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The Legend of Gould’s Book Arcade

By Adeline Teoh

Gould's Book Arcade, Newtown
The interior of the original Gould’s Books. Photo: Wikimedia

It’s hard to imagine Bob Gould anywhere else but enthroned in print in Gould’s Book Arcade, a Newtown institution. More a cave of wonders than a second-hand book store, the arcade defied gentrification – and, considering the columns of teetering tomes, physics – for many years before its proprietor passed in 2011.

Located at the city end of King Street from 1989 until 2018, when it moved south, Gould’s was legendary for many reasons. For starters, you never left with what you went in for – somehow serendipity would drive your purchase. Open evenings, it was also a reliable spot to spend some quality browsing time before dinner or a gig, and often you would meet acquaintances in the aisles.

And then there was the bibliophile himself. Bob had never been known to reject a book in his life and could be relied upon to offload items from anyone looking to reduce their personal libraries. It was for this reason that the tall narrow alleys of burgeoning bookshelves were such an adventure and a hazard.

Federal MP Andrew Leigh famously had to be rescued after an avalanche. “I was walking down an aisle and brushed past two precarious stacks of books on either side. Both collapsed on me, trapping me for about five minutes, until Bob heard my cries for help and ambled over,” Leigh recounted in his parliamentary tribute.

It has been a decade since Bob passed and his daughter Natalie Gould, with help from her mother Mairi Petersen, has now taken his mantle, injecting the same spirit of socialist defiance and eclecticism into the store.

She estimates the collection held some 2 million books before having to be whittled down for the new location, a smaller shop close to the New Theatre - the perfect location for a pre-show browse.

There is still serendipity there but, with more orderly shelving and sturdier bookcases, thankfully fewer hazards.

Gould’s Book Arcade website


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