Are you on a quest to find Auckland’s best second-hand bookstore? Here are the twenty places not to skip.
The idea of rummaging through one of the second-hand bookstores in Auckland might seem old fashion in the age of same-day delivery and homogenised internet stores.
Shopping? In-person? Without any promise that you will find what you’re looking for?
This might be some people’s worst nightmare, but it should be a dream come true for lovers of literacy. Small, local businesses in Auckland need all the support they can get. An exploration of the unappreciated treasure troves that are Auckland’s second-hand book shops always brings a sense of accomplishment and pleasure.
As someone who absorbs books as fast as I can, each visit is akin to a conquest with new discoveries to be made. There is an intrinsic joy of browsing through books that have thus far been undetected by fellow bookworms. The thrill of the chase. The gratifying pleasure of hunting down that next treasured read.
You could certainly order a brand-new book or make a few taps on your Kindle, but where’s your sense of adventure? If we are on the same page, then these eight resplendent places in Auckland to find second-hand books will be perfect for you.
And if these don’t quench your thirst for yesteryear, you could always try the wonderful antique stores and flea markets of Auckland afterwards…
Just a stone’s throw from the ferry terminal in historic Devonport, you’ll find an old-world bibliophile’s paradise in Bookmark.
Purveyors of quality second-hand, used, and rare books, this hidden gem is stacked with unusual finds — we’re not talking about your quotidian Harry Potter novels here (no disrespect to Harry, of course).
While the big glass windows which front the site give you a glimpse into this magical world, there is far more to discover in the labyrinth of shelves at the back. Their specialisations include art, aviation, military, maritime, Maori, and New Zealand history titles. There are over 20,000 books in stock, so if you have something you specifically are after, don’t be afraid to ask for assistance.
A bookstore with character, complemented by comfortable chairs and couches to have a sneaky read-before-you-buy, Bookmark is a place we return to time-and-time again.
Second-hand book stores in Auckland don’t come much more charming than the petite Dominion Books in Herne Bay.
Tucked away in the same block of shops as artisanal Father Rabbit and the superb Dear Jervois Cafe, Dominion Books surrounds itself by excellence — and still managed to hold its own.
The front-window display is a nigh on impossible temptation to resist. Not that we would ever recommend you try. Once inside, you’ll find shelves packed so closely together you’ll surely get cosy with other browsers in the aisle here.
With surprisingly affordable prices given its privileged surroundings, Dominion Books is always worth a stop in (especially given how frequently they seem to get ‘new’ second-hand books in).
Hard To Find
Do you daydream about owning a library furnished with antique books? You know, the sort that smells like wealth and intrigue?
If so, head on down to Hard To Find – the famous bookstore in Eden Terrace, with a second store in Dunedin.
It specialises in everything from antique, collectable and first-edition books, to modern classics and ‘cheap and cheerful’ paperbacks. They are known for gobbling up entire private library collections at estate sales, which explains how they have amassed around 140,000 titles at their Auckland location.
A Jack-of-all-trades type spot covering everything from the rare to the recent, if you can’t find something appealing here… there is probably something wrong with you.
The best second-hand bookstore in the Auckland CBD, Jason Books is a great place to find your new favourite thing to read.
Located just below street level on O’Connell Street, we got excited when we heard about Jason Books and assumed it was a newcomer to the city, but nope. It turns out we have just missed it, despite walking right past it all these years. Thankfully, we’ve corrected that now.
The bookstore itself is beautiful, spacious and warm (no easy feat given its subterranean position) with staff who are incredibly knowledgeable.
There are over 30,000 books here with a mix of second-hand and new novels. Everything is ordered by genre, meaning you might find a guide to the world’s gins published just last year next to a book of modern cocktail recipes circa 1962 (true story).
While not an exclusively a used book store, we appreciated the mix — and the temptingly low price points. Seriously, there’s no excuse not to check this place out the next time you need a new book.
We love Rare Books; it has a very ‘lost in time’ feel, notwithstanding its central Auckland location on High Street.
A second-hand bookstore has some serious cred that solely specialises in rare and antique books, Rare Books is New Zealand’s leading antiquarian booksellers and have a vast range of fine, early-works and leather-bound books.
Their acquisitions focus primarily on exploration, voyages, New Zealand and 18th and 19th-century maps, and — well, they most certainly live up to their name.
With over 50 years of history and 37 years at their current location, Rare Books is downsizing and only currently open by appointment for serious collectors or those searching for unique gifts. Hopefully, they re-open again in some capacity, as there really is no other place like it.
The Book Exchange
For those of you who like a little sustainability with your book browsing, the Book Exchange in Glen Eden is the place for you. The shop specialises in well-loved second-hands with a side of coffee and waste reduction.
After all, isn’t used book buying the ultimate in sustainable actions?
Beyond oodles of books, there is classic kiwi baking, and hot beverages served in re-usable takeaway vessels only (make sure to bring your own). We also love that if you bring a book and exchange it for another of the same quality and genre, you get 50% off the marked price.
On a mission to shift to a circular economy where items can be created, used & returned to be used again, the Book Exchange not only talks-the-talk but walks-the-walk. An enchanting low waste space, we are sure you’ll find your new unputdownable story here.
The Green Dolphin
Having recently moved from St Kevin’s Arcade to Pitt Street just around the corner (and still just off Karangahape Road), The Green Dolphin is a wonderful spot full of precious and vintage finds.
Here you’ll find thousands of books stacked high with a focus on beautifully illustrated children’s books titles — a point of difference we love, given how expensive they can be to buy new. And we are in favour of anything that encourages children to read, and typical kiwi authors of our childhood like Margaret Mahy, Maurice Gee and Tessa Duder never go out of style.
It’s easy to while away the time here, with helpful owners who have a passion for books and serving their local community. Do check them out.
The Open Book
A marvellous second-hand book store and event space right in the middle of Ponsonby Road, the Open Book is an example of literary excellence.
Not only do they gather together a delightful range of 14,000 quality second-hand books across seven rooms of shelves, but Open Book has the laudable goal of bringing fellow bookworms together.
As such their impressive converted villa store has a sunny garden to relax in, fresh coffee and an intriguing array of events each week (most of which involve wine and snacks!)
It’s totally charming, and even if you don’t buy anything, just browsing through what’s on offer is a delight. Everyone always has a smile as well, making the entire experience just that much better!