Podcasts & Books

Your Guide To Melbourne’s Best Bookshops In 2021

By James Shackell
8th Sep 2021

You know who you are. You felt a little buzz inside when you read the headline of this article. When faced with a bookstore your inner voice can always justify spending on a book. While you aren't averse to the e-book, nothing beats flicking the pages of a new book. Let’s be real, bookstores are your haven. Nothing beats walking into a warmly lit store- filled with floor-to-ceiling shelves containing all the latest novels. If you’re like me, it is easy to get lost for hours by flicking through pages of books you want to take home.

If you love winding down to a good book and cup of tea, we have found the independent, specialty, second hand and chain spots guaranteed to provide you with a great read. So here you go, Melbourne. Here are the best bookstores in 2021.

Independent Bookstores
 

Readings

CARLTON, HAWTHORN, ST KILDA, MALVERN 

A well-known favourite in Melbourne is Readings. A cult classic to one of Melbourne’s best bookstores, their Carlton store was acclaimed best bookstore worldwide in 2016. So you know they’re pretty good. Their new release selection is always up-to-date and interesting, but if you push past, deeper into the stacks, you’ll find a top-notch collection of travel, design, architecture and history. The team are always super helpful too offering the friendliest service and top tier recommendations. 

The Paperback Bookshop

CBD

This is how all bookshops should look. Cramped and musty, practically overflowing with paperbacks, stacked in such dense and precarious constellations that any semblance of Dewey Decimal order is almost impossible. Wandering the isles at Paperback should take all of 15 seconds (it’s that small), but there are hidden gems practically everywhere. You’ll be lucky to get out of there in under an hour. While it is pretty tiny, there is no question that it is one of the best bookshops in Melbourne. 

Hill Of Content

CBD

At over 100 years of age, Hill of Content takes out the prize for Melbourne’s oldest bookstore in 2021. The charming shop by the corner of Exhibition and Bourke street in the city is a two-story treasure with some of the best books. Upon entering, readers will find a small and savvy selection of magazines to the right, featuring the likes of The Lifted Brow, Womankind and The New Yorker. The ground floor is largely filled with new releases and fiction titles, while upstairs delves into classic literature, art, philosophy and travel. Hill of Content also stock a small selection of gifts and reading accessories, one of our favourites being the clever tote bags by Out of Print. 

Avenue Book Store

ALBERT PARK

Avenue is located right in the heart of Albert Park Village and is beloved by local book fiends. Focusing on new title releases across all categories, you can bet you’ll be able to get your hands on the best fresh reads from both Australian and international authors. For the best bookstore in Melbourne featuring children’s novels, you'll will be spoilt for choice here. The store has an extensive kids selection, from picture books to young adult novels. For the especially keen and avid readers, Avenue runs a monthly book club with nibbles and wine provided by Albert Park Deli and Trembath & Taylor.

The Grumpy Swimmer

Elwood

There’s nothing to be grumpy about in here. We dig a bookshop that can combine a love for the written word and a penchant for sharp design and beautiful homewares. We know where to head when we want to get lost between the pages while surrounded by Uashmama paper bags, Robert Gordon ceramics and Pony Rider textiles. The Grumpy Swimmer has built a warm community of book-lovers through their book club, poetry readings and storytelling nights. Renowned for their carefully curated range of titles and friendly staff, customers can’t keep away from The Grumpy Swimmer, making it one of the best bookstores in Melbourne’s south.  

Coventry Bookstore

SOUTH MELBOURNE 

South Melbourne delight Coventry Bookstore is another shop that will deliver the goods on service and content from a small location. Owner Stephen Hepburn takes great pride in the store reads and loves connecting with his customers, making it one of the best bookstores in Melbourne for great recommendations. Whether looking for yourself, a friend or a loved one, Hepburn is always willing to talk about your preferences and offer tailored suggestions. 

The Sun Bookshop

YARRAVILLE

There’s more than a dollop of old-world charm to this former candy bar turned bookshop, sitting snug inside Yarraville’s Sun Theatre building. Owner and operator Deb Force opened the doors back in 1998 and has included a focus on upcoming Aussie authors. There’s a thoughtful mix of coffee table fillers on the shelves and a monthly book club open for the public too. A true Yarraville gem, The Sun is one of 2021’s best bookstores in Melbourne’s west.  

Eltham Bookshop

Eltham

Montsalvat may be Eltham’s cerebral, artistic soul, but Eltham Bookshop is its heart. A warm and cosy spot, tucked onto the main strip, just around the corner from the excellent Third Chapter. Owner Meera Govill has created a little pocket of reading pleasure, filled with all kinds of extravagant book displays and a cacophony of colours from the paperbacks. It’s hard to pass this way without stopping in for a browse, making this one of the best independent bookstores in Melbourne.  

Happy Valley

COLLINGWOOD

Owner Chris Crouch has made it his mission to source eclectic gifts and novels from all over the world. Home to books and items that you won’t find anywhere else, it is hard to leave the store empty-handed. It is the perfect spot if you need a present for someone else, or are simply looking to treat yourself. Not to mention the unique interior and variety of different bookshelves just add to the excitement of finding a new read. 

Specialty Bookstores
 

Metropolis Bookshop

CBD

Filled with books featuring film photography books and exquisite designs, Metropolis is the city’s specialist art and design bookshop. If you are after a new coffee table book (or two) head to the door on the third floor of Curtin House. The current owners are Sally Fethers and Tim Peach, a power team that relocated the business to the current 1920s-style space which transports you back in time. Metropolis is the place to go for anything graphic design, art, pop culture or music.

Perimeter Books

THORNBURY

Independent publishing love is what it’s all about at Perimeter Books. The focus here is on small press titles, art and design books and zines. This humble little Melbourne bookstore is taking big strides in supporting both local and international names in the independent publishing industry. Boasting clean lines and loads of natural light, Perimeter is a dream for the book-lover meets minimalist meets design-enthusiast. There is no denying that this little oasis is one of Melbourne’s best independent bookstores in 2021. 

NGV Design Store

SOUTHBANK

Along with knick-knacks and items relating to its current exhibitions, the NGV Design Store has an extensive collection of art, photography and design books, plus copies of the Gallery’s own bi-monthly magazine. If you can pull yourself away from holding your hand in the waterfall wall and giggling like a kid, it’s worth an hour’s browse. For a bookstore in Melbourne that is filled with the best book covers to add some decor to your home, rush over to the NGV store.  

The Little Book Room

FITZROY NORTH

If you fell in love with the 90s hit You’ve Got Mail, you’ll adore The Little Book Room. It’s a specialist kids bookstore in Fitzroy North that stocks everything from baby’s first book to middle fiction for the over 10s. There are storytime sessions for babies and toddlers every Thursday and Friday at 10:30am to keep your little ones off the iPad for a bit. The range of picture and young fiction books (and classics, of course) is seriously impressive. For one of Melbourne’s best bookstores dedicated to cutting edge children’s literature—The Little Book Room is one you’re not going to want to miss.

Books For Cooks

QUEEN VIC MARKET

We had to include a cookbook shop, right? Books For Cooks is pretty self-explanatory. For all you Melbourne home cooks out there- this is the best bookstore for you. In the heart of the Queen Vic Market, is a shop devoted to the culinary arts. You’ll find the latest book by Ottolenghi and there is also a carefully stocked range of rare and old books, including handwritten recipes from the 1700s. The guys are seasoned pros and their books are pretty much the secret ingredient to a delicious meal.

Hares And Hyenas 

FITZROY

Home to providing Melbourne with books on sexual and gender diversity, Hares and Hyenas is Melbourne’s only queer bookstore. Specialising in queer identity, books explore intersecting social factors such as gender, class, race and cultural background. Hare and Hyena’s broad collection of novels based on contemporary bring lived experience outside the heteronormative mainstream to the public. Functioning as a diverse bookstore, the store also transforms into a live performance venue at night.  

City Basement Books

CBD

Having moved from its original Elizabeth Street digs to a Flinders Street abode in 2010, City Basement Books is dedicated to a secondhand collection of unique and rare novels. Bookworms will find an eclectic range of titles, spanning biographies, history, arts and entertainment and fiction, and prices are reasonable. New stock arrives regularly, so head to City Basement Books for one of Melbourne’s best second-hand bookstores.

The Searchers

FITZROY

Half record store, half bookstore, The Searchers is the type of place to go and reminiscent of the ’70s. Long racks of vinyl records dominate the centre of the room, while striking floor-to-ceiling bookshelves feature thousands of pre-loved titles. Understandably there's an emphasis on music and film titles, but most genres are catered for, ensuring there is something for everyone. 

Alice's Bookshop

THORNBURY

Alice’s is one of the best bookshops in Melbourne, its recent change of location from Carlton to Thornbury has just seen bigger shelves and more books to choose from. As one of Melbourne's longest-running second-hand bookstores, for over three decades, Alice's attracts customers from all over Melbourne. With over 17,000 books on show across four rooms, get ready to browse. Be prepared to immerse yourself with their extensive collection of literature, music, psychology and philosophy. 

Syber's Books

MALVERN & CAULFIELD 

Husband and wife team, Penny and David, operate Syber's Books over two locations in Malvern and Caulfield. Both locations feature an obscene amount of stock and some gorgeous cats, who spend their days sleeping and greeting customers. From science fiction and true crime to children's novels, chances are you'll find it here. Penny is the face behind the stores and David sticks to running the warehouse of novels, but together they have curated one of Melbourne’s best second-hand bookstores.

Already Read

FITZROY NORTH

Open nearly every day (except Monday, but who likes them) Already Read is a humble second-hand book store in Melbourne’s north. For over 10 years, the little store has valued great reads and genuine connections with customers. Whilst their range includes all genres, there is an emphasis on contemporary fiction and interesting non-fiction titles making this store you won’t want to miss.  

Chain Bookstores
 

Dymocks

Various Locations 

It might lack the dog-eared charm of Melbourne’s second-hand bookstores, but there’s still something wonderful about Dymocks subterranean bunker in the CBD. It might be the sheer concentration of reading material here. We’re going to go out on a limb and say it’s the biggest bookstore left standing in Melbourne, especially since Borders packed up its bags. Populating the city of Melbourne, Dymocks is definitely one of the city’s best bookstore chains. 

The Book Grocer

MELBOURNE, CBD, NORTHCOTE 

You will have seen Book Grocers popping up all over Melbourne. They seem to exist in a binary state of either ‘Just Opened!’ or ‘Closing Down!’ It’s during these closing periods that you need to pounce. All books are usually slashed to just $6. You can do some serious damage here with $50 in your pocket. They have a decent collection of fiction and non-fiction to choose from, and you can even purchase one of their mystery boxes for a bargain. The only catch— what you get is a surprise. 

Bookstore Bars


Buck Mulligan's

CBD

Book in one hand, a glass of fine Irish whiskey in the other. What could be better? That’s the thinking behind Buck Mulligan’s, the city’s whiskey bar and bookstore. If it seems too good to be true, you aren’t going to find every novel here- but you will find some good ones written by Irish authors. Their unique niche means a superb whiskey selection, including several hard-to-find Irish bottles. As for the books, if your literary taste runs to James Joyce, you’re in excellent luck. Maybe Ulysses will make more sense after a couple of whiskies...

Willows & Wine

WEST MELBOURNE

Our new favourite reading nook, and a brilliant idea to boot. Willows is the brainchild of Alice Wheeler. It’s a pre-loved bookshop and wine bar all in one. The rustic wood shelves are stocked with a thoughtful mix of weather-beaten paperbacks, handpicked by Alice from various op-shops and jumble sales. Behind the bar, there’s an excellent wine selection, with a particular focus on local bottles. The combination of candlelit benchtops and old-school board games, making it one of the best bookstores you’re gonna want to visit in 2021.

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Image credit: supplied (Readings)

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