Canty’s Bookshop: my go-to Christmas superstore

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When I was a kid, my family would drive into downtown Nairobi on a Saturday and we would each choose a book from the second-hand bookshop. This was a weekly adventure I loved, and to this day the smell of old books transports me straight back to that time and to that shop.

Living in Canberra, I have got access to lots of fantastic second-hand bookstores. I love them better than new bookstores and not just because of the price. I think for me it is a little like slow food vs fast food .

Second hand bookshops are not about the instant gratification of having 12 copies of the latest bestseller available or ordering it in if it isn’t there. They are about meandering around and rummaging through piles of books; sitting and flicking through until you come across a comfortable fit; a first page that grabs, a new friend.

Every holiday I take my kids to the Green Shed in Mitchell and we greedily stock up on holiday reads. Books there range between 50 cents and $2. Check it out.
For birthdays and Christmas though, I need secondhand books that are in pristine condition and want more variety in the children’s range.
A friend recommended Canty’s in Fyshwick to me last year so I went to check it out. As I drove in to the car park I was underwhelmed by its humble facade.

Then I walked in and found that the first room opens into a second room, which backs into a third room- making Canty’s a little like the Tardis.
The hero of Canty’s is definitely the books, all categorized but squashed in and nearly bursting from the shelves like so many muffin tops, .
Books that can’t possibly fit, teeter in delicious stacks that narrow the aisles and add mystery to the place. Keep an eye out for the bargain book piles.
Canty’s started back in 1992 and Luke and his wife Laura Canty bought the shop from Luke’s parents in 2007.
When I asked about a particular book, Luke looked up the book’s cover as a memory prompt; he has a fantastic memory for books that have come through if he can visualize them.

 

(What I bought on Saturday for the birthday children this week:

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Come to Canty’s with time on your hands to browse and converse.  Customers chat with Luke about their latest finds and give each other informal book reviews. It was a lovely atmosphere. If you ‘like’ Canty’s Facebook page you will be alerted to some secret bargains. I cannot divulge specifics, just join and you will find out.
Oh and bring your camera phone so you can take selfies with this:

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