Monday, December 03, 2012

The Ten Best Bookstores in Sydney

Remember how it rained all last winter? Well get set for another rainy season, folks: as I write this I'm looking out on to a rain-sodden Oxford Street. What with Sydney being all about beaches and carousing in the sun, we seem to cope less well with the wet and the cold.
But there's so much this city has to offer, and in particular when it's miserable out and the nights get too cold to venture outdoors, one of the nicest things to do is hang out with a book. Or better yet, hang out in one of Sydney's lovely independent bookshops, which we should all be supporting.
With this in mind, we present to you our pick of Sydney's ten best bookstores.

1. Gertrude & Alice
Where: 46 Hall St, Bondi Beach
Wall to wall books. Books from ceiling to floor, interspersed with communal tables. Gertrude & Alice is what Shakespeare's is to Paris, and provides a welcome haven amongst the surfers and backpackers of Bondi Beach. The food served is fresh and universally excellent, and it's one of the best places to go if you're feeling a bit lonesome, because the welcoming communal tables ensure that you'll always feel at home.
Named after Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, the famous expat American couple who encouraged the careers of Hemingway and Henry Miller, amongst others, there's a lot of heart to this place, as well as lovely velvet sofas and delicious chai. They also boast a Hemingway room, quieter and lined with reference books and the perfect place to woo another attractive bookworm.

2. Better Read Than Dead

Where: 265 King Street, Newtown
I have spent a lot of money in this place. I only realised how many times I was in there over the summer when one of the sales girls said to me "You're in here all the time, and I've always wanted to say I really like your dresses." Which was lovely to hear, because the rest of my scanty budget goes towards dresses.
Better Read Than Dead have one of the best staff recommendation systems around, and they'll often hook you up with things you'll love forever which you'd never find on your own. Everyone working there is incredibly helpful and chatty if you engage with them, but they'll otherwise leave you to your own devices. Close to Camperdown Memorial Park, one of the nicest things to do when it's sunny is to get yourself a book and find a tree to lie under and read.

3. Berkelouw Books

Where: 19 Oxford Street, Paddington, 8 O'Connell Street, Newtown, 70 Norton Street Leichhardt and 708 New South Head Road, Rose Bay
Berkelouw are kind of everywhere right now - seriously, there's one adjacent to a carpark in Cronulla. But each of them feels individual, and each of them are awesome. The better branches of Berkelouw are the older ones: Paddington and Leichhardt, as well as the newer, but adorable, Newtown branch.
Berkelouw comes with a cafe and comfy leather couches for you to squish up in and read for hours, and there's also a separate second hand section which is always worth a look. I would personally recommend the Newtown Berkelouw, if only because of its close proximity to T2 and Guzman y Gomez, it's welcome student discount, and the fact that the first time I went in they were playing The Smiths.

4. Gould's Book Arcade
Where: 37 King St, Newtown
You cannot argue with this place. It is the undisputed king of second-hand books in Sydney. You could disappear into this place and never come out again. I would wager you could find a gateway to Narnia in Gould's.
With a liberally relaxed policy when it comes to organisation, you'll find Marxist histories of industrial labour sitting side by side with a 1996 travel guide to Slovakia. But stick around for a couple of hours (and you can, it's open until midnight, after all) you'll find treasure for a pittance. At the centre of the store was, until his death in May of 2011, Bob Gould himself, the silvery-bearded stalwart of Sydney's sixties counter-culture who was once arrested for his anti-Vietnam and anti-establishment activities.

Visit all ten

The Bookman visited three of the ten over the weekend; more about this later.
A bit slow this am as we didn't get home until 2.00am today and I have to admit to feeling a bit jaded right now!

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