So, you’re stuck in Brisbane? Nice one, me too. Don’t worry, it gets better. This is my forte. In the same way that law is the forte of the lawyer and medicine is the forte of the doctor, reading and looking at books in bookstores is the forte of she who is less a source of pride to her parents; she who is poorer, less employed. So relax. I’ve got this. What does one want in a bookstore? What are the variables? Bookstoring is an experience in its own right, but you know that, reader. You’re clever and charming and that’s probably why you’re reading this in the first place. Atmosphere, selection, privacy, additional amenities; it is the amalgamation of these factors that contributes to a 10/10 bookstoring destination. Come with me on a journey, a bookstore-crawl, through the many book stores that Brisbane has to offer.
Archives Fine Books
40 Charlotte Street Brisbane
This is a bookstore with a capital BOOKSTORE. The dust, the smell of old paper, the flickering lighting, the amazing information to space ratio (in the sense that information seems to fill the room right into the corners, helping create an exercise-free safe space). How about a legitimate and necessary creak among the heavy floorboards? Check that shit.
An endlessly fascinating gentleman named Hamish Alcorn bought the space eight years ago. “I can’t take credit for this,” he says. “I’d love to be able to because it’s an enormous achievement. It’s been here 30 years this year.” He does not tell me a tale of a resident cat. I am sorry for this, reader. A cat would fit in so magnificently. There would and should be a cat here. “It’s a funny old place, this shop,” he continues. “But it is unique. So people who really love books - it doesn’t matter where they’re from in life - they are attracted to the place. But certainly odd characters too, and beautiful characters. There’s a guy called Mark who’s a naturalist, who’s a reader but also an ecologist and he’s always out bush. He’s a big bearded fellow with a big jolly, jolly laugh and jolly demeanour. You know, he’s a friend of the shop that’s for sure. There are a few people like that who are just, really, friends of the shop - people who are interested in odd things.”
Fine is a modest understatement. These books - and this shop - are above average in no incidental way.
205 Boundary Street West End
Picture this. It’s Saturday. It’s sunny, but in a nice way. This kind of sunshine involves minimal sweat, just golden-tinged, summery warmth. You’re in high spirits. You’re in a bookshop. It’s West End, which means that you don’t have to wander far to find beer, coffee, or even a green smoothie if you’re still pretending to be interested in health. Where are you? Bent Books.
The shop stands out from the crowd, boasting a shelf of $3 each, two for $5, or five for $10 bargains, including, a week ago, a book casually titled The Loser. If that doesn’t appeal to you, maybe The Foul and The Fragrant would be more to your liking, though it won’t be found among the books on the bargain shelf. Along with The Foul and The Fragrant, the inner perimeters of Bent Books houses books such as Half Asleep in Frog Pyjamas, The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson and The Complete Natural Gardener that all form a charmingly odd family of secondhand books.
193 Boundary Street West End
This funky bookstore is a high achiever in all the departments that count. In a way, it’s kind of like a maze: a sense of urgency, a million possible directions to choose from. Instead of fright, you’re more likely to feel a wave of FOMO, which is justified really, as there are always other peasants in the shop just dying to find and run away with the book you don’t even know you need. Get here early and stay back late. Befriend the staff and spend all your money. It still won’t be enough but at least you’ll feel like you’re getting somewhere in this dreamy, wordy world. Go here for new releases, classics and literary magazines. Settle into a dark corner in the cafe and get all up in your new book with a steaming cup of coffee and or tea.
Winn Lane Fortitude Valley
“The name is German for artist. Made sense given where the inspiration for the shop came from. And many people pronounce it wrong, which in Australia makes it cheeky and a bit funny, no?” Lizzie Stafford is the owner and innovator of Künstler. You may not have heard of this sick hole in the wall. It’s tucked away in cute ‘lil Winn Lane next to some tasty goddamn burgers. Künstler stocks a selection of publications ranging from lifestyle and travel to writing and technology. They even stock something called Fantastic Man with a - I’m assuming here - fantastic man on the cover. I don’t know if it’s marketed towards fantastic men or if it’s about a particular fantastic man but, either way, I am convinced.
The aesthetic of the matchbox-sized shop is a graphic designer’s dream. Lizzie returned, inspired, after spending some time in Berlin. After having lived there for a year she returned to Brisbane and opened the shop. “I wanted to do something really small, that stocked niche titles that weren't widely available here,” she says. “New titles [are] coming in constantly that we source from all corners of the globe, including Norway and Poland down to local zines produced by students. Recently we had UK design legend Fraser Muggeridge do a talk in the shop, and that was awesome.” Currently, the shop is showcasing an exhibition by graphic designer and visual storyteller Joel Matheson. “It has never been about money, but more about experimenting with different ways that retail can be and trying to meet people and form a little bit of a community,” Lizzie continues. “Winn Lane is perfect for that, as it’s already such an amazing community of likeminded souls.”
87 Memorial Drive Eumundi
This is my favourite. This combines the clean, bright sparkling neatness of Avid with the dusty magical whimsy of Archive. If this is so good, then why, Ebony, isn’t this goddamn listed first? Silence, oh troubled reader. This bookstore, you will find, is located in a town far, far away. The inconvenience of its location is outweighed by its extreme dedication to being excellent, which is why I’m including its sorry self at all. The floorboards creak a little, books line the walls and create hallways down to the back of the store where the elegant, old books and foreign books and old, foreign books are showcased. There is even a coffeehouse attached to the side so you can avidreader (verb: to act as you would in Avid Reader, especially to read and drink coffee in a corner) the morning away without a care in the world.