A thoughtfully curated bookshop makes for an enjoyable browsing experience – even if you’re not in the market for a tome to take home. Seek out these specialist stores around the country for reading material that sits outside the norm.
The name Lamplight Books was inspired by a “feeling of comfort, of being under the light of a lamp, looking for answers and exploring new worlds,” owners Melanie O’Loughlin and Courtney Smith tell Broadsheet. The pair met working at Auckland’s Unity Books and decided to combine their skills (O’Loughlin holds a master of creative writing from the University of Auckland while Smith works nine to five with a publishing house). They wanted to create their own environment where customers could connect with their dream reading material.
Lamplight houses many large-format art and design books on its sweeping, spacious shelves. Because of this, it has become a destination for publication launches and talks that celebrate the book as an art form.
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The store is situated around a concrete courtyard, in a building designed by renowned architecture firm Patterson Associates, in the central Auckland suburb of Parnell. It has clean lines and an expanse of marble and glass. There’s none of the stuffiness or claustrophobia sometimes associated with bookstores, with their infinite pages stacked floor-to-ceiling in dense spaces and scrawled recommendation tabs. In this lofty space, the staff feel like inquisitive friends wanting to talk about their recent reading discoveries, while being just as happy to let you sit back and enjoy the calm.
G01/100 Parnell Road, Auckland
Located in the heart of Wellington, on its iconic Cuba Street, Minerva is a large, light-filled space packed with paper products including books, magazines, cards and stationery. For those who love to craft, there are also threads and stitching kits from suppliers around the world.
Minerva is named for the Roman goddess of handicrafts and knowledge, which epitomises the store’s spirit. Owner Anne Scott came to selling books after realising there was a market for the hard-to-find volumes she would often review in her magazine, New Zealand Quilter (which ceased production on its 100th issue in 2017). A mail-order system for subscribers turned into a physical shop, with Minerva opening on Cuba Street in 2008.
Through running the magazine and connecting with writers at trade shows and international quilting exhibitions, Scott has gained unique access to a community of makers, authors and publishers. The result is that Minerva is brimming with limited-run collections that are rarely found elsewhere, often sourced directly from makers rather than large distribution houses. “We recently stocked some lovely titles on block printing from [textiles company] Anokhi in India, which had fabric samples glued to the pages so that readers could appreciate the feel of each textile,” Scott says. “The Shetland Wool Adventures is another great title, as are our magazines like Uppercase or Selvedge.”
From self-published instruction books on mending, to guidebooks on the ergonomics of knitting (written by a physiotherapist), Minerva is a haven for anyone with a love of creativity. Be sure to share any special interests with the staff, as new titles are always on their way.
237 Cuba Street, Te Aro, Wellington
Scorpio Books and Telling Tales
A classic bookstore with a twist of nostalgia, Scorpio Books has a homely feel. There are well-loved leather sofas, comfy armchairs, indoor plants, and big windows that look out onto a courtyard. The selection is mostly general interest, having expanded from the store's initial lean towards new-age titles (Scorpio is, after all, one of the astrological signs). Large-format books are displayed on coffee tables and chests, and rotating stands have an ever-changing selection of locally made cards and stationery.
Located in the heart of Christchurch’s city centre, Scorpio was shaken out of the space it had been in for decades when the 2011 earthquake hit. It opened temporarily in a container and moved into its current residence in 2015. It’s in the newly built Five Lanes precinct that includes coffee shops, fashion boutiques – plus, Scorpio’s new sibling shop, Telling Tales.
Telling Tales is a haven for children’s literature. There are learning games, classics, Kiwi picture books and new releases. Poster-sized Beatrix Potter illustrations sit charmingly above the shelves, and the whimsical focal point is a large “tree” with paper leaves that form a canopy over the space.
Five Lanes, The BNZ Centre, 120 Hereford Street, Christchurch Central City