A New Chapter For Book Lovers

Melbourne – Where Literature Comes To Life

Issue: Jan 2010

Melbourne - City of Literature
Melbourne - City of Literature

If you are a lover of books and enjoy literary pursuits, you will certainly appreciate the city of Melbourne. Because beyond the wining, dining, shopping and sight-seeing that this capital of the state of Victoria has to offer, Melbourne is also a hotbed for activities of the literary kind.

In fact, in recognition of its contribution to literature as an art form, Melbourne was named the second UNESCO City of Literature after Edinburgh in 2008, joining a network of 12 creative cities. This timely nod towards Melbourne’s rich literary culture, history and creative talent is merely confirmation that if you want to explore a city acclaimed by the world’s literati, this is the place for you.

Melbourne By The Book Walk

Begin your journey into this book and writing capital of Australia with the Melbourne By The Book Walk. This 2-hour walking tour takes you through the literary landscape of Melbourne and will help you understand why it deserves its status as a UNESCO City of Literature.

During this tour, you will visit significant sites in the city’s publishing, bookselling and literary history; some of Melbourne’s best-loved bookstores; and places featured in or which inspired local novels. Conducted by Fiona Sweetman, the proprietor of Hidden Secrets Tour, an indulgent walking tour company, who herself comes from literary pedigree, you will also be regaled with stories about typography, books that were made into films and migrant history along the way.

The walk ends with a coffee at Mr Tulk’s, a café in the State Library of Victoria that was named after its first librarian and one of the best places in Melbourne for a cuppa. Fiona will even send you home with a list of resources to help you continue your exploration of the literary side of Melbourne.

The La Trobe Reading Room at the State Library of Victoria
The La Trobe Reading Room at the State Library of Victoria

State Library of Victoria

While you are there, the library itself is worth a visit. It is the Victoria state’s oldest publicly-funded cultural institution, its premiere research and resource centre and the oldest free public library in Australia. Housing a collection of hundreds of thousands of historical pictures, maps and manuscripts and almost two million books, newspapers and serials, the library also periodically displays historical objects

You can wander the halls on your own or join free introductory tours available Mondays through to Fridays and the 1st and 3rd Saturdays of every month at 2pm. The library also offers a free Arts Video Programme on certain days showing opera, classical concerts and arts documentaries from the library’s extensive holdings.

Taking up four storeys in the south wing of the State Library of Victoria is the Centre for Books, Writing and Ideas, which was central to Melbourne’s bid for the UNESCO City of Literature title.

The Centre is a hub for writers to meet and share ideas and a home for small literary organizations such as the Melbourne Writers Festival, the Victorian Writers Centre, the Emerging Writers Festival and the Australian Poetry Centre; independent publishers; and research journalists. Here, you can take your pick of literary events from workshops to festivals and keynote lectures by international speakers.

Literary Festivals

If you want to meet the who’s who of the literary world and draw inspiration for your own novel of the century, then you shouldn’t miss the many literary festivals that Melbourne plays host to throughout the year that draw not only the Australian literary set but also international ones.

The newest of these is the Writers at the Convent held in February on the lush grounds of the Abbotsford Convent. It is a summer celebration of reading, writing, books and ideas and authors from all over the world meet to discuss not merely the art of writing but international affairs and issues that inspire and form the content of books.

Every May, writers, editors, publishers and literary performers together with the reading public come together at the Emerging Writers’ Festival to promote the works of the best up-and coming writers.

In August, there is the Melbourne Writers Festival, one of the most popular literary events, which attracts more than 40,000 people annually. For 10 days, writers and readers from around the world descend upon the city to attend forums, launches and debates.

And for the poets, there is the Overload Poetry Festival. This event brings together poets from across the world to celebrate Melbourne’s vibrant poetry scene.

Flinders Lane between Queen and Elizabeth Streets
Flinders Lane between Queen and Elizabeth Streets

Literary Laneway

The entire city itself reverberates with literary excitement. One third of Australia’s authors live here and it has, over the last century, not only inspired some of the greatest works of Australian literature, but has also been the setting of many books by its country’s authors. So, walk along any number of streets in Melbourne and you will be stepping into a scene from a book.

But one of the most literary-soaked streets in the city must be Flinders Lane. There are plenty of rooms above the streets and laneways into which you can retreat to fuel your creative juices. Take a stroll and you will find the Victorian Writers’ Centre; the Collected Works Bookshop, a specialty poetry bookstore; the Aboriginal Literary Foundation; Centre for Adult Education; Letterbox, a studio that undertakes typographic projects and City Library all within the precinct.

Take Back Treasured Tomes

Melbourne has the highest concentration of bookshops and publishers in all of Australia so you will have plenty to choose from if you are looking to take home a tome or two. There are also specialty bookstores if you want to look for certain topics.

The Readings group of bookstores is the city’s most preeminent bookstore. From latest releases to hard-to-find treasures, cutting edge music, book launches and readings by famous authors, this place has it all. The Hill of Content Bookshop is another hot favourite for those who want the latest in fiction and non-ficton. The Paperback Bookshop has an extensive selection of new release and backlist titles, particularly fiction, Australian non-fiction, history, poetry, classics, music books, cultural studies and travel. Go to Kay Craddok for antiquarian and specialist titles; Book for Cooks for shelf upon shelf of cook books and food related books; Minotaur for graphic novels, science fiction and comics; and Metropolis for art, design, fashion and photography titles.

Specialty book cafe with specialty chairs bearing names of famous authors
Specialty book cafe with specialty chairs bearing names of famous authors
Photo credit: www.melbourneplaces.com

At the Booktalk Café, you can get real food for thought along with that book. In keeping with the literary theme, chairs in the café have names of famous authors. At this bookstore, you can also sell old books and return books bought for a 50% refund.

Enjoy a different layer of Melbourne city and let the world of literature come alive for you.

User Wulan
188.143.232.X | 2016-02-14 18:45:18
Again, a great and inspiring video. I have noceitd that reading from writers who are writing the same genre as I am helps me improve my own writing. It's always a challenge to be creative and original and with seeing and experiencing how other people do it, it becomes just that little bit easier. And of course, being the reader that I am I always just enjoy books of all sorts and genres. I also think it's important to have some knowledge of literary history because literature has always been, and will always be, a very important part of culture. Anyway, I really enjoyed this video and I am already looking forward to the next one.
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