It’s a difficult market for bookshops. Over the last few years in Adelaide, bibliophiles have bade farewell to Borders, Angus & Robertson, ABC stores, the Mary Martin Bookshop, and Angus & Robertson again.
Secondhand bookshops, on the other (second) hand, have proven far more resilient. There are so many that making sense of what’s what can be a real challenge. Here, for your literary pleasure, is the definitive guide to the best secondhand bookshops in Adelaide’s CBD.
O’CONNELL’S BOOKSHOP – STATION ARCADE
O’Connell’s Bookshop has been the place to go for second hand books in Adelaide for generations. As The Adelaide Review reported in November last year, they’ve recently found a new home in Station Arcade. Especially notable in the new digs is the extensive, unparalleled range of graphic novels.
OXFAM – HUTT STREET
Every now and again these guys throw an extraordinarily cheap, dangerously over-attended outdoor sale which threatens to shut down Hutt Street. Everyday savings are almost as impressive; you’ll scarcely ever find something priced above $10.
As with any charity op-shop, the range at Oxfam’s bookshop is largely contingent on what sort of person died that week. Luckily, Adelaide’s deceased have wonderful taste. Amid cracked paperbacks, you’ll probably find some gorgeous, ancient tome worth hundreds of dollars. It’s a marvelously incongruent place:
POP-UP BOOKSHOP – CENTRAL MARKET
The Pop-Up Bookshop used to manifest unannounced (they’d ‘pop-up’, if you will) around Adelaide with a cart full of good reads. Now they’ve found a permanent home in the central market, and showcase a much wider selection.
CENTRAL MARKET BOOKS – CENTRAL MARKET
Central Market Books have an eclectic range of pulp and classics. They often have a large range of magazines on offer too, including what seems to be the entire back catalog of MAD Magazine.
They’re closed on Mondays though, and we concede that we’ve timed our photo shoot poorly. However, tarp enthusiasts (who’ve had little cause for celebration since Port Adelaide started selling tickets) will be thrilled.
MICHAEL TRELOAR ANTIQUARIAN BOOKSELLERS – NORTH TERRACE
Although they’re increasingly pivoting towards online sales, the folks at Michael Treloar Antiquarian Booksellers still have Adelaide’s broadest collection of first editions, autographed copies, and rarities. There’s no better place to go and look at books you can’t afford. Luckily, they frequently throw big multi-day sales with tens of thousands of books priced to clear. The next is taking place soon.
BOOKNOOK & BEAN – TOPHAM MALL
Booknook & Bean is a bookstore/cafe located in the very ‘groovy’ Topham Mall. They operate on donated books and a pay-what-you-feel system. Despite eschewing traditional market mechanisms, they always manage to showcase a terrific collection.
NEW MORNING BOOKS – FROME STREET
New Morning Books has only recently moved out of Unley and into the CBD. A hoarder’s dream, here books are stacked horizontally and in front of each other on shelves which seem to sag under the burden.
The best thing about the shop might well be the proprietor. Look for the intensely entertaining neckerchief enthusiast.
ACACIA ARTS – HUTT STREET
Acacia Arts offer a wide range of second hand books, as well as free trade jewelry. Of all the bookshops surveyed, they have perhaps the largest collection of works on progressive politics. Also, keep an eye out for the cheeky paintings:
ADELAIDE BOOKSELLERS – TWIN STREET, JUST OFF RUNDLE MALL
Where most secondhand bookstores are packed to bursting, Adelaide Booksellers have a spacious basement setup. This is a safer option for the clumsy and the claustrophobic.
IMPRINTS – HINDLEY STREET
Nowhere in Adelaide has a finer collection of new books than Imprints, but they have for some time also carried a modest (though thoroughly high quality) range of second hand books. A disproportionate number of them always seem to be authored by Camille Paglia, which is no bad thing.
AUSTRALIAN RED CROSS – RUNDLE STREET
There are many Op-Shops in town, almost all of which have a small collection of second hand books. Most notable of the bunch is the Australian Red Cross on Rundle Street. Mostly known for its wide and stylish clothing options, upstairs you’ll find a boxy shelf filled with books, organised entirely by colour.
ANTIQUE MARKET – GROTE STREET
Antique Market is just about the only place where you can find a toy museum, fur coats, Nazi memorabilia and the complete works of F. R. Leavis under one roof. It’s a great place to lose a few hours, and a few friends too (“You’re buying what?! I can’t believe I’m friends with a fur wearing, Nazi-supporting literary critic!”)