Modern Times Bookshop shares its floor with Art on King, and it seems perfectly natural that art and books should coexist quite so well.

The bookshop section opens with a great display of humorous cards and notebooks and a creative vibe seeps in from its neighbour to make the whole shop feel fresh and somehow inspiring (is that possible?).  Just in the door are the AU$12.95 Vintage Classics placed alongside lots of new titles, fiction and a poster list of Man Booker Prize winners.

Unsurprisingly Modern Times is stocked up on Art History textbooks and more practical guides to art technique/ photography etc. This is complemented by the extensive supplies on the other side of the wall -canvases, paint, brushes, sketchpads and craft knick-knacks, as well as a decent selection of books on Fashion, film and music. I know nothing of the latter fields so I would be unable to tell you about the quality of the collection, but it seemed interesting to me- and all this nicely framed by Star Wars, Dr.Who and James Bond paraphernalia.

 The back of the shop is dominated by children’s books,  board games, childcare, cooking and health. In the kids section This Moose Belongs To Me by Oliver Jeffers caught my eye, it’s highly amusing and the illustrations are superb, and its all about learning to share… I might just have to go back for that one as a Christmas Gift for my sister- she may be 22, but you’re never too old for a classic picture book! Just on from all that, the cramped shop also provides a hefty space for philosophy and religion (the current affairs section is just a couple of shelves). What drew my attention, unsurprisingly given my current interests, was the Fantasy & Sci-Fi zone which had a fantastic selection and I’ll be adding Robert Jordan, Stephen King and Jo Spurrier to my reading list!

As anticipated, the arts from next door spill over and this is a great place to get wrapping or writing paper, envelopes and a good notebook- they have a good range of the moleskins but other options too. What was less expected was the rather impressive travel book selection! Although this is dominated by the ubiquitous blue of the Lonely Planet guides, these, alongside the predictable presence of Bill Bryson share space with a lot of other interesting books that focus on Australian travel.

As with Elizabeth’s there’s really nowhere to sit, but Modern Times is even more cramped and people often shuffle by you with disapproving looks if you get a little too comfortable crouching by the bottom shelves. I’ve never had recourse to the staff in looking for books but they were a great help to a friend choosing paint supplies, making many honest (read penny-saving) recommendations and providing a loyalty card that’ll get her 50% off on her 5th visit.

Going by my preset questions Modern Times would rank as follows:

  1. Location: 4 About 5minutes walk from Newtown station, and on several bus route from the city centre its easy to get to.
  2. Lure: 4
  3. Linger/lounge factor1.5
  4. Clear layout4
  5. Comprehensive collection: 2 Not bad for a small shop though!
  6. Inspiring options: 2.5 there’s a lot going on but few books are laid out to grab your attention…
  7. Friendly, knowledgeable staff: 2.5 as you’re completely left to your own devices, but many smiles J (5 for the arts though)
  8. Good prices/good offers: 2– most is standard prices (eg. AU$19.99 for paperbacks)
  9. Diversified: 4.5 there’s everything for the creative mind, as well as games, great cards, toys and stationary.
  10. Unique: 2.5 The art-supplies/book combo does work well, though it’s not done with much pizzazz.
Peacock overall rating: 2.75

Modern Times Bookshop
199-201 King Street
Newtown NSW 2042

(02) 9519 6191

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