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Five Unique Experiences for Book Lovers in Melbourne

Home > Melbourne > Books and Writing | Libraries | Lists | Shopping
Published July 25th 2018
Including book stores, a library, a performer & a zine shop
Psychic Poet

poet, psychic poet, typewriter, street performer, melbourne
The Psychic Poet whipping up free verse for a customer

A crowd gathered at the corner of Degraves Street and Flinders Lane. What was grabbing their attention? A man in a formal hat and suit jacket sitting on a low stool, belting away at a typewriter. After a minute, he pulled a sheet free and handed it to a man nearby. The man took a moment to read what was written, then smiled uncontrollably. He thanked the poet and was on his way.

All the Psychic Poet (@psychicpoet on Instagram) asks for is a word; from that, he'll write you a poem for a small remuneration. He started in Brisbane, then went to Sydney, and now he's here. He often works on Flinders Lane; on Wednesday Nights, he's at Queen Vic Market. In this way he is making his living, he says.

"I'd been writing poetry for a while on Facebook and my friends loved it. I thought, how can I make a living from doing that?" he said.

"You get hugs when you connect with someone - because I write from my heart, and they appreciate that."

Hyland's Bookshop

hyland's bookshop, military, transport, history, bookshop, book, reading
Neil of Hyland's Books can scope the history text you need

On the second level of Midcity Arcade, you see the A frame for Hyland's Bookshop. Only, it appears to be guiding you up the stairs to a cinema. Your suspicion is confirmed when you reach the top and are faced with giant room: multiple tiers, a high ceiling and a ventilation on the walls. Hyland's Bookshop is indeed located in an old cinema, making it a unique browsing experience.

From the upper tier, you look down upon the store. Once, war unravelled on screen here. Now it is laid down in print: the place is packed with text committed to military and transport history. The books are divided into categories, for example: Napoleonic, Colonial, British Military, WW1 Land, Intelligence & Espionage, Theory of War, Maritime, Australian Aviation and American Civil War. Although the lease on the cinema is new, Hyland's Bookshop has been servicing this reading niche since 1965, co-owner Neil says.

"We have customers who are always looking to find out more on topics," he says.

"As a specialist we can source books from all over the world to satisfy what they want to find out, also giving them the opportunity to source books that are printed and published overseas."

Sticky Institute

sticky institute, zines, magazine, melbourne, degraves street
Fine Zining with Shanice from Sticky Institute

I was in Degraves Street hunting down The Little Bookroom (which, as it turns out, is only in Carlton now). I walked back and forth, hunting down the non-existent store in vain, before taking a chance on a set of stairs leading underground into the Degraves Street Subway, a quiet tiled space, nearly void of people. As you walk towards the turnstiles, you pass a number of shops. One caught my eye: The Sticky Institute.

Through the glass front, between the rows of zines hanging by string, you glance well-lit zines on the shelving within. Go inside; a closer look at the covers reveals a mixture of artworks; a look within reveals creativity in extremis, from poetry to reviews. Volunteer Shanice explained that shops like Sticky Institute help spread new voices that otherwise might not have the chance.

"Zines have always been a really underground thing; creators used to have to mail them out, then shops started popping up," she said.

"Now, people get found out because of us."

Embiggen Books

embiggen books, the simpsons, bookstore, melbourne, little lonsdale street
Charles Darwin would approve of Warren and his store Embiggen Books

The stickering on the display window of Embiggen Books catches your eye; a white cornice-like perimeter, with a gnarled tree branching from it, Embiggen in gold in the middle.

Inside, hanging shades casting a warm low light onto the wooden shelving and sliding ladders. If you are looking for answers, they exist on Embiggen's shelves; if you are simply an innocent browser, the decor alone is an experience.

Many of the texts have a science and philosophy focus. There's even a cabinet displaying anatomical drawings and figures, naturalistic specimens and scientific instruments. This focus explains the name, co-owner Warren says.

"It's from a Simpsons quote: 'a noble spirit embiggens even the smallest man'," he said.

"It's not the meaning of the quote so much as the fact the writers of the Simpsons are actually mathematicians; there's a lot of mathematics hidden in their show. We always liked how they brought together the two disciplines."

Warren has been in the book trade for about 30 years, firstly as a book designer and now with Embiggen. He has succeeded in his goal of creating a store that pays respect to books, rather than treating them like items in a supermarket.

Little Library

little library, library, melbourne central
The little library with a big heart

Walking through the second floor of Melbourne Central, you find the Little Library, a library without staff - just four or five bookshelves, two seats and an everchanging collection of second-hand books.

The library functions on honesty: signs encourage book lovers to take a book and return it or replace it with another. It is an anomaly in the shopping complex full of fast food stores and retail chains. So too is it ultra-accessible and easy to use; there's no need for library cards and no database to search laboriously.

Kew local Joan holds a book about UFOs; she uses the Little Library whenever she's in the city.

"It's a great system - some people don't have access to things like this otherwise," she says.

"Reading has really helped me in my lifetime and I'm glad it's been made so easy with an initiative like this."

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Why? To discover exciting new texts!
When: Any day during opening hours
Where: Melbourne CBD
Cost: Free to browse, otherwise the cost of texts purchased
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