Unity (57 Willis Street)
Unity is a trendy and arty little bookshop, a backdrop for books of the same nature. Most of their stock is either recent or by well-known authors. If you’re not a books person and looking for a gift for someone who is, you really can’t go wrong here. I could have happily gone home with most of the books on display.
It felt like quite a female environment, I don’t know if it was all the pretty fake flowers, the entirely female staff or the fact that most of the books appealed to my feminine tastes, but men should not be put off, it’s a very nice place for anybody to shop and holds good quality books. Prices are standard.
Parsons (126 Lambton Quay)
Although Parsons is technically a music store first these days, it does stock enough decent books to qualify it as a bookshop too. Like Unity, it is a literary focused independent shop. Their books are good and range from popular stuff to more obscure books. They get in rare/unknown books by authors well known for other works, and have some good classics as well. A range of DVDs and videos can also be found upstairs next to the shop’s own little in-house café.
Dymocks (360-399 Lambton Quay)
Although Dymocks is a franchise I decided to review it anyway as I had never come across one until I came to Wellington. Dymocks subtly blends trendy with classic, both in its décor and in its stock. There are old-style wooden cabinets and comfy leather couches everywhere to make the store look and feel like a homely lounge. This is a huge place with the biggest travel section in town and also an extensive range of computer stuff. They are completely Lord of the Rings mad as well. Their literature sections are supposedly quite highbrow, but they still have lots of popular stuff. You could probably find what you’re looking for at Dymocks most of the time. The prices aren’t unreasonable but they’re not cheap.
If you don’t want to pay full price for your literature, and don’t mind a bit of rummaging, Wellington offers some decent, cute little second-hand bookshops that are definitely worth checking out. Classics and often fairly recent stuff too can be found at more student-friendly prices.
Arty Bees (17 Courtenay Place) and Bizzy Bees (The Oaks, Manners Street)
These two bookshops share the same owner and both contain quality second hand books at decent prices. Bizzy Bees also specialises in new science fiction and detective books due to popular demand and holds an impressive selection. Arty Bees holds a fair selection in nearly all categories, including some good arts books, textbooks and an extensive New Zealand fiction range. They also have music sheets. There is a ten percent discount for students and if you swap books with them rather than sell them you get double the value in credit. Then, once you’ve read the book, if it’s returned in reasonable condition you can get half of the price you bought it for back. The staff at both outlets were lovely and helpful. You can recognise both shops by the bright yellow signage out the front.
Ferret On In (123 Cuba Street)
Not only does this bookstore have a great name, AND stuffed ferrets in the window, it also has some pretty good books at pretty good prices. It is an old style, quirky little shop. I guess the lack of space means pickier choosing of which books will be taken, so most of what they do have is excellent. There’s contemporary and classic fiction, and although there isn’t what the owner refers to as “discrimination against non-students” (a student discount), the books could fit a student budget. Definitely worth a look.
Bellamy’s (105 Cuba Street)
Just along from Ferret On In is Bellamy’s, a larger, slightly ramshackle store. Their stock appeared to be more alternative and obscure, lots of philosophic, academic and religious books. Their arts sections were very decent, and they also hold magazines and song sheets. Bellamy’s give a 10 percent student discount.
Quilters (110 Lambton Quay)
One of the oldest second hand bookshops in town, Quilters seems to be mainly a place to go for academic and educational books. They hold vast quantities of geography, war, history, philosophy and religious books. The classics section is also well stocked. As far as general literature goes though, this probably isn’t your best bet and I would stick with Arty Bees or Ferret on In for fiction.
As we all know, the only thing better than cheap is free. So if it happens that you’re skint, try visiting the local library… it’s not as geeky as it sounds!
The Wellington Public Library (65 Victoria Street)
The public library provides not just a quiet place to study, but also a space to just chill out and escape the chaos of halls/flats/family homes (without the feeling that you are obligated to purchase coffee/beer/sex, etc.). It’s comfortable and there are nice views over the harbour and courtyard. Besides the masses of books available for loan, there are CDs, DVDs, videos, magazines, CD-ROMs and lots of other obscure things (Some have fees for loaning but can be used for free on site). The café upstairs is cosy and serves decent coffee and some good food. There’s also an exclusive little area for the kiddies, with a lounge and play area, and there are story-telling sessions every week.
To join up you just need to take in one form of ID and proof of your address.
The National Library (58-78 Molesworth Street)
The National library contains five levels of information. Its main purpose is for researching and finding out facts. You can find out your family history, find articles in newspapers from years ago, read old parliamentary debates and lots of other exciting things. It basically contains archives and statistics for everything, including Maori and Pacific Island resources. There’s a café and lots of armchairs and couches around but it doesn’t really have the cosy atmosphere of the public library. Also, you can’t actually borrow stuff, so any materials you want to use have to be used on site. Exhibiting in the library’s gallery at the moment is Dance of the Peacocks –New Zealanders in exile in the time of Hitler and Mao Tse-Tung and Tutu –The Royal New Zealand Ballet at 50 -entry is free. The exhibitions aren’t particularly spectacular (to be honest I thought they were pretty crap) but they might appeal if you have a special interest in the subjects.
These aren’t all the book places in Wellington, just most of the better ones in the central city. Enjoy your shopping/trading/foraging. (Alternatively, if you want to get free new books for minimal effort, sign up to review books for Salient! Good times are guaranteed.)