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The hipster's guide to Melbourne's indie bookshops

Halida Aisyah
Halida Aisyah

Indonesian passport holder who resents the inevitable shift to a paperless visa system

Jakarta | Thu, June 15, 2017 | 01:38 pm
The hipster's guide to Melbourne's indie bookshops

The reading room at the State Library of Victoria in Melbourne. (Shutterstock.com/Paper Cat)

Recently I went on a week-long trip to Melbourne, Australia — or as my sister called it, the Hipster Mecca.

It’s not an overstatement; I spotted more artisanal coffee shops and stylish people who looked like they came straight out of the Sartorialist in only few days in Melbourne, than an entire year back home.

But among all this “hipsterity,” what got me most excited about visiting Melbourne was its indie bookshops.

In 2008, Melbourne was dubbed the “City of Literature” by UNESCO, who selected the creative city based on several criteria, such as the existence of libraries, bookstores and cultural centers that promote domestic as well as foreign literature.

It’s hard to imagine anyone feeling uninspired in Melbourne, where there are so many bookshops to keep one occupied. And between trips to museums and famous landmarks, I managed to make time to visit some.

The Little Bookroom

If there’s one place I could see myself frequent if I lived in Melbourne, it would definitely be the Little Bookroom.

Like the warm pockets of my coat worn that winter, there’s something comforting about reading children’s books. Naturally, this little bookshop in the outskirts of Melbourne was on the top of my to-go list. Entering the bookshop, I was greeted by an illustrated biography of Frida Kahlo (Australians sure know how to raise cultured children).

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With the shop’s extensive range of books, from beloved classics such as Guess How Much I Love You to Star Wars activity books, it wasn’t easy to pick one to bring home.

Where: 759 Nicholson Street, Carlton North 3054

The Paperback Bookshop

It’s quite unlikely that you’re going to miss the Paperback Bookshop as it’s strategically located on Melbourne’s bustling Bourke Street.

Though small, it has a comprehensive collection of (mainly) paperback books — ranging from history to poetry, and from travel to bestsellers — all stuffed onto its racks or, when there’s no space left, stacked on the floor or a table.  Beside the children’s book section, my favorite spot in this shop is the shelf full of Penguin books.

The Paperback opens late compared to most establishments in Australia that close before the sun sets, so it’s a nice place to end your day. A café next door also opens late, making it a perfect place to have a chat about your newly acquired reads.

Where: 60 Bourke Street, Melbourne 3000

Readings

Readings is an independent retailer of books, music and films with several shops spread across Melbourne, one of which is located at the State Library of Victoria (which is a heaven for bibliophiles and deserves a separate post on its own).

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If you’re interested in writers like Patrick White or Markus Zusak, you will love Readings as they take pride in their genuine passion for Australian literature.

Of course, the clerks will be more than happy to recommend you a book by an Australian writer if you’re new to the genre.

Where: Corner La Trobe and Swanston Streets, Melbourne 3000

Books for Cooks

Unlike the other bookshops, which I had actually planned to visit, Books for Cooks was an unexpected find. I happened to pass by the shop while making my way out from Queen Victoria Market to the tram stop.

This shop specializes in all things food. They have a shelf for books on Mediterranean cooking, another shelf for books on building your own wine cellar and even some culinary-themed mangas (Japanese comic books). While most of their books are in English, there are also quite a lot of French books.

I can picture a chef or a home cook stopping by for some inspiration for dinner and buying the ingredients shortly afterward, which was easy as the shop is neatly placed within a few steps from a fantastic source of fresh produce.

Where: Queen Victoria Market, 129-131 Therry St, Melbourne VIC 3000

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Halida is an Indonesian passport holder who resents the inevitable shift to a paperless visa system. The biggest tragedy of her life is not knowing how to last a week on her dream Trans-Siberian adventure, as she loves romantic train rides but hates public restrooms. See more of her works at www.revoltingchildren.com.

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