Still Booked: A Guide to Perth’s Bookstores

Words by: Mandy Moe Pwint Tu

First things first: Dymocks Hay Street is reopening its doors to the public after the emotional trauma they put the public through when they decided they were going to close down for good. But we all heaved a collective sigh of relief, with more than a few jubliant cries of, ‘Yes! They’re not closing!’ when they announced their return.

This article details how people power brought the store back from potential oblivion, thus contradicting the idea posed initially by Dymocks’ closing: that the printed word is losing its appeal. Even so, perhaps the surge of outrage that followed might have been enough to gainsay the notion.

Last year I directed and produced a three minute segment on whether e-books were rendering books redundant. The concensus between my two interviewees was that e-books and books serve different purposes, but they complement each other in getting people to read. E-books are more convenient, but nothing quite compares to owning a book, holding a physical book in your hand. It could also be argued as a question of practicality versus sentimentality, but come on, we’re all sentimental about books that we read and love, through whichever medium we read it in.

Bookstores are not dead; in fact, they’re thriving. And, even with Dymocks’ return, there are more than a few places in the city you can go to for a good book. (Trust me, I read.)


Image via visitperthcity.com.au
Image via visitperthcity.com.au

Show me someone who doesn’t know where or what Dymocks is and I’ll show you a person who’s never walked around Perth. Arguably the most popular bookstore in the city, Dymocks’ bright red sign is a beacon of hope in this dreary world. It’s also an invitation impossible to resist: you will no doubt find yourself walking in, and perusing the shelves on shelves of wondrous books, turning into corners you’ve previously missed and finding more amazing books. BOOKS GALORE!

Dymocks is set to reopen in early July, with an official opening day to be announced fairly soon.


Image via aroundyou.com.au
Image via aroundyou.com.au

Boffins started out as a specialist store, but has recently started stocking a wider range and now it’s on its way to being the biggest bookstore in WA. It’s right round the corner from where Dymocks is, and you can’t miss its bright green sign, nor resist the urge to head down the escalator to an underground wonderland of books. Head right for fiction/fantasy/YA/travel books. Head left for the more technical/historical/art/film topics. Stop at the display tables that greet you as you enter for bestsellers and on sale items. You can also grab a greeting card, just by the escalator. It is undoubtedly one of my favourite places in the city. And it constantly has classical music playing over the PA, so that is a plus if you like classical music.

Kaleido Books

Image via geek-without-braces.tumblr
Image via geek-without-braces.tumblr

Kaleido is right in the Perth Train Station, opposite Bocelli’s coffee shop. You’ve probably noted its colourful and witty signs on your way to or from the Perth Cultural Centre. It’s a lovely little place, cosy and warm and attractive. Their literary fiction selection is astounding; and if anything, take a leisurely browse through its shelves and you’ll find the headers that categorize the books entirely amusing. Kaleido is a brilliant mesh of art and words.

White Dwarf

Image via yelp.com.au
Image via yelp.com.au

Nestled in a corner in the CBD, just across from the inflated cacti, White Dwarf is a science fiction/fantasy bookstore. It’s small but its stock is pretty extensive. The first time I went there, I had to tear myself away from getting The Letters of JRR Tolkien, which I could not find anywhere else in the city. If you’re a sci-fi/fantasy fanatic, this place is a must-see. They have the Unfinished Tales! And so many others!

Elizabeth’s Secondhand Bookstore

Image property of Elizabeth's
Image property of Elizabeth’s

There’s something about secondhand bookstores that is so appealing. Perhaps it’s nostalgia. Perhaps it’s the feeling that every book in here has been loved. Perhaps it’s like you’re carrying on a legacy, holding a piece of someone else’s personal history and welding it with your own. It’s almost magical. And that’s Elizabeth’s. It’s magical.

Ever see that meme with Gandalf poring over the old scrolls in Minas Tirith with the caption “How I feel browsing through secondhand bookstores”? If you understand that feeling, Elizabeth’s is the place for you. They’ve got everything. Their poetry selection is exquisite. It’s here that I finally found a book I’d been looking for for ages: Dear Theo, a collection of Vincent van Gogh’s letters to his brother. They have old books, they have relatively new books, and a stroll through Elizabeth’s is an adventure. You find yourself stumbling over books you didn’t know existed, and then you find yourself purchasing said book because it’s brilliant. It’s also here that I came across Edna St. Vincent Millay’s Selected Poems, which I absolutely love. It’s beside me as I write.

Bottom line: Elizabeth’s is great; go there, if you haven’t already.

Stefen’s Books

Image property of Stefen's
Image property of Stefen’s

Not too far from Elizabeth’s is Stefen’s. (Can I ship it? I’m shipping it.) It’s nestled in Shafto Lane, right opposite the Irish bar. Most people don’t know this place exists, but it’s a lovely little bookstore, specializing in sci-fi and fantasy. Once you enter, you’ll most likely be greeted by Stefen himself. He’s friendly and knowledgeable about this genre, and if you tell him what you’re looking for, most likely you’ll find it, and he’ll recommend a few more books for your consideration. He’ll also give you a free bookmark and his business card when you leave.

Northside Books

Image via weloveperth.net.au
Image via weloveperth.net.au

Northside Books is in Northbridge. If you head into Northbridge through the Perth Cultural Centre, it’s just right around the corner from the Blue Room Theatre. A café-cum-bookstore, Northside Books is the best place for booklovers and coffee lovers alike. I’ve gone in a couple of times, and I’ve lingered in the classics section, which I have to put in a good word for. Extensive and reasonably prized, they stock a number of excellent books, and since they’re in a small space, you won’t miss the good books that you might miss in a big store like Boffins. Grab a coffee and a croissant there too if you go!