Books are not, as a general rule, cheap in Australia. You can thank a fiercely protective set of copyright laws meant to ensure local writers compete on the same level playing field as the Gillian Flynns and James Pattersons of the world. That said, a seismic change in the industry a few years back, which saw Borders go under and long-beloved national bestseller Dymocks downsizing significantly, has actually proved a boon to the many independent bookstores that have figured out how to thrive in a leaner, much meaner buyers’ market. Sydney is still home to some pretty fantastic small bookstores, all independently owned, all worth the afternoon you’ll lose browsing their stacks for a one-of-a-kind purchase. Over time, I’ve discovered a few favorite haunts, where smart service, inviting corners, and shelf upon shelf of books that stoke the imagination are all but guaranteed. Read on for a list of my top picks for the best indie bookshops in Sydney.
This sprawling, three-story outpost in Paddington lies directly across the street from the city’s most popular independent cinema, so it’s a perfect place to discuss the film over coffees (or a glass of wine) in the café. There’s a huge range of new and used books on each floor, and they’ve got a well-curated gift section, too.
Potts Point Bookshop
This peaceful stop lies in the heart of one of the city’s most appealing suburbs, offering locals and curious passers-by a clean, quiet place to get lost in the stacks. It’s done a good job of curating its selection so there’s something for everyone. Try not to walk out empty-handed.
Oscar & Friends
This is a peaceful oasis amid buzzy Crown Street, where vintage shops, cheerful cafés, and consistently crowded pubs nudge against one another. It’s also the kind of small bookstore that’s in jeopardy, so do them (and yourself) a favor and pop in for a browse. Fashion and art book lovers will be especially glad they did.
Gould’s Book Arcade
An absolute treasure. Gould’s is a Sydney institution and a bit of a bête noire
for anyone with OCD—seemingly zillions of old books, videocassettes, vinyl albums and magazine spill from every available shelf in a manner that can best be described as eclectic. But that’s the fun of Gould’s. You walk in with no idea what you’ll find, certain whatever it is will remain a delightful surprise.
The Bookshop Darlinghurst
Sure, this gay-owned and operated institution just north of Taylor Square has plenty of LGBT-themed books, but it also has a well-stocked collection of titles covering politics, society, design and celebrity. The memoir and biography selection is of particular interest if you’re a pop culture fanatic.