The best bookstores in Canberra

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National Library of Australia Bookshop

The National Library of Australia Bookshop, one of Canberra’s most recommended bookstores. Photo: Thomas Lucraft.

Even in the digital age, there’s nothing quite like reading a physical book. The weight, the cover, even the smell of the pages inspires us to read more. Whether you’re shopping for yourself or for a loved one, any avid reader will tell you that one of the great joys of books is visiting a bookshop in the first place.

Bookshops can be true havens – they are quiet and cozy places, and it’s all too easy to lose an hour or so browsing the shelves. While there are less and less book stores than ever before, Canberra is home to a handful of real gems. These shops are worth a visit, even if you don’t plan on buying anything.

In this article, we’ll share our picks for the top bookshops in the Canberra region. If you don’t agree with our list, add your thoughts to the comments section below.

What makes a great bookstore?

Bookshops should be an absolute pleasure to visit, and the best bookshops have us coming back again and again. So, what separates the average bookshops from the very best? Here are the traits we believe are key:

  • An excellent range of books. Most people visit a bookshop for one thing, and one thing only – books. The best bookshops in Canberra have a fantastic range of bestsellers, independent publishers, children’s’ books, cookbooks, non-fiction, and more.
  • Friendly staff. The best bookshops have friendly, knowledgeable staff that are able to help with all of your book inquiries, from being able to guide you through the shelves or place a specific order for you.
  • A great atmosphere. If you love to spend hours trawling through bookshops, flicking through anything that catches your eye, you’ll want to visit stores with a great atmosphere. Lighting, temperature, and music are all important factors.
  • Well priced. Physical bookstores have to compete with the conveniently low price-points of online bookstores, so expect to pay a little bit more – but a great bookshop will be priced competitively without becoming overly expensive.
  • Conveniently located. While the above features are all important, you’ll most likely visit the bookshop located in the most convenient spot. Whether that be near your home, or close to work in the city centre, the easier it is to access, the better.

The best bookstores in Canberra

RiotACT’s editorial team has combed through 20 years of on-site comments to compile a list of the most recommended businesses according to you.

To be listed in our Best of Canberra series, each business needs to have consistently received positive feedback on RiotACT and Facebook as well as maintaining a minimum average of 4/5 stars on Google.

National Library of Australia Bookshop

The National Library is an iconic landmark in Canberra, responsible for the custodianship of nationally significant literature from throughout our history. With a fully-equipped Main Reading Room, comprehensive library and database, Bookplate Café and gorgeous views across Lake Burley Griffin - the Library is a favourite among students, scholars, tourists, and the curious-minded.

Inside the National Library is the Bookshop, home to the best in Australian literature. The Bookshop offers a specialist range of Australian history, biography, fiction, cookbooks and children’s books as well as the complete range of National Library Publications and merchandise. The Bookshop is just the place to find Australian greeting cards, wrapping paper, journals and a selection of giftware crafted by local and interstate artists. If you're looking for uniquely Australian books or gifts, look no further than the National Library Bookshop.

As Google reviewer Leonard Low writes, "Great range of books and gifts, from the informative to the quirky, and perhaps the best range of art books anywhere in Canberra."

Book Lovers Lane

Book Lovers Lane is Lifeline’s own second-hand bookstore located in the Fyshwick Markets. Since opening its doors in July 2020, the shop has grown by leaps and bounds. The shop is regularly stocked with books, DVDs, CDs, puzzles and more, all at incredible prices and appealing to customers of all ages and interests.

Book Lovers Lane also regularly hosts sales and events, from their multicultural book weekend to raffles and art sales. Plus, all profits from the shop go directly towards Lifeline’s local Crisis Support Service 13 11 14.

As happy customer Charlotte Ahern-Whybrow writes in their Google review, Great books for great prices what more could you want (from a bookshop).”

Paperchain Bookstore

Manager Steve stocks Paperchain Bookstore with a variety of books for all kinds of readers. This independent bookshop based in Manuka and opened in 1982 also boasts an online store with fast delivery and above all friendly local service.

As Facebook user Elijah Hallaj writes in their review, "Friendly staff, nice atmosphere, one of Canberra's best bookstores!"

Canty's Bookshop

Since 1993 Canty’s has been selling books and spreading their love of novels and nonfiction tales across Canberra. Laura and Luke Canty provide their knowledge effortlessly and are happy to chat about other non-book related subjects also. A local well-stocked bookshop with variety and some rare finds.

Happy customer Ashleigh Warton left this Facebook review for Canty's, "Staff are fantastic! So friendly and helpful. The selection of books is excellent and the prices are phenomenal. I always head to Canty’s when I’m in the ACT".

Impact Comics

Mal and Kam’s comic book shop is a big kids dream! Located in the city centre you don’t have to be a geek to appreciate their great collection of comics. With new shipments every week and a monthly Comic Book Club there are so many comic books to love in this place!

See what Facebook user Ned McCarron had to say about their experience at Impact in this review, "Wonderful store, helpful and friendly staff. Highly recommend a visit if you are after the latest comic or other geeky items."

Book Lore

Located in Lyneham Mike Johnson’s bookshop and antiquarian is open 7 days. His selection of second hand books is extensive and he will endeavour to source a book if he doesn’t have it in stock. All the books and antiques are reasonably priced and share their own life story.

As Google reviewer Alisa Peacock writes, "Gorgeous old school secondhand bookshop. Well organised sections."

Books can make an excellent gift for your loved one, but if you’re on the hunt for some more ideas of where to find great gifts in Canberra, check out our articles on the best gift experiences, the best jewellers and the best gift baskets & hampers in town for some inspiration.

Your experience with bookstores in Canberra

Thanks to our commenters who have provided insightful feedback, if you believe we have got it wrong, please let us know.

Have you had experience with any of the bookstores listed above? Have we missed your favourite? If so, please share your feedback in the comments below!

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I order books from a bookshop?

Yes! If you visit a bookshop with a specific book in mind and they don't have it in stock, the shop should be able to order it in for you and notify you when it arrives. This is particularly useful for students with prescribed reading, so take advantage!

Do bookshops sell every genre?

Not literally every genre, but all bookshops tend to have the same mainstream genres available - children's books, sci-fi, travel books and autobiographies, for example, can usually be found in any bookshop. However, if your bookshop doesn't have what you're looking for, ask the desk if they would be able to order it in for you!

Do bookshops sell things other than books?

Sometimes, yes. Bookshops can often sell CDs and DVDs, trinkets such as card games, stationary items and calendars, and of course bookmarks.

Why are books from shops more expensive than books bought online?

Books tend to be more expensive when purchased at physical shops because bookshops have to use their revenue to maintain the shop, while online stores obviously don't have to. If you're concerned about price but still want to support local business, try find a secondhand bookstore - it might be harder to find specific books, but they will be much cheaper!

Can I buy my school textbooks from a bookshop?

This is unlikely. If you have a prescribed textbook for a class, it will probably be made available in your school's library or your teachers will direct you to an online store where they are available. However, if you're taking a history or literature class and have been assigned a book that is commercially available, you should have no trouble either finding it in a local bookshop or asking them to order it for you.

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Paper chain in Manuka. Great bookshop, friendly knowledgeable staff, huge range of books. A visit to Paperchain is a wonderful outing.

Shayna Siakimotu9:37 am 24 Jun 21

Canty’s Bookshop has a massive range of used books, in great condition and for a reasonable price. Book Face in Gungahlin is also great, the staff are so friendly and they actually know their books. Final vote would be for Harry Hartog at Kambri – great range of new and used.

canberrascout4:26 pm 06 Nov 19

Canty’s Bookshop is my vote. Luke is a great guy there…

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