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A Book Lover's Guide to Perth

A Book Lover's Guide to Perth

It's reading season, so whether you're a chick lit fan or strictly classics-only, we've rounded up Perth's best bookstores, book cafes, and local literati. Bookworms, unite!

Coffee-stained pages are an occupational hazard for those of us who love literature just as much as we do caffeine. Here’s where you can get your fix of both – no cleaning required.
137 Claremont Crescent, Swanbourne
Millpoint Caffe Bookshop
254 Mill Point Road, South Perth
The Bodhi Tree
416-418 Oxford Street, Mt Hawthorn
Hills Book Cafe
Shop 19, Lesmurdie Village Shopping Centre, Sanderson Road, Lesmurdie
Urbanistar, inside New Edition
212 William Street, Northbridge

Local scribe David Whish-Wilson, author of hometown tribute Perth and crime thrillers Line of Sight and Zero at the Bone, shares his favourite places to stock up on new books.

New Edition, Fremantle
A great range and a favourite author hangout. It’s just closed, but is reopening in Vic Park with a new owner – Alan from Crow Books. James Calligaro is keeping his Northbridge store open, another great bookshop.

Beaufort Street Books, Mt Lawley
Great author events, and run by friendly and knowledgeable staff.

Crow Books, East Victoria Park
Also has book launches and terrific author events, and has a great range of counter-cultural books, graphic novels, and the like.

Dymocks Garden City, Booragoon
Friendly staff, a huge range, and supportive of local writers, with signings, launches, and visiting writer talks.

Boffins, CBD
An extensive selection of non-fiction works and helpful staff. Has just moved to bigger premises.

You know those take-a-book, leave-a-book setups that have budget hostels boasting about their ‘atmosphere’? Don’t let visions of dog-eared Jackie Collins novels and foreign-language Lonely Planets deter you – Perth has its very own book swap, and it’s a world away from all that. The Free Little Library, a community book-sharing initiative, had popped up in East Fremantle, with the owners of this Petra Street house providing patrons with both a place to sit and something to read. This place is so cute you wouldn’t even mind if you picked up a copy of Europe on a Shoestring in Mandarin.
55 Petra Street, East Fremantle.


Does your blood curdle when you see the words ‘I don’t read’ on a prospective date’s online profile? Ours too. Beaufort Street Books has come up with a solution by way of the cutest idea we’ve heard… ever! BookLove is a bi-monthly night of speed dating for book nerds – wax lyrical on your three favourite books with a rotation of partners, and you might walk away with the Rosalind to your Orlando, or the Heathcliff to your Cathy. (Note: if you’re an Anastasia looking for her Christian, we recommend another night entirely, you sordid thing). 567 Beaufort Street, Mt Lawley.

Blind Date with a Book 
Gone are the hours spent  agonising over what to buy at bookshops, reading a zillion blurbs, scrutinising a million covers, and wandering the aisles in indecisive anguish. Elizabeth’s Bookshop in Subiaco has the perfect solution: a shelf lined with books wrapped in butcher paper, scrawled with a few clues to each book’s contents. They call it a ‘blind date with a book’. We call it genius. No more judging a book by its cover... 29 Rokeby Road, Subiaco.

Fast facts about our State Library.

  • It contains 3849m of private archives, 15,800 hours of oral histories, and about 35km of books and journals.
  • It has an extensive genealogy section, with volunteers from the Western Australian Genealogical Society available to help you search your family history.
  • Home to over 50,000 music scores, it is one of the largest public music-lending libraries in Australia.
  • The library works to promote children’s reading, with The Place for 0-12 years, and Better Beginnings, a literacy program aimed at young people.

Anything second-hand always comes with a story, and that works double in the case of antique books. Ilonka McGill, the owner of Serendipity Books in West Leederville, is no stranger to a good tale, opening the shop with her late husband as a matter of necessity. “We collected books at home,” says Ilonka. “We had piles and piles of them, and we were running out of room. We put an ad in the paper to sell some, and it went from there.” Opening the shop in 1974, Ilonka says that some of that stock still remains. “We stock rare books,” she says. “We get a lot of people searching for information on their families. They come in and say, ‘I’ve been looking everywhere for this book,’ and it’s nice to be able to help them find it.” Family history is a theme at Serendipity, with Ilonka’s son David set to take over the shop when she retires. “It’s important to know about the books in order to sell them,” says Ilonka. “You need to know their histories, their value. It can’t just be anyone.” 256 Railway Parade, West Leederville.

Local blogger Nathan Hobby, who writes for The Annotations of N.D. Hobby, takes time out from his own writing to share with us what he’s reading right now.

“I recently finished Gabrielle Carey’s Moving Among Strangers, a fascinating memoir about the secrets in her family, which she begins to unearth after writing to an old family friend, the Western Australian writer Randolph Stow, just before he died. It serves as an entree to the long-awaited biography of Stow, which a biographer is still working on, but gives us glimpses of the great writer, who lived and wrote in his own authentic way.”

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