Born in Noosaville on the Sunshine coast, Embiggen Books has now settled down south in Melbourne, across from the Wheeler Centre, in perfect time to quench our Melbourne Writers Festival thirst for the written word.
Run by ex-graphic designer Warren Bonnet and his partner Kirsty Bruce, Embiggen is a dimly lit den of dark wood, beautifully stocked cabinets and tall shelves made reachable by antiquarian ladders on tracks. A wealth of knowledge, Bonnet is familiar with nearly every book in the store spanning science, art, design, economics, politics, philosophy, history, poetry, plays and fiction.
Unusually, just one corner is devoted to fiction, as Embiggen hold the largest science collection in the country and the fourth largest in the world. “People who write science books are 100 per cent engaged in a problem, so much so that they devote their lives to communicating it to the general public”, says Bonnet, pointing out the vast array of popular science titles. The science focus is Embiggen’s point of difference as a store opening in the shadow of the Borders meltdown.
Embiggen takes itself seriously, replacing loud bestseller stockpiles with a carefully chosen volumes and thoughtful displays. This conscientiousness is mirrored by the store’s name, which originally came from Gulliver’s Travels, was repeated in The Simpsons, adopted in a physics paper and is now cemented in the Oxford Dictionary. “It’s a made up word, as are all words,” explains Bonnet, “which means to increase, to make larger.”
The name conveys Embiggen’s ambition – to empower readers with accessible books written by experts in specific fields.
Embiggen’s Skeptics Society fosters reader dialogue and will next month hold an in-store event with The Imaginary Friends Show host Jake Farr-Wharton.