot replicate. Here in Auckland, we are lucky to have a plethora of independently owned bookshops that will help you treat yo'shelf at every stage in life. Here are a few favourites. Happy reading.
The bookshop formerly known as Classics and Suchlike has undergone a radical transformation under Hayden Glass and Julie Fry. Glorious paper lanterns guide the way to the Victorian house stuffed with literary treasures which you can rent or buy by the truckload. If you don't have the time to trawl through the shelves, staff members can handpick a selection of second-hand goodies on genre, style, author or even colour. Coupled with regular talks and events throughout the year, The Open Book lives up to its name — a vibrant cultural hub that wears its love of literature on its sleeve.
The word 'iconic' is tossed around far too casually nowadays, but Hard to Find Bookshop is iconic in every sense of the word. Since opening in 1984, the shop has had eight different stores in five cities around New Zealand. Recently this has been scaled back, with the owner focusing on Onehunga, Dunedin and an online depository that holds over 90,000 titles.
Its original shop in Onehunga Mall was a bibliophiles paradise. Books were crammed into every conceivable nook and cranny, with rooms dedicated to science fiction, art and New Zealand authors. As you whiled away the hours, the discovery of odd knick-knacks dotted throughout the shelves and whisperings of the place being haunted only added to its curious charm. After a rent hike, Hard to Find has had to up roots, moving to a former Catholic nunnery in Eden Terrace and the previous home of New Zealand's only saint. The new space promises to be just as crammed with books, oddities and a loyal clientele.
To be honest, it wouldn't be an article about Auckland bookshops without the multi-award-winning Time Out Bookstore. Found in the heart of Mount Eden Village, its fantastic selection of books, resident cat and striking window displays are only outdone by the immensely knowledgeable staff members. From 13-year-old Eli who can recommend everything from young adult fiction to Murakami on any given Saturday to RNZ and bFM journalist Kiran Dass, the staff have an eclectic array of reading tastes and interests to help pick that perfect book. Part of the joy of visiting this cosy bookshop is bearing witness to the sense of camaraderie and vibrancy it brings to Mt Eden. Community is at the heart of Time Out, with its upstairs rooms readily available for book clubs and literary events. It's open until 9pm seven days a week — perfect for after-work adventures and esoteric Tinder dates. If you can't make it to their shop, they also offer book bundles and subscriptions delivered direct to your door.
Devonport is noted for its maritime history and beautifully restored villas. With its stunning ornate shelving and collection of naval curios, Bookmark Second Hand Books is right at home in the suburb. With over 20,000 titles currently in stock, Bookmark has made a name for itself by specialising in history, aviation and art along with the usual good quality paperbacks and classic literature. There's also a fantastic selection of recent releases at probably the best price point in town. Well-worn leather couches and a charming (electric) fire only add to the sense that you're right at home.
This spacious and airy bookshop in Grey Lynn has two plump couches stacked with pillows for readers to nestle into and while away a few hours, and looking at the selection on offer, they're going to need it. Brimming with contemporary fiction, carefully selected coffee table books and a hyperbolic children's section, Dear Reader is a feast for the eyes. Any book lover will tell you that a good recommendation has the ability to change lives and this is a responsibility that Dear Reader staff seems to take very seriously. With each of its books handpicked by them, this is a shop that celebrates its independent status in the best possible way.
Named after an obscure 1947 New Zealand/Hollywood film called Green Dolphin St, this St Kevins Arcade staple is stuffed with second-hand fiction, childrens books, vinyl and vintage movie posters. Expertly curated with a relaxed atmosphere it's the perfect place to peruse after a coffee at Bestie.
If you're keen to introduce the wee ones in your life to the magic of reading, look no further than The Dorothy Butler Children's Bookshop. Originally established in 1964 by its namesake (a noted New Zealand writer and literary expert) in her living room, it remains the only dedicated children's bookshop in town. Its massive array of books is further supplemented with educational toys, puzzles, games and music. A must visit if you have kids or need to buy a gift for them.
There is something special about a beautiful cookbook. Stunning photography, the thrill of new ideas and the joy of breaking bread give them a unique place in one's library. Within the confines of this (brilliantly named) shop you can eat your way around the world in 80 books thanks to the impeccable selection of food-related topics from cuisines and chefs to dining experiences. There is also a demonstration kitchen and culinary workshop onsite for those who wish to get a little more hands-on with their learning, with courses available throughout the year. Cook the Books has not gone unnoticed within the culinary world, with Gordon Ramsey, Anthony Bourdain, Rick Stein and Peta Mathais having all made appearances there.
You'd be hard pressed to find a time of the day when Unity Books is not bustling with people. This small but perfectly formed CBD favourite manages to cover everything from cutting edge contemporary prose to literary classics, niche philosophical thought and everything in-between. The non-fiction section is particularly good, because it is arranged by theme is easy to delve deep into a specific topic and resurface with something you probably didn't come in for, but definitely need. As one of the rare shops open in the area until 5.30pm, it's the perfect place to quietly unwind after a day at the office.
For over 25 years, The Women's Bookshop has championed women's writing, providing an impressive cross-section of local and international books that fully reflect their diverse lives and interests. Originally based in Mt Eden, The Women's Bookshop has called Ponsonby home since 1999. Men are welcome, and aside from an excellent assortment of gender and sexuality writings, the shop has also become a leading specialist in therapy and counselling books.
When you walk the same streets every day, it's easy to lose the sense of discovery about a place. Jason Books is a hidden gem of O'Connell Street, tucked away and waiting to be discovered. In operation since 1969, this stalwart of second-hand books specialises in rarities for the discerning collector. However, it's not all beautifully embossed leather and first editions. There are plenty of desirable titles — particularly in art, architecture and design — available at very reasonable prices. Keep an eye out for the wall dedicated to New Zealand writers.