City Library (Civic Square):
This formidable hunk of architecture contains a library that is just the shit. The business. The cat’s whiskers, if you will. It’s free to join if you live in or around the city, and is absolutely packed to the gunnels with books books books books books books books. Can’t really stress this enough, people: City Library = lots of books. I don’t care where you’re from, the library here is better than the library there. But watch out for those late fees, return a coupla books a few weeks late and they’ll finish you faster than a birthday cake at a fat chick party.
The National Library (58-78 Molesworth St):
With five levels of information, The National Library is the place to satisfy all your researching needs, including statistics, archived publications, Parliamentary debates and whole lot more. You can’t actually borrow from this library, but it’s well kitted out with armchairs and couches aplenty, as well as conventional tables and chairs. There’s also a café for when you need a break.
Whitcoulls (312 Lambton Quay, Reading Complex Courtenay Place and Cuba Mall):
Retail bookstores, like petrol stations and banks, pretty much provide identical products and comparable prices regardless of what sign’s out front. So the Whitcoulls in Wellington are just as poo as the ones back home.
Bennetts Government Bookshop (Corner Lambton Quay and Bowen St):
Some fiction but, as the name suggests, strong emphasis on business, law, politics and other non-fiction. Good for dictionaries.
Dymocks (Corner Lambton Quay and Willis St):
This one’s my favorite. It has a wicked range and good armchairs, and the employees don’t seem to mind you having a good ol’ lounge ‘n browse. Plus Dymocks was the main Wellington retailer for the official Lord of the Rings merchandise back when the movies were being made, and still sports some pretty impressive shit. Go Dymocks!
Parsons (126 Lambton Quay):
Although primarily a music store, Parsons also does a good trade in literary fiction and popular non-fiction (as opposed to technical non-fiction). Although small, they do stock a lot of titles that more mainstream stores don’t, so they’re worth a look if you’re after something obscure. They also have a nice little café upstairs.
Unity Books (57 Willis St):
Another independent (yay!) with an awesome selection and a strong commitment to New Zealand publishing. Often the venue for Victoria University Press book launches. Great atmosphere and user-friendly layout.
University Book Centre (3rd Floor Student Union Building):
The Uni Book Store is handy because it stocks all the required reading texts for all the courses taught up at Kelburn campus. It can be a bit of a maze, but it should all be there somewhere. If it’s not, throw a tanty. Also stocks fiction, stationary… and lollies.
Hard to Find (But Worth the Effort) Books (134 Cuba St):
This shop is sensibly devisioned with non-fiction downstairs and fiction upstairs. It’s also got a decent children’s section a good atmosphere with comfy seating and soothing music.
Bellamy’s Bookshop (105 Cuba St):
Definitely worth a look. Really well priced – you can pick up the 1263 page Complete works of Shakespeare for only $16 – and best of all, loaded with really old magazines! Copies of Mad from the late 80’s, Playboy from the 70’s (back when it was classy) and National Geographic from the 40’s!
Bizy Bees (Oaks Complex Corner Manners Mall and Cuba Mall):
Size wise, few stores in Wellington can compete with this one. It’s Big, It’s Yellow, and they loves their sci-fi. Bizy Bees is the companion store to Arty Bees on upper Courtenay Place.
Ferret (123 Cuba St):
A quaint little shop tucked away off Cuba St, Ferret boasts an excellent, if small, range of titles. Very well priced.
Quilters (110 Lambton Quay):
Although they’re not so hot on contemporary fiction, Quilters is a great place to go for second-hand educational, academic and reference titles, as well as classic fiction. Huge range.
Nathaniel’s 2nd Hand Books (Ground Floor, Wellington Markets Wakefield St):
Pound for Pound, when it comes getting the real 2nd hand bookstore experience you absolutely, positively cannot go past Nathaniel’s. It’s a bit tricky to find, but that’s part of the appeal of this cluttered, compact, wood-paneled, dank smelling treasure trove.