Elizabeth’s has a sense of humour, it’s warm and bright and on most days its front windows are thrown open and its wares spill out onto the street. Tempting passers-by are a plethora of discount books ranging from cooking to fiction, truly something for every pallet. If you are not lured in by these tempting treats there is an original quotation or piece of wisdom chalked up by the front door to amuse even the most dour of potential customers- one of my favourites so far appeared last Wednesday: “never make eye contact whilst eating a banana”. I had been determined to march by because I’ve eaten through most of my savings but I got the giggles and I couldn’t help myself, I hope many others felt the same compunction to join in the fun.
Once inside Elizabeth’s is full to the brim but always neat, there seems to be a member of staff perpetually refilling already full shelves, much as bus drivers in Tanzania squeezed in just one more– but at every stop and long after passengers have run out of room to breathe let alone sit. Elizabeth’s collection includes most notable new releases and an extensive second hand collection. Fiction is the strength here,crime novels, chick lit and classics compete for shelf space. Full up floor to ceiling many are also cleverly displayed spine-up in trays that cover cupboard tops – much as CDs were in the days they were still sold in physical form; goodness lets hope this isn’t a sign of things to come for the paperback book!
Elizabeth’s boasts a great sci-fi/ fantasy section in the back, to which I’ve returned 3 times now for the instalments of J.V. Jones’ Book of Words series, which I can’t seem to find anywhere else; it was in fact at Elizabeth’s that I discovered this remarkable trilogy. I had come in asking about a suitably juicy follow up to Game of Thrones, for some one who had never read, nor been previously interested in fantasy novels. I had gingerly approached the counter, worried of coming across either a total geek or a total novice, but the tall young man behind the counter had smiled and set down the tomes he was squeezing onto a shelf. He hadn’t read much fantasy himself he informed me, but he’d been recommended a few things and would be happy to pass on these suggestions. As a matter of fact J.V.Jones was a recent purchase he hadn’t got round to ‘but I totally trust this friend’s judgement’: whoever this friend was, he has good taste in fantasy, but I’ll cover that later.
Other than its wide choice of fantasy, there’s a fantastic history section with an admirable range of military history books in top condition. It has two shelves dedicated to art which includes some interesting little gems, although these are a little more random and the art enthusiast would be better served by the art supplies/bookshop just up the road (Art on King). Like any second hand shop Elizabeth’s collection is eclectic and haphazard, it doesn’t have all the classics (no Steinbeck I was sad to see). Nevertheless it’s easy to find out if they do have your target text as everything is clearly marked out and alphabetized, traits which appealed to my inner pedant.
At AU$9.50 for a second-hand paperback Elizabeth’s is very reasonable- especially in this area. As most of its previously owned collection is well loved and well kept you can buy these as gifts without embarrassment. As I mentioned above there are also discount racks out front that provide even lower prices if you’re willing to dive into something a little more obscure or a little tattered.
All round Elizabeth’s is worth popping into, friendly and honest, it’s a bookshop that is still just a bookshop, and it balances the need for new releases with the exhilaration (and money-saving) of browsing a previously owned collection. You really never know what you might find!! Unfortunately Elizabeth’s doesn’t have a café or a place to sit and snuggle up. However, you can crouch in a corner, or kneel in the stack to peruse jackets to your heart’s content. The continually busy staff have, in my experience, been quick to extend a kind, knowing smile when you’re settling into a proper shelf safari.
Once you’ve found the perfect paperback there are many great cafes about to get settled into, King Street is bustling with quirk already. I can’t help but mention Wow Cow at this point. There’s a branch just up from Elizabeth’s and it makes the most amazing frozen yogurt. I was a frozen yogurt virgin before Wow Cow and I’m now a full on convert- the low calories may even assuage guilt for impulsive book shopping…
- Location: 4 At just a minute from Newtown station, and on several bus route from the city centre its easy to get to.
- Lure: 5
- Linger/lounge factor: 2.5
- Clear layout: 4
- Comprehensive collection: 3 although there’s a hell of a lot more online!
- Inspiring options: 4 a real treasure trove and fabby staff to help you spot the gem for you.
- Friendly, knowledgeable staff: 5
- Good prices/good offers: 3.5 -it could always be cheaper!
- Diversified: 2 It’s exactly what it says on the tin, but it says it with such great panache that may just be enough.
- Unique: 3 chalk board humour that is always fresh and inventive is a great enticement.
Peacock overall rating: 4.5
257 King Street (next to Franklins Supermarket & the Dendy Cinema)
Newtown, Sydney 2042
Phone: (02) 9550 5691