Judging a City by its Cover: A Short Voyage Through Hamilton’s Literary History

It is a little-known but delicious morsel of Hamilton’s history that the city has, in its colourful past, been a literary centre in New Zealand.

Between 1908 and 1960, Hamilton boasted its very own Carnegie library, and at the start of the century, Paul’s Book Arcade was the height of the New Zealand publishing world -and one of the first proponents of New Zealand literature, in an era still dominated by the greats from Mother England.

Today, the Carnegie Library is merely a half-century memory, and the site of Paul’s Book Arcade is Metropolis Caffe, where the only reminder of the original publishing house is in the century-old black-and-white tiling, still visible as you walk in. Despite the more glamorous coffee houses popping up around the city, Metropolis itself is still a Hamilton icon, owing to its special place in the regeneration of the Hamilton CBD.

Legend has it that there was a time when Victoria street was a red light district, servicing the military men who had been stationed at Knox street for most of the city’s life. The arrival of Metropolis heralded the first real cafe on the city’s main street, and it has held fast for over two decades, and even going on to gain national recognition.

But we digress.

Hamilton is still a place where you can get a decent book without having to fold to quasi-toy shop-cum-post-shops like Whitcoull’s and Paper Plus. We love that one of our newest followers @ns510x took it upon herself this weekend to visit three of our favourite Hamilton bookshops.

Browsers

The best thing about Browsers (aside from the ambience, the selection, the art on the walls, the opera playing softly in the background, etc etc) is that, as a second-hand bookstore, it houses the collective imaginations and interests of Hamiltonians across the ages, to be picked up, returned, and picked up again.

Pennys

This 35-year old family business is proof that independent bookshops can not only stand the test of time, it can thrive even in conditions as heavily consumerist as a Westfield Mall, and still not lose its sense of identity.

Poppies

They may have more branches than we care to admit, but Poppies at Casabella Lane has become a natural feature of CBD life. There is a decent selection of French jazz, best sellers and obscure books not available elsewhere, and it’s the perfect place to find a date to take to have over a cup of tea in the courtyard and by the fountain.

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We love it when our followers do thematic photos on #lovethetron. Please do more, you guys!

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