A good book will transport you to other worlds, but a good bookstore will take you to whole new galaxies. With the pandemic driving many destinations to close, and a rather unpleasant recession looming, there is no better time to get behind Auckland’s independent booksellers, who continue to fight the good fight for exceptional fiction and who undertake the crucial work of championing New Zealand authors and talent.
Despite the sad, recent closure of Dominion Books, there is still an abundance of options for voracious readers in Auckland. Here are the best local booksellers — both in-person and online — as decided by the bibliophiles among us.
The Best In-Person Bookshops
The Little Book Shop, Remuera
One of the latest independent bookshops to open is this hidden gem, nestled in the recently redeveloped Mews Precinct at 415 Remuera Road. Run by a team of passionate bookworms who have created a cosy, literary haven in which to find insight, inspiration, escapism, comfort, amusement or joy (or anything else, for that matter) The Little Book Shop offers a thoughtful curation of books covering a vast array of topics. It is also a beautifully-appointed and well-organised store, where visitors can expect a warm and welcoming atmosphere — perfect for perusing the latest titles.
Lamplight Books, Parnell
One of the better things to come out of the pandemic was the opening of this gorgeous, independent bookstore on Parnell Road. Launched by friends Melanie O’Laughlin and Courtney Smith, Lamplight boasts an exquisite fit-out by Buster Caldwell of Wonder Group, in which the store’s considered and curated titles — which span new releases, best-sellers, all of the classics, Te Ao Māori titles and so much more, as well as offering a special focus on art, architecture and design — have been given a sleek, contemporary backdrop against which to be displayed. This is the kind of bookshop in which we could happily browse for hours.
Unity Books, Auckland CBD
A hive of activity on High Street, Unity Books is one of the many characterful businesses that makes Auckland a cherished place to live. At last count, it was home to almost 30,000 titles, and the staff will always go the extra mile to find a book for its patrons. “Really, this bookshop is a national treasure,” says Susanna Andrew, who has worked on-and-off at the store for 26 years. “It enriches the life of the city and I couldn’t imagine Auckland without it. It’s like everyone has a stake in this bookshop. The customers and the staff, the writers and the publishers. Everyone wants it to exist and wants it to succeed and this has a lot to do with the extraordinary generosity and tenacity of the owner Jo McColl who treats the business like a living entity, like a garden. And it is abundant.”
Time Out Bookstore, Mt Eden
The team at Time Out Bookstore in Mount Eden like to think of it as a “third place” — a welcoming space for bibliophiles to come together. “We aim to curate a haven of books that customers do not know they want yet and have a team of passionate readers that love recommending staff picks,” says long-time manager Jenna Todd. “When we talk about and share books, we give them life! This creates connections between people and there’s nothing better than that.”
Novel, Herne Bay
Over three decades at the helm of the Herne Bay institution, Novel, Andrew Maben has collected the most sought-after publishers and coveted coffee table books — often exclusively. According to Maben: “A book must look good, of course, but the content has to match the cover… the best ones are like works of art.”
The Green Dolphin Bookshop, Karangahape Road
At this cool community hub, find a selection of second-hand books in excellent condition (many of which feel almost brand new). From the dedicated Penguin tray (in which you can find a huge selection of those orange-covered classics) to the sprawling fiction wall, regularly updated with contemporary best-sellers and renowned must-reads, this Pitt Street stop in is well worth a visit.
The Women’s Bookshop, Ponsonby
Despite its moniker, this bookshop is one that truly services all. Founded with the intention of promoting women’s writing and catering to women’s diverse interests (from a feminist slant), this store has stood the test of time since its opening in 1989. The current offering is expansive, with all the books you’re looking for, and a decent list of others that will probe your thinking further. Extra brownie points for the staff who add personalised notecards to the front of their favourite books, giving you a little extra insight before embarking on your next read.
Dorothy Butler Children’s Bookshop, Ponsonby
With an earnest understanding of the importance of reading on young minds, Dorothy Butler Children’s Bookshop brings these inspiring reads to the forefront. Specialising in literature all the way up until teens, this bookstore offers one of the largest collections of children’s reading in the country.
Hard to Find Books, Eden Terrace
Hard To Find Books essentially is what it says on the tin; your first port of call for any reads you’re still seeking. Operating both in person (our Auckland store is based in Eden Terrace) and online, with a seriously impressive catalogue based in Dunedin, there is a collective 280,000 books — give or take a few. An astonishing feat when you think about it.
Dear Reader, Grey Lynn
Embodying all the makings of a cute wee neighbourhood bookstore, Dear Reader is a divine outpost among the Grey Lynn shops. The inventory is constantly revolving, and as with most, the independent model allows them to order books they truly know and love.
The Open Book, Ponsonby
Another excellent place to go if seeking out second-hand books of superior quality, this iconic bookshop has long drawn bibliophiles to Ponsonby Road. Set in an unmissable, character-filled villa that overlooks the suburb’s bustling strip, this cosy shop offers a huge variety of genres, from vintage to contemporary, mathematics to music, curiosities to cookbooks and all types of fiction, but is organised so that finding what you like is always a straightforward task.
The Booklover, Milford
This sweet little independent store is just another reason why we love Milford right now. The staff all pitch in with some weighty book reviews of their current favourite reads, and the book subscriptions serve up a constant raft of reading inspiration.
Matakana Village Books, Matakana & Online
Anyone who has dropped into this store in passing will attest that it is well worthy of a visit to Matakana alone. Found in the Matakana Village Market, this store hosts a seriously impressive collection of stunning coffee table books, which really sets it apart from the rest. For those who can’t wait, the online store caters to every creed.
Jason Books, Auckland CBD
This inner-city haunt prides itself on being an independently-owned bookstore specialising in secondhand collections. Here, you’ll find coveted titles alongside lesser-known contemporary paperbacks, with a curated selection of rare and collectable books — a must-explore for any lover of literature.
Paradox Books, Devonport
Open now for some 25 years, this cosy Devonport shop is one of the City’s foremost independent bookstores. With comfy couches and a fire to keep you warm, it’s the ideal spot to visit on a cool winters day, as you browse a few books and contemplate staying a while.
The Best Online Bookshops
Bookety Book Books, Online
Making good literature more accessible in the most remote locations, Bookety Book Books is a modern answer to the traditional brick-and-mortar store. The venture operates solely online, limiting overheads and ensuring prices on even the most coveted titles stay low. It has a seriously great catalogue, and the tailored 6- and 12-month book subscriptions make for an excellent gift.
Good Books, Online
With their palpable outpost in Wellington, we’re endlessly grateful for the online efforts of this truly brilliant bookstore. Bringing together a brain’s trust of authors and other essential creatives, Good Books embodies everything good about bookstores. Because the store is small, you’ll find a curated edit of books — and only ones that the owners actually believe are good.
Starting as a small independent bookstore in Nelson, you’d be hardpressed to find anyone more knowledgable about books than Stella Chrysostomou and Thomas Koed. Now exclusively online, Volume offers serious depth and breadth on its shelves, and truly personal recommendations (from the owners to their customers, who’s tastes they come to know intimately) that you can always trust.
This Wellington-based boutique bookstore specialises in design and textile-centric texts. You’ll often find our editors frequenting its online store in search of new fashion digests, coffee table tomes and some delicious cookbooks for good measure. While few things can replace the joy of an in-person visit to Minerva, its online store comes close.