The Ministry of Books – Never Judge a Bookshop By its Cover:
“If you have enough book space, I don’t want to talk to you.” ― Terry Pratchett UK Author and Orangutan fan.
Large non de-script dull grey building -check, massive car park check – opposite major government operation ( Ohakea Air Force base) near Wellington??…..will er….on the highway to Wellington. Or to be precise Sanson in the Manawatu, located just south of Bulls (honestly no bull), at the crossroads of two major New Zealand state highways (1 and 3), which leads to Wellington ….so …er check. In fact the only thing that gives you concern about the name Ministry of Books is that Sally Quinn’s sprawling bookshop actually lives up to its name. Or, unlike our official national archives (which is destroying books, 600,000 to be precise as we speak), MOB is chock full of books.
Oh and another issue with the name? MOB unlike your average government department is open seven days a week with helpful pleasant staff (who love their jobs and love books).
To enter MOB and navigate its plethora of bookshelf,with tiny gaps in between, is a like a combination of entering the Tardis, that huge space at the end of the Indiana Jones where they keep all the cool lost treasure and stolen Nazi aliens stuff and finally the Library of Ankh Morpork: complete with flying books, exploding wizards and an Orangutan with attitude (who has zero interest in ministerial buzz word like ‘correct efficient way’, modernisation, or joining the super internet highway or for that matter The year of the Fruitbat).
MOB is in short a big utter gorgeous sprawling chaotic mess (so perhaps it does deserve to be called a Ministry after all). Over half the books are stored in a separate space that gets “mined” for new books with no seemingly apparent system just synchronicity and providence. Or as owner Sally Quinn says “I must get round to organising a system but right now it’s an utter surprise as to what we do find and that’s fun too.” Sally admits the shop is big on ambience not so massive on having an online presence in the digital age of e-learning. It has no Facebook page, no instagram, no twitter account, and no website “were more the kind of place you just wander into and explore in person” says Sally. Or possibly you get sucked into this magical little store (presumably via an interdimensional portal opened when a big orange paw mistakenly opened a grimoire on ‘training magical suitcases’ while reaching for a midday banana).
MOB’s behemoth book collection has a psychological impact on book lovers not dis-similar to the region of space where a black holes sits causing the gravitational pull so intense light cannot escape.
It is a galaxy of wonder, a universe of awe, a multiverse of endless possibility, with thousands of books, including hundreds of rare books, cooking books, history books, war books, peace books, arty books, kiwis classics, fiction, non fiction and those that cause literary addiction. Hell it even has an entire section devoted to Charlie Chaplin just in case you think we’re being funny. All of them in wooden shelves where you can anticipate (if you close your eyes and use your imagination) seeing an Orangutan shuffle past in the distance or hearing the profound words “ook ook” at any moment.
Address: 59 Dundas Road, Sanson 4817, New Zealand, 06-329 3300 Mon – Sunday 10am -5pm.
Sanson other points of interest: Manawatu Community Market , Ohakea Airforce base , Viv Kitchen, Church Cafe BB French Antiques.