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You’ve arrived in Wellington, new or returning, or perhaps you never left. Your summer has been full of boozing and binge-watching every TV show you could. Your soul is drying, and is in desperate need of some cultural hydration. Bookshops are a doctor-approved remedy for the dissolute student.
Below are four of the best bookshops in Wellington, all located as centrally as possibe, ones that are a part of the heart of this place. But this is merely the tip of the bookshop iceberg; to discover even more wonderful bookshops, get a hold of the Bookshop Map, available from most bookshops, which will guide you through Wellington and all the independent bookshops you could dream of.
Easterfield Building, Kelburn Parade, Wellington
Founded in 1975, and entirely student-owned, Vicbooks is the main textbook supplier in Wellington. It is tailored to the student experience, but has grown to be a community bookshop. It is by far one of the best bookshops and cafés in Wellington. The community spirit creates a warm and welcoming place where you can spend an afternoon wandering and discovering new and second-hand selected works of every kind—and all with a coffee in one hand. It also has a satellite bookshop in Pipitea, and a new café in Karori. The staff are a part of what makes Vicbooks so special. Vicbooks is a testament to the love of the written word, and they’re passionate about the bookshop world.
In the interests of full disclosure, I definitely work there, but while it may seem biased, it’s not a wrong bias to have.
Willbank House, 57 Willis Street, Wellington
Set up by the sportsman and philosopher Alan Preston in 1967, Unity Books is a Wellington institution. Situated on Willis street, Unity Books is a major central hub for bibliophiles to flock to. Stacks of books fill their floors, and a seriously impressive back catalogue lines their walls. With staff at the ready with recommendations, buying a book here is a wonderful experience. But if you can’t make it in, their online store is just as good. Each year Unity has a calendar full of launches and readings—these events pull in the Wellingtonians in the know. To be in the know is as simple as joining their newsletter, or following their social media sites. It’s a melting pot of a particular milieu, a milieu every one wants to be a part of.
106 Manners Street, Te Aro
Around since 1988, Arty Bees is home to one of Wellington’s largest collection of second-hand books. Previously there were two shops, one in Cuba Street, and one in Courtney Place; they’ve always been right in the heart of the city. After condensing to a single shop, they are once more condensing, and moving from two levels to just one, allowing their shop to be filled with the ‘best of the best’ (this also means that there is a sale on all the books upstairs).
Open until 7pm every night, and 9pm on Fridays and Saturdays, Arty Bees fills a gap of late-night book perusing that other shops can’t offer. Their catalogue has fiction of every kind imaginable, particularly sci-fi and New Zealand literature. The nature of the second-hand book trade means what isn’t there one day may emerge the next, requiring regular trips. While they don’t deal in second-hand textbooks, they do offer students a 10 per cent discount with a student card. Full of corners and tightly packed shelves, searching through their collection is like searching for treasure.
Shop 204a Left Bank Cuba Mall
Pegasus Books was first a stall at the waterfront markets, which then evolved in to a fixture on left-bank arcade, and has been there for 12 years. The walls are high and stacked with books, hand written signs accompany their specialty selections, and objects of curiosity line the shelves. Led by various personal tastes, the store has a variety on offer, from one of the best literature collections I’ve seen in a long time to a comprehensive humanities section.
The shop has expanded and is full of winding corners and warrens to explore. The fiction section is an entire cube-shaped room, with the books lining the wall, anthologies and collections in the centre, and ladders are affixed to the walls. Something magical happens when you enter Pegasus.