The Best Independent Bookshops in Melbourne

Photo of Matthew Clark
6 January 2017

Melbourne is widely considered to be Australia’s cultural capital, and is a UNESCO city of literature. The city has a strong and diverse literary heritage, with indigenous Australians writing stories on rocks, bark or possum skins for over 40,000 years. Melbourne has also been home to many famous writers, such as Marcus Clarke, C.J. Dennis, Peter Carey, Helen Garner, Christios Tsoilkas and Nam Le. The city is Australia’s literary hub, and it supports a diverse cadre of writers, a hugely prosperous publishing industry (Lonely Planet being the most successful), numerous literature festivals, and a strong culture of independent booksellers. We take a look at some of the best bookshops in the city.

Paperback Bookshop

Located on Bourke Street in Melbourne’s CBD is this independent bookstore that was established in the early 1960s to offer a wide selection of books, especially paperbacks, that are not commonly found in Melbourne. There is something for everyone at the Paperback Bookshop, which sells good Australian and international new releases and classics. It is open until late most days, and shoppers are encouraged to grab a coffee at Pelligrini’s next door. They also have a monthly newsletter and an online shop. This store is packed wall-to-wall with books, making it a real haven for book-worms anywhere.

Opening hours: Mon-Thur 9.30am-10om; Fri 9.30am-11pm; Sat 11am-11pm; Sun 12-7pm

The Paperback Bookshop | © Zaid/Flickr

Hares & Hyenas

Originally opening as a speciality bookstore selling books and magazines of the LGBTQ+ genre, Hares & Hyenas has transformed into a café and bar where you can come with friends for a drink, or just have a browse through the thousands of available titles. They also have regular readings from well-known writers. Hares & Hyenas was involved in the ‘Word is OUT’ exhibition, which looks at Melbourne’s LGBTQ+ history through the eyes of some of its greatest writers.

Opening ours: Mon-Sat 7am-7pm; Sunday 12-6pm

Embiggen Books

Located just behind the State Library of Victoria, Embiggen Books is an independent and family-run bookstore with an ever-changing collection. You will feel right at home thanks to décor that is reminiscent of a traditional bookshop. They stock many popular titles, but also thrive on stocking new, and self-published authors, so there is always something new and interesting to get your hands on. Their events programme is well-known, and has already attracted an international philosopher and a Nobel Prize winner. The staff are very knowledgeable, and if you have a brief idea of what you are looking for they will be able to point you to a few different titles that are sure to not disappoint.

Openng hours: Mon-Fri 10.30am-7pm; Sat-Sun 10.30am-5pm

Embiggen Books | © Wei Hang Chua/Flickr

Coventry Bookstore

Coventry Street in South Melbourne is the beautiful home of Coventry Bookstore, a small independent bookstore providing a modern and spacious outlet for international and Australian fiction, as well as children’s fiction and non-fiction titles. Coventry Bookstore is free from the clutter and complexity that is so often found in other bookstores; here you will find a clean and tidy store that is easy to navigate and a pleasant book-browsing experience.

Opening hours: Mon-Friday 9.30am-5.30pm; Sat 9am-5pm; Sun 9.30am-4.30pm

The Brunswick Street Bookstore

Located in Fitzroy, Melbourne’s hub for alternative culture and the hipster life, is this bookshop that specialises in good service and stress-free browsing. The Brunswick Street Bookstore opened it’s doors in 1987, just in time for the cultural boom that was experienced in this cool, inner-city suburb. The Brunswick Street Bookstore is a cosy store where you can find the newest release books as well as backlist fiction and non-fiction, including arts and crafts, design and fashion.

Opening hours: 10am-10pm daily

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