Bookworms unite! Top 6 ways to make the most of Melbourne’s literary hotspots…

July 26, 2012

Culture & Events, Melbourne

With more literary festivals, publishing houses and independent bookstores than anywhere else in Australia, it’s no wonder Melbourne was made a UNESCO City of Literature in 2008. We dig deep to find the best bookish cafes, the most striking literary landmarks and finest festivals of literature for you to enjoy…

Michael Kirby at the Melbourne Writer's Festival 2011

Michael Kirby at the Melbourne Writer’s Festival 2011

1. Head over to the Melbourne Writers’ Festival

The Melbourne Writer’s Festival is the icing on the cake in Victoria’s literary calendar. Philosophy, love, war, science, the environment and unforgettable stories all promise to be part of the literary feast with an 11 day programme of over 300 events and appearances from more than 350 leading international and local writers, thinkers, illustrators and performers. Events include film screenings, workshops, debates, master classes, launches, performances, seminars, professional development and schools programs. This year, special guests include British actor, director and writer Simon Callow  and for the first time ever, the icon of international publishing The New Yorker Magazine will participate in eight special events over three days featuring art critic, poet, educator Peter Schjeldahl, pop music critic Sasha Frere-Jones, and staff cartoonist Roz Chast.

The Melbourne Writers’ Festival runs from 24 August – 2 September 2012

2. Go alternative at the Bendigo Writers’ Festival

Fancy an alternative arty festival? Head out to the city of Bendigo in Victoria, which is set to host its first Writers Festival this August, showcasing more than 50 writers from genres such as crime, history, romance, poetry and fiction. Keynote sessions featuring Ita Buttrose, Gideon Haigh and Don Watson will take place at Bendigo’s beautiful heritage performing arts centre – The Capital Theatre. Interviews, discussions, performances, readings and Q&A sessions with writers and illustrators provide for a scintillating program staged in various venues throughout the city.

Bendigo Writers’ Festival runs from 10 – 12 August 2012

State Library of Victoria, Melbourne

Inside the La Trobe Reading Room at the State Library of Victoria, Melbourne

3. Be awed by the State Library

No tour of literary Melbourne is complete without a visit to this magnificent 19th-century architectural gem. The State Library of Victoria is one of the most beautiful buildings in the city and houses more than two million books, hundreds of thousands of pictures, newspapers, maps, manuscripts and multimedia materials – all reflecting the culture of Victoria over the past 150 years. Don’t miss the La Trobe Reading Room, with its majestic domed ceiling.

4. Bring literature to life at an International Booktown

Melbourne’s literary lifestyle doesn’t just stop with the city. The historical goldfields village of Clunes, located north-west Victoria, was awarded ‘International Booktown’ status by the International Organisation of Booktowns in April 2012. This small community is the first town in the Southern Hemisphere and the 15th town worldwide to have received this official recognition. Go book crazy when the locals come together each May to celebrate the annual Clunes Booktown Festival when more than 60 booksellers from around Australia set up shop in the town’s heritage buildings.

5. Be uplifted by Melbourne independent bookshops

We love dipping into quirky, independent bookshops and you can discover some of the best in Melbourne, which includes newcomers Embiggen , Hill of Content , The Paperback Store , Metropolis , Kay Craddock Antiquarian Booksellers in the City; Avenue Bookstore in Albert Park and Coventry Bookstore (South Melbourne). There are also specialised bookstores such as Books for Cooks, the Travellers Bookstore and Artisan Books all in Fitzroy, and The Haunted Bookshop for spooky surprises in the City.

Inside the Moat cafe in Melbourne

The Moat Bar and Cafe, Melbourne

6. Rub shoulders with writers at bookish cafes

Look like a literary intellectual (and fuel your minds and bellies) with strong coffee and delicious food in some of Melbourne’s tucked away best bookish bars and cafes. Try Mr Tulk at the State Library, the Moat Bar and Cafe underneath the Wheeler Centre or the Journal cafe, inside Melbourne’s City Library. Or head to 1000 £ Bend, a startling mishmash of café, exhibition space and cinema all housed in an old garage.  Manchester Press down a cool city laneway; the League of Honest Coffee (City); or the Reading Room at Victoria University’s Footscray campus are all good options.

Explore literary Melbourne:

Walking tour specialist Hidden Secrets is offering Melbourne by the Book Tour which takes in some of the best-loved bookstores and significant sites in the city’s publishing, bookselling and literary history. The two-hour tour costs AUD$50 and is available on request during the Melbourne Writers Festival.

MelTours offers a similar two-hour Literary Tour of Melbourne that snakes through laneways and arcades from 2pm between Tuesdays and Thursdays year-round for AUD$39.

Share your Melbourne literary secrets in our comments below…

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