Sydney, Australia, is The Emerald City. There are other cities claiming the same title (I’m looking at you, Seattle) but none of them cast a twinkle compared to the sparkle of Sydney.
I mean, Sydney is green; like, really green. We’ve also had a number of bananas male leaders who originated from Sydney (Howard, Abbot, Turnbull, current Prime Minister Morrison). And it IS the largest city in the Land of Oz. All it needs is a bunch of reading nooks to discover your favourite Oz characters.
Oh, wait. We have that too. *wicked grin*
Welcome to the Wonderful Reading of Oz: Emerald City edition.
Dorothy Gale – Kinokuniya Bookstore, Level 2, 500 George Street, Sydney CBD
Located in The Galleries, high above the busy George Street, Kinokuniya Bookstore is The Bookstore worth battling through a city. It has all the favourite genres on offer but the real attraction is the extensive range of Japanese and Chinese Business Relationships. It’s the largest collection in Australia. It is easy to imagine Dorothy enamoured with so many books that can’t be found anywhere else. Of course, you can always sit in the cafe after your purchase but if you can withhold on the drinkies, the best place to read up on Dorothy is in the Kids Section on the naturally lit bay-window seat, overlooking the busy street below.
Toto – Cook+Phillip Park, cnr College and William Street, Sydney CBD
For those of us who can empathise with Dorothy’s love for her little dog, Toto, the Cook+Phillip Park has a nice open area AND allows dogs to be off their leash. This is one of the few places very close to the city where you can catch some rays, play with your dog, and still have the quiet space for reading. And if the weather is less accommodating, you can always duck into the St Mary’s Cathedral next door. Stunning architecture with the peace and tranquillity to rival a library. Although, you won’t be able to bring Toto into this one.
Aunt Em and Uncle Henry – The Royal Botanic Garden Sydney, Conservatorium Road, Sydney CBD
For that homey feel for your reading, head to the Botanic Gardens and their herb garden in the south-west corner. It is a sensory delight sitting amongst the garden, with plenty of bench seats for a spot of reading. Nearby is an equally classic rose garden and ‘Pioneer Garden’ with some old colonial style plants to inspire that farmhouse feel. The entire area is filled with hidden treasures and lazy hideaways to read away all the time in the world. However, it’s the Herb Garden where I would expect to find Em and Henry Gale. Reading together on a bench seat, Henry lying down with his head in Em’s lap while her hand casually plays with the lavender growing next to her.
The Scarecrow – NSW State Library, Cnr of Macquarie St and Shakespeare Place, Sydney
The Scarecrow would probably lose his stuffing once he gazed upon the New South Wales State Library. The publicly accessible sections spread across two buildings connected by an underground tunnel. I have been here many times over the last 10 years and I still experience a thrill walking along that path. Along the walls are historical items and excerpts from Australian history. In the past, it has been predominantly ‘White Australian History’ but the displays are being updated with new exhibits to include more diversity. There are plenty of tables, chairs, computers, and desks for your research work but if you’re looking for a quiet spot amongst the almost tangible air of literary history in Australia, find a corner in that passageway.
Tin Woodman – Berkelouw Books, 19 Oxford Street, Paddington
Berkelouw Books is a little out of the CBD, but worth the extended walk (or short bus trip, if you are so inclined). Located in Paddington, its name gives a sentimental nod to the first Berkelouw Books opened in Rotterdam, Holland by the owners’ great great great grandfather in 1812. Upstairs is the perfect little cafe (and wine bar… did I forget the wine bar? How could I forget the wine bar?!?). This shop prides itself in a great representation of diversity across its book collection, both new and second-hand. Mention of this cafe/store in Sydney is almost like an instant entry-pass to the cool-book-nerds-book. Every corner seems to beat with a literary pulse, with so much love and affection given to each and every book. It is simply adorable.
Cowardly Lion – The Chinese Garden of Friendship, Pier Street, Darling Harbour
As an adult re-reading The Wizard of Oz, I can’t help but think of the Cowardly Lion as an extension of Sun Tzu’s Art of War.
“Appear weak when you are strong, and strong when you are weak.”
He always seemed to be battling more within himself, while still being there when his friends needed him. Unlike Dorothy charging through the city to reach Kinokuniya, the Cowardly Lion would be much better recharging in The Chinese Garden of Friendship. It is a positive oasis in the depth of the city. Even with the high-rises all around, you hardly notice them. It is THAT tranquil. There is also a lovely cafe associated with the Gardens. I recommend visiting around the time of the Moon Festival in August; their mooncakes are divine. You’ll also see a few lions around the garden to keep you company. Almost as many as there are reading nooks.
Witch of the North – Nutcote, 5 Wallaringa Avenue, Neutral Bay (North Shore)
Just to clear something up, we are not talking about Glinda here. In the books (and this is Book Riot, so of course we are referring to the BOOKS), Glinda is the Good Witch of the South. In the original, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, the Good Witch of the North is the first witch to meet Dorothy (and not be squished by a house first). Although unnamed in the first book, we quickly learn the Witch of the North is a ‘good’ witch who is much loved by her people and far more powerful than first perceived. Her kiss is enough to protect Dorothy from everyone she meets in the land of Oz. That’s some super protection mojo.
The Witch of the North reminds me of May Gibbs, the Australian authoress with a sweet disposition and penchant for protecting those less fortunate. Located in the Lower North Shore of Sydney, Nutcote was the harbourside home of Gibbs. It is now a museum dedicated to the art and social work from May Gibbs herself, as well as the original garden which inspired so many of her illustrations. There is a lovely Tea Room located on site, or alternatively, you can bring your own picnic to settle in with a good book and a great view.
Witch of the West – Elizabeth Farm, 70 Alice Street, Rosehill
I will be honest. I was never a fan of the Witch of the West in any of her forms. Nope, not even in Wicked. Sorry. I simply didn’t feel the love. To be fair, it’s kind of the same way I feel about Parramatta and Western Sydney. I am just not a fan; possibly because it is too far from the ocean for me? However, I will concede there are some hidden surprises around the Western Greater Area of Sydney. And yes, I am willing to put on my big girl shoes and venture out to find them.
Since books don’t usually like water, I can easily picture the Witch of the West enjoying the light at Elizabeth Farm in Rose Hill. It was originally built in the early 1800s for John Macarthur, a British Army Officer and the pioneer of the wool industry in Australia. The Farm is now part of the Sydney Living Museum collection as a recreated 1830s garden and ‘access to all areas’ museum. On really hot days, you can seek reprieve in the cafe but I recommend the big tree towards the back of the farm, on the opposite side to the kitchen.
Witch of the South – The Grounds of Alexandria, 2 Huntley Street, Alexandria
Okay, THIS one is Glinda. And wasn’t she a powerhouse! The exact same can be said about The Grounds of Alexandria, located in Sydney’s southern suburbs. Like Glinda, The Grounds are inherently good at everything they do. Gather together a range of cafes and eateries? Done. Offer a space for kids to spread out and burn off some energy? Lovely corner over there. Dress up for special occasions? They have that covered. And most importantly: DO THEY HAVE A READING NOOK? I counted at least four quiet reading corners the last time I was there. Glinda: Put on your sparkly shoes and Eat. Your. Heart. Out.
Witch of the East – Gertrude & Alice, 46 Hall Street, Bondi Beach
Yeesh. Here’s a tricky one. Y’know, because she kind of died at the beginning. And she was a nasty piece of work, who enslaved and loved shoes more than people.
Let’s focus on a reading oasis in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney, close to the infamous (and a little overrated) Bondi Beach. Now, I will start off by saying Gertrude & Alice is NOTHING like the Witch of the East. This place is a tribute to the infamous Gertrude Stein and Alice B Toklas. I can’t remember if Alice’s brownies are on the menu but the collection of books honour many of the writers from their time period; from Ernest Hemingway to Ezra Pound and a few more in between. It is both a book shop and a cafe, including new and second-hand books. And yes, it’s a short walk to the beach, if you’re wearing the right shoes.
Wizard of Oz – Green Square Library, 355 Botany Road, Zetland
It seems natural to place the Wizard of Oz in a library but not something as reference-based as the State Library. No, the Wizard needs something with pizazz; a library with presence. The perfect reading spot for any Wizard would have to be the new Green Square Library, a City of Sydney Library on the very southern end of the Sydney City district (accessible by both bus and train). This new building recently won the International Architectural Review Library Award for 2018. It is lauded as the world’s best library design. And it is stunning!
The library is underground, accessed by stairs and elevators descending from the coffee shop on the ground level. It has a huge open garden in the heart of the library and plenty of reading areas within for rainy days. The kids’ section has comfy sits and cubby holes placed within the shelves. Adults can enjoy more secluded seats and desks at another end of the library (remember to thank the librarians and the managers for this on your way out). To put it short, this little library on the outskirts of the Sydney City is everything you weren’t expecting. And it still answers every one of your reading desires.
Ozma – MCA Cafe, Museum of Contemporary Art, 140 George Street, The Rocks
The last and possibly most important of all the Oz characters is Princess Ozma, ruler of the Land of Oz. To be fair, we don’t really learn about her until the second book of the series, The Marvelous Land of Oz. It is much later we learn the Princess is a benevolent, compassionate, and fairly contemporary leader with utopian views for her citizens.
The final stop on our literary tour of Sydney must then be the Museum of Contemporary Art, located on the foreshore of Circular Quay, down on the Sydney Harbour. After you see the passionate and evocative exhibits throughout the Museum, journey upstairs to the MCA Cafe with the best views of Sydney Harbour, Circular Quay, the Sydney Opera House, and down into the CBD. And you don’t need to be royalty to enjoy the menu! By Sydney CBD standards, the menu is affordable and absolutely delicious. Pull up a seat in the corner, soak in the sunshine, and revel in a good book. The perfect spot to look out over your domain.
Whether you’re a local looking for a new cubby-hole, or a tourist looking for a literary perspective, Sydney always shines like a jewel. I still get a thrill every time I travel over the Harbour Bridge and see the view of this glorious city. And no matter what the other cities say, I know Sydney is what L. Frank Baum imagined the Emerald City to be.
‘In the civilized countries I believe there are no witches left; nor wizards, nor sorceresses, nor magicians. But you see, the Land of Oz has never been civilized, for we are cut off from all the rest of the world. Therefore we still have witches and wizards amongst us…’ – L. Frank Baum
Don’t forget to bring along your copy of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.
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