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My Melbourne: Bookshops, Books and Cafés

November 20, 2012

By Pepi Ronalds

As I sit in my hometown of Melbourne, I know that those I am yet-to-meet at NonfictioNow are busy packing bags and wondering what awaits them here. You’re checking lists and tickets, some of you are on airplanes already, others waiting in gate lounges. I hope you’re looking forward to being here. We’re certainly glad to welcome you.

Given that you’re all writers, and we’re a UNESCO City of Literature, I’ve compiled this guide of bookshops, books and cafés to get you started on discovering our city.

Readings, Carlton by Snipergirl


Within walking distance of the conference venues you will find a few of our city’s favourites:

  • Readings at the State Library : in the foyer of the State Library, Swanston St, Melbourne  – just across the road from RMIT.
  • Embiggen Books : Little Lonsdale Street, Melbourne – Opposite the Wheeler Centre.
  • Readings: Carlton : Lygon Street, Carlton – a longer walk but one that will involve a gelato or cannoli as you walk through our Italian district.
  • The Paperback : Bourke St, Melbourne – also a longer walk, but through the city up to our Parliament and what we call the ‘Paris End’ of Melbourne. Also has a great coffee / apple strudel / pasta spot, Pelligrini’s right next door.


For variety, I recommend you pick up one of our local, independently published journals. There are wads of them. These are just a few (descriptions sourced from their websites or that of the Small Press Network):

  • Meanjin : ‘Reflects the breadth of contemporary thinking, be it on literature, other art forms, or the broader issues of the times.’
  • Kill Your Darlings : ‘Fresh, clever writing that combines intellect with intrigue – a blend of fiction and non-fiction, including essays, creative non-fiction, reviews and retrospectives.’
  • The Lifted Brow : ‘Freeform bi-monthly arts, culture, and fiction magazine, from Australia and the world.’
  • Overland : ‘Committed to engaging with important literary, cultural and political issues in contemporary Australia.’
  • Quarterly Essay : ‘Australia’s leading current affairs journal.’
  • The Monthly : ‘A national magazine of politics, society and the arts.’

As far as other books go, no doubt local conference delegates or bookstore staff (probably writers themselves) can help you choose. Here are a few ideas:

  • For nonfiction, grab the just-published Best Australian Essays 2012.
  • If you go to Readings, pick up one (or all) of the ‘Most Underrated Book Awards’ finalists and receive a 20% discount in November.
  • Contemporary local writers include Alice Pung, Marieke Hardy, Anna Funder and Nam Le (Oh if I had the room to include them all – there are so many more in both fiction and nonfiction).
  • If you’re interested in our ‘backlist’ of literature and writers, buy a Text Classic. This imprint publishes ‘books by Australia’s most-loved writers’ including Helen Garner, NonfictioNow conference Keynote Speaker.

Cafés / Bars:

Now you have a book in hand, here are some of my favourite café / bar spots for reading / watching / daydreaming, close to the conference venue:

  • The Moat: A relative newcomer to the café scene. Because it’s close to the Wheeler Centre it’s popular with literary types. Good for food, tea (loose-leaf thank you) and coffee.
  • Rue Bebelons: One of Melbourne’s longstanding laneway bars. On any given evening you might stumble upon writerly types who work at the Wheeler Centre.
  • Pellegrini’s: A Melbourne legend. Practically unchanged for over 60 years. Arguably the best coffee in Melbourne (although the tea comes in bags). Hearty and reasonably priced pasta, brilliant apple strudel. Right next to The Paperback bookstore.
  • Mr Tulk: Attached to the State Library. Only open during the day but a good place to watch the world go by, or take a break between conference events.


Depending on what you’re into and how long you’ll be here there’s plenty more I can tell you. Please contact me if you want some local information or are interested in a free local guide.

If you want any more info re Melbourne please contact Pepi Ronalds.

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