Nestled in the BNZ Centre in Christchurch’s CBD, not far from the ruins of the Christchurch Cathedral is a beautiful, independent bookshop called Scorpio Books. I discovered this little (actually quite large) gem after wanting a dedicated bookstore, not a bookstore-cross-newsagency which seems so common here. A quick Google search told me of this one, wedged between Hereford street and Cashel street.
We parked our car near Hagley Park in the Christchurch Botanical Gardens, and bundled up in our warm winter clothes before heading across the gardens into the city. It’s a lovely walk, no matter the season, although I’ve always been partial to botanical gardens in the spring. After popping by the cathedral square for a quick look (the last time I was in Christchurch City, the cathedral was still blocked off, and the time before that it was still standing…) we headed toward the BNZ centre. It’s a nice little outdoor mall with a souvenir shop, some eateries and a few other stores, but I only had eyes for the books.
I opened the heavy door to let the gush of warm air out into the frosty day and wandered up the little ramp into the store. It’s bright and open even in the winter, and filled to the brim with books stacked in shelves or piled on tables, as well as comfy looking couches, and arm chairs. Appearance wise – Scorpio Books is everything that a bookshop should be. It feels like home. I could spend hours inside perusing the shelves, sitting down to read, and simply falling in love – in fact, that looked exactly like what some of the customers were doing. There were people everywhere, bundled up in their winter warmers, standing in front of the shelves (the short shelves in the centre of the store, and tall shelves by the walls managed to create a cosy, yet open atmosphere) deep in the pages of whatever book took their fancy.
I had a quick look around first before finding the classics section near the right-hand side wall, and trying not to hyperventilate at the beautiful selection of literature. If I didn’t have such tight control over my wallet, I would have blown my bank in there. Especially on those leather bound editions.
After I tore myself away from the classics section (I only went back four times), I lost myself in the rest of the shop. What a selection! It’s hard to choose a favourite part. I loved the classics section more than I can say, and how the YA collection was conveniently located directly behind it. It was also great to find sections dedicated to New Zealand works, and those in Te Reo Māori. I think it’s really important for booksellers to make a point of supporting writers from their country, and also making available works in the lesser known and yet still official language of the nation. I’m always disappointed by the lack of selection of Māori books in most bookstores, so I was absolutely delighted to find some real gems here.
I don’t think I could say a single negative thing about this gem of a bookstore. It was warm, and welcoming, cosy and open at the same time. It wasn’t difficult to navigate and there were so many great little reading spots to get a feel for the book you’re contemplating buying. Of course, there was that one old woman who did shove me into a shelf, but that happens to me in every single bookstore I go into (why?????? I cannot figure out why????), and there was well enough space between bookshelves for this to be avoided, so it’s just one of those unexplainable quirks of life, I suppose (or just an ordinary trait of an impatient person, perhaps?)
I’m planning my trip back to Scorpio Books right now, and I think it’s safe to say, I’ve found my new favourite bookshop.
The BNZ Centre
120 Hereford Street
MON-FRI: 9am – 6pm
SAT, SUN: 10am – 5pm
What else is around?
The BNZ Centre has some lovely shops in and around. I’d recommend the sushi from the small shop just outside Scorpio books, and there are numerous places to grab a cup of coffee. I haven’t had a coffee in the centre of the city that’s blown me away yet, but the Ello Cafe above Ballentynes, across the road from the BNZ centre was really cute, and definitely worth checking out.