For all the discussion of e-books, Kindles and 'the death of the bookshop,' most readers will tell you there's nothing quite like exploring the shelves of a second-hand bookstore, where every shelf may reveal a childhood favourite or sought-after title. While the number of Melbourne bookshops has decreased in recent years, we remain one of only five UNESCO Cities of Literature for a reason.
Here are eight of Melbourne's best second-hand bookstores, where you can flick through dusty and dog-eared novels to your heart's content.
GRUB STREET BOOKSHOP
You can't miss this Fitzroy institution, with its trestle tables of well-priced used books nestled between boutiques, bars and ice cream stores on Brunswick Street. Grub Street has occupied the same site for almost 30 years, and remains an archetypal second-hand bookshop. Think long aisles, highly specialised sections (where else can you find entire shelves devoted to books on AFL?), books piled high and seemingly ready to topple over, and a grab bag of trash and treasure titles.
Grub Street Bookshop | 379 Brunswick Street in Fitzroy
CITY BASEMENT BOOKS
Having moved from its original Elizabeth Street digs to a Flinders Street abode in 2010, City Basement Books stands as arguably Melbourne CBD's best second-hand bookstore. Bookworms will find an eclectic range of titles, spanning biographies, history, arts and entertainment and fiction, and prices are reasonable. New stock arrives on a regular basis, with store owners regularly alerting customers to recently arrived titles on Facebook and Twitter.
City Basement Books | 342 Flinders Street in Melbourne
RED WHEELBARROW BOOKS
More than just a bookstore, Red Wheelbarrow is a thriving literary hub that regularly hosts book launches and readings by local authors and poets. The bargain racks and tables are always worth a look – with out-of-print titles able to be found for as little as $2 – while the store itself is comfortable, unlike the tight, crammed spaces usually associated with used bookstores. Fans of poetry, art and literary fiction will find plenty of tempting titles.
Red Wheelbarrow Books | 105 Lygon Street in Brunswick East
Half record store, half bookstore, The Searchers is the type of place where you can waste away hours without noticing. Long racks of vinyl records dominate the centre of the room, while striking floor-to-ceiling bookshelves feature thousands of pre-loved, reasonably priced titles. Understandably there's an emphasis on music and film titles, but most genres are catered for. Newly arrived and rare books and records are displayed in the window.
The Searchers | 93 Smith Street in Collingwood
According to the Alice's Bookshop's website, 'browsers, thinkers, readers, [and] dreamers are all welcome.' Which is good – because, as one of Melbourne's longest running second-hand bookstores (almost 30 years) – Alice's attracts customers from all over Melbourne, in search of a specific title or just wanting to browse. More than 17,000 books are on show over four rooms, with literature, music, psychology and philosophy particularly well represented.
Alice's Bookshop | 629 Rathdowne Street in Carlton North
Bookhouse's regular customers were devastated when the store closed its Fitzroy Street doors for the last time in November. But rest assured, owners are about to re-open the loved store in a new location on Robe Street (February 21). Expect the same creative window displays, collection of downright eclectic titles and exceptional customer service that you had come to expect from the tiny Fitzroy Street store – just in brand new surrounds.
Bookhouse | 52 Robe Street in St Kilda
Tucked away just behind the hustle and bustle of Glenferrie Road, right near the train station, Bradstreet's Books is one of the eastern suburbs' hidden gems. Priding itself on its collection of 'old, rare and second-hand' titles, the store has traded for almost 40 years. Inside, there's plenty of room to move, while shelves are crammed with hard-to-find books spanning everything from Australian literature to poetry, biographies and military history.
Bradstreet's Books | Shop 9/10 Railway Arcade, 660A Glenferrie Road in Hawthorn
Husband and wife team, Penny and David, operate Syber's Books over two locations in Windsor and Caulfield. The Windsor branch is the longer running of the pair, and features more than 75 shelves of stock (as well as 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. Over at Caulfield, there's plenty of history, biographies, psychology and general fiction.
Syber's Books | 38 Chapel Street in Windsor and 668 Glenhuntly Road in Caulfield
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