by Jodi Panayotov
While there's nothing like curling up with a good book, there's nothing quite like browsing for it either. A couple of clicks on a computer and a lonely vigil at the letter box doesn't come close to the book shop experience of rifling through shelves, picking up possibilities and leafing through pages. And more so when the bookshop is second hand, with the bonus treasure hunt factor thrown in.
Luckily Brisbane still has plenty of browse-worthy second hand bookshops, some dustier than others, and each with their own distinctive character:
Brisbane's biggest haul of over a million second hand, rare and antiquarian books fittingly lives in the 'John Mills Himself' building, a heritage listed century old warehouse in town. Stock comes from as far and wide as deceased US estates, the libraries of retired academics and covers all genres and topics, although not at standard bargain prices. You could spend weeks wandering the atmospheric dusty aisles and if you can't find a book here it's probably not in existence.
In a bright blue story book cottage this long-standing West End institution is a bit of a gold mine when it comes to the anything quirky, cerebral, left-of-centre or just plain quality, across all topics, from anthropology and spirituality to politics, humour or 19th century romance novels. The owner has an uncanny ability to not only know whether something is in stock but to go straight to whichever groaning-with-books shelf it is on. If it's not there you can order (online as well) and if it comes in it's yours. And with a good and quick turnover, the odds are good.
An old corner tailor's shop has been converted into a little library of nooks and crannies, with ceiling to floor cedar shelves piled high with quality books minus the usual dust layer. Specializing in Australian and Military History, Australiana, Mystery and Crime Fiction as well as a decent cache of children's books, Cumquat also stocks rare and fine books.
A charming little bookshop with polished floors and comfy couches for browsing, ACB is not-for-profit and staffed by volunteers. Its small but decent range of books – children's, biography, text books, health, feminism, Sci fi, history and Australiana – are amongst the cheapest to be found, with prices around $5. And money made goes to a fittingly good cause - literacy programs for local refugees.
Here's one for the book collector – nestled in one of the dusky art deco shops out front of the Paddington Antique Centre – is a little trove of rare, out-of-print, second hand, first edition and antiquarian books not to be found easily elsewhere.
There's not a speck of dust or must in this store with its polished wooden floors and well-ordered shelves, but lots of leather bound beauties and bibliophile owner Anne Jolly who will make it her business to track down something not in stock.
And with genres ranging across the spectrum from art to antiquities, fiction to fashion, autobiography to anthropology and hobbies to history, this bookseller has pretty much everything covered.
Ensconced in a quaint art deco shop, Clarence Corner is both bookshop and in-house café, exuding the charm of yesteryear without the smell. The well-categorised books across a range of genres are almost as good as new. In fact 5% of their stock are new books and the rest a mix of significant out of print books, contemporary and classic fiction, travel guides, quality children's story books and the arts such as cinema and photography.
Tucked away in a tiny suburban shopping village, this bookshop is a no frills affair (being not-for-profit), with the best value second hand books in town. Inside the metal shelves are more hardware store than library but they contain a fantastic collection of books that are not only rock bottom in price (nothing over $3.50, with many $1.50-$2 if bought in bulk) but are all ex-Brisbane City Council Library. A great place to stock up on children's books, novels and non-fiction across all genres, there is also a larger store in Nundah, which touts itself as one of the largest second hand bookstores in Brisbane.
A bookshop that stands out, both for the fantastical mural adorning its wall and its massive stash of great reads, including a mountain of fantasy fiction. Signs handwritten on paper, ceiling to floor books and comics piled haphazardly on shelves, friendly staff and a resident cockatoo out back give it such a homey atmosphere as to forget you're in a shop. Despite the rusticity, there are rare books, first editions and rare coins for sale too.
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