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I doubt there is any precinct in Sydney better supplied with new and second-hand bookshops than Newtown.

There are hundreds of thousands of second-hand books at Gould’s bookshop in King Street. Going south, Berkelouw’s Books is just 50 metres off the main drag in O’Connell Street, with new books downstairs and second-hand books upstairs, where there is a reading section and a café. Very civilised. There is the usual eclectic array, quite substantial, at Vinnies. Unfortunately, Books on King, which used to be between Gould’s and Berkelouw’s, has packed up and gone, along with its bookshop cat, Shakespeare.

New books, with new releases at a discount, are available at Modern Times, and Elizabeth’s Bookshop (‘booksellers since the days of Gough Whitlam’ as they proudly announce) has an extensive selection of second-hand books in the widest imaginable variety of categories from, say, cricket through to erotica to zoology. The shop also buys back books purchased there. Every little helps.

Then there is the jewel in the crown – Better Read Than Dead. A few doors further along there is a better than usual array of books at the News Plus Newsagency. Another newsagency in Erskineville Road near the junction of Wilson Street and King Street has some second-hand books and, at various intervals, there are bookstalls set up outside the St George bank in King Street and at the weekend market at the Hub.

Over the years BK (Before Kindle), I’ve bought books at most of these places. I used to drop in for a chat with the late Bob Gould and sometimes he would be able to direct me to a book I wanted. I also sold books to Bob when culling my library and saw books I’d written myself  turn up there as cheap as chips.

I’ve browsed in Vinnies and once bought Moonraker there for a dollar to see how Fleming stood up 40 years after I’d first read him. Not too well, I thought.

I bought one of my own books at a discount at Modern Times when the complimentary copies provided by the publisher didn’t quite stretch to the people I’d pledged books to. If the person behind the counter noticed that the name on the credit card was the same as that on the book, he didn’t comment.

I’ve bought many books at Better Read Than Dead, where I’m grateful for an author’s discount. As well as books for me, the shop has provided numerous presents for friends and family, particularly for my five grandsons.

Who has not browsed at a street or market bookstall looking for an elusive title or to replace a lost or damaged book, and ended up spending so much time it became, through guilt, necessary to buy something, anything? So it has been with me at the stalls outside the bank and at the Hub.

The bookishness of Newtown is reflected in snatches of conversations overheard in the street and in the cafés. I’ve heard mention of T S Eliot, Proust, Patrick White and Stieg Larsson. And surely those people intent on their cryptic crosswords are book readers.

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