Women's Bookshop, Ponsonby

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You might think to yourself, ‘It’s 2016! Why do we still need to celebrate the work of women as though they’re discriminated against? Gender equality has happened in New Zealand!’ Sadly, you are either wrong, or a man. Women writers generally receive less literary attention than their male counterparts, and most men avoid reading the work of women. There is also the idea that ‘women’s fiction’ is a subcategory of published work, whereas books by men are the norm. I experienced this first-hand recently, when I was asked by a woman to recommend a book, but was told that she ‘doesn’t read women’s books’. As Meg Wolitzer says in her article ‘The Second Shelf’, “many first-rate books by women and about women’s lives never find a way to escape ‘Women’s Fiction’”. The point is, having a store like the Women’s Bookshop that celebrates women is a wonderful and vital part of Auckland’s book scene.

Now, again, you may be thinking that you did not come here to hear the rambling thoughts of a feminist writer on the subject of patriarchy in the book world. Lucky for you, this is probably the same thought of those who pay me, so let’s move on.

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Some of the wonderful features of the Women’s Bookshop include its wall of the top 50 women authors of the past 50 years, as voted by the New Zealand public. A few New Zealand writers appear on this list, including Eleanor Catton at number 5, Patricia Grace at number 6, Janet Frame at number 7, and Keri Hulme at number 12. They also have a sizeable range of non-fiction books that focus on the diverse experiences and concerns of women, including women’s health, psychology, child-rearing, feminism and sexuality, which in most bookshops would not have such a large placement.

The staff are lovely and knowledgeable, and care deeply about the written word. Like any good bookstore, they are happy to talk about books with you and make sure you leave with something wonderful. If you don’t have too much time to chat, take a look at their newsletter Bookchoice, which gives insight into the best new books available. You can also ask the staff to order in books that are not on the shelves – remember that book about ice cream-making or 18th century topiary that you’ve always wanted? They can get it for you, and post it too.

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The Women’s Bookshop is a specialist store, but if you’re in need of a good thriller, a children’s book, or anything else in the realm of words-on-bound-paper (a book) then this is still the place to go. Try spending an hour browsing the shelves; I’m certain that your eyes will be opened to the fascinating range of material that you may not have looked at before.

 

Photography by IsabellaWeb