What better day than National Bookshop Day to start walking the Melbourne City of Literature? With my trusty literary companion, Edie Hawthorn, we set out to visit as many bookstores as we could in a three hour period (less than we thought, given how much time we spend in bookstores). But this is only the first part of a multi-part adventure – think Indiana Jones in a bookstore – as we try to go to all the bookstores in Melbourne in the upcoming months.
What you need:
- a Walking the City of Literature map, available at the Wheeler Centre Reception
- Comfortable yet stylish walking shoes
- A literary outfit – think over the shoulder scarves, brogues, tweed jackets and a fedora (Okay okay, joggers and trakkies are just as good for perusing books, but what if some handsome lad or lady espies you through the non-fiction section and strikes up a conversation on the nature of egalitarianism in fiction? What then huh?)
We started at Melbourne Central and made our way down Swanston Street. So behold! Part I of our literary adventures.
The Little Library
Aww the Little Library in Melbourne Central is one example of why Melbourne is a beautiful place to live. Leave a book, take a book – this kind of free book exchange warms my heart, especially because it’s in a shopping centre. Allowing the space for everyone to participate in reading regardless of money is one of the most important things in this world.
The State Library
Behold the state library! Beacon of studiosity! The library is a sprawling building with multiple levels, art exhibitions and of course, the quiet reading room in the centre. It’s an excellent place to study, relax, wander, and on a good day, sit in the sunshine on the lawn outside.
Readings in the State Library
If you didn’t get enough of the books in the State Library (you can’t take them home), pop into Readings inside the atrium, with its fantastic selection of Penguin Classics, non-fiction and notebooks.
Quite possibly the prettiest bookstore in Melbourne, Embiggen Books lives opposite the Wheeler Centre, which makes it very convenient for a quick pop-in between events. There’s a great selection of thought-provoking books here, especially in science, philosophy and psychology. It’s the place to pick up gifts for the thoughtful person in your life (which I may have done but will not post what I bought in case they read this post… heehee). Plus it easily has the best window in Melbourne, replete with book waterfalls and hidden caves.
The James Joyce Seat of Learning
The James Joyce seat of learning commemorates the famous Irish author, integrating bricks from Joyce’s childhood home.
Located on the third floor of the Curtain House building, Metropolis Bookshop is your go to for gift books. While the shop specialises in architectural books, they have some of the most gorgeous coffee table books in town. Tomes on cinema, fashion, photography and stunningly designed children’s books. There’s also a section for those with a wry sense of humour. I’ll certainly be hitting this up at Christmastime.
We had to hunt a little for Hylands Bookshop, which has recently moved to 200 Bourke Street in the Mid City Centre. Follow the escalators up, then to your left is a second set of stairs. Don’t be turned off by the adventure, inside you’ll find a bookstore set up in an old cinema! They’ve removed the chairs and replaced them with oodles of books on military and transport history. While I thought this might not be my cup of tea, I soon realised there were a lot of very interesting books including a pirate section! How many bookstores have a section dedicated to PIRATES? They have a great range of books on topics as wide as adventure, aviation, military history and even buses.
When you take the escalator down into this basement of literary goodness, it’s hard to emerge without a book in hand. Going in feels like going home; you can spend hours going over every shelf. I start in the science-fiction and go from there, getting distracted “Oh there’s notebooks! Ooh history books! Eh gardening, skip that, oh yum cookbooks, and gift wrap…” There’s always some excellent specials on offer, the staff are super-passionate about books and they run regular events with authors. I restrained myself and only bought three here…
And that’s how far we got before we had to go to MIFF… I tells ya it’s a hard life for us artsy folk. Stay tuned for the next installment of City of Literature adventures!