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The Best Underground Bookstores in Melbourne

‘To read more’ is a very common and very worthwhile New Year’s resolution. And with the amount of bookstores in Melbourne, from the underground and armchair-laden to the espresso-spruiking paperback goldmines, it’s a very reachable carrot.

If you’re listening to the S-Town, Joe Rogan Experience or Radiolab podcasts, unplug and delete. Break up episodes of The Sinner and The Handmaid’s Tale with some page turning (you’ll probably learn more and sleep better).

Not sure which book to start with? We recommend hitting the bookstores in Melbourne and finding Born To Run by Christopher McDougall, an epic and true adventure that pits the world’s best ultra marathon runners against Mexico’s Tarahumara Indians and questions the effectiveness of the modern running shoe. Or there’s international bestseller, The One Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out The Window And Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson, a warm, charming and hilarious novel that follows the elderly escapee, Allan Karlsson.

Of course, the best option is to explore the bookstores of Melbourne, go deep into the world of words on pages and dusty shelves, and find something for yourself.

Grub St Bookshop

This second hand temple of words has been sitting in Fitzroy for over 30 years. Know for their inventive and extremely particular categorisation, like the ‘Don’t Judge a Book by its Cover’ section, that has books wrapped in brown paper with a five-line description scrawled on the front.

Embiggen Books

Oozing with ambience, this small but seriously curated independent bookshop on Little Lonsdale Street has that ‘if these books could speak’ kind of vibe. Simpsons’ fans enjoy the “embiggen” reference, most get lost running a finger over the spines of the collection, and everyone likes the coffee.

NGV Design Store

Although not exactly underground, the National Gallery Victoria has a ‘gift shop’ that you would actually buy gifts from. Besides the tees, prints, homewares, totes, jewellery and other design-oriented knick knackery, the NGV Design Store has a epic collection of art, photography and design paperback and coffee table books.

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to bookstores in Melbourne. If ‘reading more’ is a New Year’s resolution every year for the rest of you life, you’ll be set with St Kilda’s Bookhouse; the gay and lesbian culture bookshop, Hares & Hyenas; the self explanatory Kay Croddock Antiquarian Booksellers; and the fashion and textile-based, Metropolis Bookshop.

There’s also:

  • The Paper Bookshop
  • Perimeter Books
  • Readings
  • Syber’s Books
  • City Basement Books
  • The Searchers
  • Alice’s Bookshop
  • Bookbarn
  • The Sun Bookshop
  • Eltham Bookshop
  • Coventry Bookstore
  • The Grumpy Swimmer
  • Avenue Bookstore
  • Hill of Content
  • Motto Melbourne
  • Brown & Bunting
  • Books for Cooks

words by niall roeder

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