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Fyshwick is home to one of Australia's 'most spectacular bookshops'

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When I’m not glued to Offspring, my husband and I absolutely ADORE the British Comedy, Black Books. If you haven’t seen it, it’s about a permanently drunken Irish bookshop owner, Bernard Black (Dylan Moran), who hates his shop, detests his customers, doesn’t like books, despises doing his taxes and is perpetually annoyed (and rescued) by his savvy-yet-odd employee, Manny (Bill Bailey).

Watch it!

Then erase everything you just learnt about bookshop owners from Black Books and swap it with Canberra’s own Luke Canty, of Canty’s bookshop—which was recently voted amongst the 17 Spectacular Bookshops In Australia To See Before You Die.

My goodness what a cool claim!

Disclaimer: My husband (a military historian/academic) and I (chick-lit, teen-lit, self-help) and my kids (teen fic, 1D-collectors-items, Thomas the Tank picture books) LOVE Canty’s and could lose ourselves there as a family for ages (and have, many times)—finally emerging with an eclectic pile of titles, all poles apart, at a brilliant price.

But it’s the story behind the shop that’s really special…

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Right from the time that Luke’s parents established Canty’s in 1992, they wanted to set their shop apart. They aimed to avoid “the stuffy, mouldy, smoky, tattered, dust-wrappered, forbidding secondhand bookshop image that was pretty prevalent at the time and create instead a family-friendly shop full of lots of nice books that were interesting and clean and priced to sell, not linger on the shelf,”Luke explains, in a very un-Bernard-Blackish way.

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At the time, he was at uni and was playing Bass in the local band Velveteen (along with Toby Martin and Paul Murphy who went on to be founding members of the band, ‘Youth Group’. Oh, the fangirl-ing that went on here when my teens made the link between the hit song, ‘Forever Young’, One Direction’s X-factor cover of it, and our unassuming local bookshop-owner! We’re not fussy about degrees of separation!)

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Luke worked in the family’s shop for a while, then met the lovely Laura, from Angus and Robertson in Melbourne…(and the rest is history, at least for the romantic sub-plot of this article). He was lured to full-price retail for a while and enjoyed his time working for Angus & Robertson, but he and Laura quit just before the Christmas rush in 2006 (for which they apologise to their then colleagues) and bought Canty’s from his parents early the following year.

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It’s been a wonderful seven years, and challenging at times, particularly with the impact of e-readers from 2009. But with new (mainly second-hand) books hitting their 1.2km of shelves DAILY, Canty’s is here for the long haul, and Canberra is the luckier for it.

Luke says what he loves most about the job is the fact that he’s able to work for himself—and in the company of his ‘awesome wife’. Plus, he gets first pick of the new books that come into the store daily. Sigh!

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AND, he recently hand-sewed a Tardis curtain to disguise the kitchenette area, because …DR WHO. (Bernard Black would never do such a thing!)

If checking it out because you have to before you die isn’t enough incentive, how’s this:

Canty’s Bookshop is offering HerCanberra readers a 20% discount on all purchases for the remainder of this month! Mention the code word ‘HerCanberrawhen you make your purchase.

Bring your calico bag. Two of them.

the essentials

What: Canty’s Bookshop
When: 10.30am-5pm, 7 days a week
When: Unit 4, 59-61 Wollongong St, Fyshwick
Web: www.facebook.com

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3 Responses to Fyshwick is home to one of Australia's 'most spectacular bookshops'

Charly Smith says: 30 May, 2014 at 11:31 am

I *love* Canty’s! It’s one of my favourite places in Canberra. My favourite section is the fantasy walls! I once found a clutch of Anne McCaffery first editions which I snapped up for my mum at around $15 a pop. I mean, come on. How awesome is that? Sorry for all of the exclamations, it’s just so lovely to see some credit where it is due for a small family business that does such a fabulous job.

Margaret says: 30 May, 2014 at 8:53 pm

Canty’s is awesome- I go in there sometimes with a vague idea of what I want and the guys help me out with suggestions tailored to my preferences- I’ve discovered some great new authors that way. A few years ago I went in with a long list of have-to-read-before-you-die-books and walked out staggering under an armful of them- for less than the price of three new books from a big store. They also have a reasonable amount of new (end of run) books that are great as gift, particularly kids books. If you love reading, then supporting local bookshops rather than the borg, Amazon, has a great feelgood factor thrown in!

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