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The Best Local Bookshops to Hunt Down a Great Read

Find the next book to sink your teeth into at one of these local gems.
By Molly Glassey and Libby Curran
July 05, 2021
By Molly Glassey and Libby Curran
July 05, 2021


Find the next book to sink your teeth into at one of these local gems.

Melbourne is a city of literary diehards. Maybe it's because we produced Helen Garner, Peter Carey and publications like The Monthly, Lifted Brow and Meanjin. Or maybe because our climate provides some excellent indoors weather, primed for plenty of snug afternoons curled up by the fire with a good book for company. Maybe it's because our reading pairs perfectly with a coffee, of which we truly excel at producing. But it's probably because of our many resilient, independent bookstores that bustle with readers who understand the magic of paperbacks.

To help hook you up with your next great read, we've rounded up some of Melbourne's finest neighbourhood booksellers. Next time you're on the hunt for a good page-turner, hit one of these favourites and support a local business. Your next literary adventure awaits, now go find it.

Top image: Avenue Richmond, by Tracey Ah Kee

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    Perched at the top of Bourke Street hill since the 1960s, Paperback seems untouched by time. Small, dark and cosy, this independent store makes any book buying experience intimate and memorable. Though we wouldn’t suggest sticking around to cheekily read the first chapter of your purchase onsite — there simply isn’t room. Fitted out with old wooden shelves, The Paperback is stacked full of classic and contemporary titles of both the fiction and non-fiction variety. With space being such an issue, each title is lovingly selected, giving a beautifully curated range. Pop by on your lunch break (Pellegrini’s is next door), and grab one of the shop’s suggested favourites, i.e. not what you’ve seen go gangbusters on Goodreads.

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    If you live in Melbourne and haven’t lost an hour or two in Readings, can you really call yourself a local? While the group’s Carlton store is the gem of Lygon Street (and the original), the St Kilda outpost also has iconic origins (formerly the site of independent bookshop Cosmos). What’s more, famed musicians Paul Kelly and Nick Cave have been known to peruse the stacks here, so you know you’ll be in pretty good company. There’s a wide range of genres to choose from including history, art and design, travel, literary fiction and the like from both Australian and international authors. Plus, the St Kilda shop also keeps a rare and impressive collection of books from independent publishers. With the sheer amount of reads to choose from, you’re bound to find something great to sink your teeth into.

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  • 6

    The Sun Bookshop is what boutique bookstore dreams are made of. Tucked into the former candy bar at the art deco Sun Theatre, the shop sells everything from a curated selection of fiction, biography, history, travel and crime, through to art, design and photography books — plus a fun selection of artistic cards. And if you well up at thoughtful, heartwarming kid-puns, then you’d best pack a tissue — sibling shop the Younger Sun is only 60 steps away on Murray Street, featuring a collection of beautiful children’s books in a homely, cosy space. Both bookstores also host events, which you can keep up to date with here and here. Head to one of the many author events and you may just find your new favourite book, complete with autograph.

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    We get it, not everyone can sit down and read a 1463-page literary classic with dozens of characters, tiny font and even tinier margins (we’re talking about you, Tolstoy). That’s where Metropolis Bookshop swoops in. This independent CBD bookseller specialises in titles on graphic design, architecture, photography, popular culture, fashion, film, music and art. It’s also as pretty as a picture, with an interior that could feature in any of the design books sitting on its shelves.

    If you’re chasing that perfect coffee table read, hunting a gift for someone who has everything or just prefer a few more pictures in your evening reads, Metropolis beckons. As any boutique book store should be, it’s a tad hard to find, so best to use Google Maps to get to this one — unless you’re well acquainted with Curtin House and its many levels.

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    Unafraid of bucking the trend, Avenue Books is a small book business that just keeps getting bigger and bigger. Originally opened in Albert Park in 1986, the independent bookshop expanded to encompass a second Elsternwick store in 2012 and then a Richmond outpost in 2016. The Richmond shop focuses heavily on fiction, art books and children’s literature, with both local and imported titles among its impressive selection. Friendly and knowledgeable, the staff will lend a hand finding and recommending books across all genres — there are even dedicated children’s book experts on the team.

    Image: Avenue Richmond by Tracey Ah Kee

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    Located in the scenic town of Healesville, this charming regional store is built on a fierce love of great books. Less than four years old, but already with one expansion under its belt, Verso Books is a complete bookworm’s haven — the kind of warm, inviting space in which you’d happily lose an afternoon. Here, explore an expert curation of titles covering everything from craft to crime, and from parenting to poetry. The staff are pretty handy with the sage book advice, too, whether you’re after the perfect present, or hunting a new tome for your own bedside table. Throw in a great collection of magazines, gifts and games and you’ve got yourself a one-stop shop that’s brimming with top finds.

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    The Little Bookroom

    A long-time fixture of Melbourne’s literary scene, The Little Bookroom has enjoyed many iterations and addresses since first opening in the CBD in 1960. Named after an award-winning collection of short stories by Eleanor Farjeon, it was created as a dedicated children’s bookstore and now sits happily in Fitzroy North Village, fitted out with the very same bookshelves as that original store. It’s an oasis for budding young bookworms, with an expansive curation of kids books, graphic novels and young adult fiction, guaranteed to delight small readers with big imaginations. There’s also a handy selection of informative titles aimed at parents, and a jam-packed event program running from book chats to interactive storytime sessions.

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    Neighbourhood Books

    From the same owners of the Little Bookroom children’s bookshop comes this charming sibling store catering to avid bibliophiles of all ages. Sitting pretty on Northcote’s High Street, Neighbourhood Books is stocked with a wide selection of non-fiction, fiction and kids titles, with a strong focus on celebrating and supporting local talent. Not only is it a bright, welcoming space to spend time in, but the team is always armed with a slew of great book recommendations — check out their latest tips over on the website, or find them for a chat when you’re next instore. There’s also a regular program of events, should your passion extend beyond what’s written on the page.

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Top image: Metropolis Books.


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