In the age of reading books electronically, it has never been more important for me to acknowledge the actual physical booksellers who enrich my life. You may be able to download a novel to an e-reader, but you can’t meet the author on it or attend their launch. You may be able to read reviews on line but there’s nothing like asking the staff in a bookshop to recommend their own favourite book. Or indeed to ask them to recommend a book in an area you have little or no knowledge.
For me it’s the personal attention I get in a bookshop that sets the book-buying experience apart from the on-line one. And it’s fair to say that I can’t recall ever coming across a grumpy staff member in a bookshop. Kind of reminds me of the ‘happy librarian’ but that’s for another blog.
I’m one of those people who browse in bookshops, running my eyes along the shelves, stopping at the Australian section, and Indigenous section (if the store is savvy enough to have one) and I also love roaming the kids section too. I search out the authors I have long loved (many Australian) and check out what’s popular to the book-buying public at the time.
It’s important to note though that Australian bookshops don’t just sell books. They are venues for storytelling sessions, political discussions, readings, launches, literary cafes. They stock books, music, and stationery and sometimes groovy t-shirts with appropriate slogans!
I love bookshops not only for all these reasons, but because they are also cultural venues that you don’t need to dress for, they are open to all members of society (and free to enter), they are full of likeminded people (book lovers who appreciate stories and literacy) and I always leave feeling inspired.
Obviously I have a bias because I love books, I write books, I read books and I hang out with book lovers – many of them frequent and some even own bookshops. My dream is to one day have a bookshop-cum-cafe-slash-venue-for-all-things-arty-and-political of my own. But that remains a dream at this stage, and as the traditional bookshop comes under threat as more people buy on-line, I may have to revise that dream in years to come. In the meantime, I wanted to note the bookshops I am grateful for:
AVID READER: When it comes to being grateful for this West End icon, I can simply list why: the owners, the staff, the atmosphere, the support for local writers/readers, the literary program, the fabulous food, the location, the commitment to the Indigenous Literacy Foundation.
Some may call me biased – after all, I adore owners Fiona Stager and Kevin and events manager Krissy Knees (pictured with me above) is my deadly tidda – but the store itself is also enough to keep me going back there.
Aside from launching my books at Avid Reader (including Not Meeting Mr Right, Avoiding Mr Right, Manhattan Dreaming, Paris Dreaming and Am I Black Enough For You?), I’ve seen some of the country’s finest writers talk about books and writing at Avid Reader – this includes but is not limited to - Susan Johnson, Benjamin Law, Charlotte Wood.
GLEEBOOKS: I guess you might say the Sydney version of Avid Reader is Gleebooks – however there are FIVE Sydney bookstores; they’ve been four times Australian Bookseller of the Year: 1995, 1997, 1999 & 2000 and was the ABIA 2008 Australian Independent Bookseller of the Year. WOW!
Sydney-siders who haven’t yet ventured to any of their stores on Glebe Pt Road, or at Dulwich Hill, may have seen them down the wharf at the Sydney Writers’ Festival, which is always the site of the biggest buzz each May.
Gleebooks is another browsers paradise and has a fabulous ‘Indigenous section’ and an enviable events program – there’s something on nearly every night. I’ve launched a number of my books there also, and been part of NAIDOC readings at their upstairs venue. Another shout out to the store who are also staunch supporters of the Indigenous Literacy Foundation! (The pic at the top of the page is from my Manhattan Dreaming launch in March of 2010 - one of my best nights ever!)
PAPERCHAIN: Manuka in Canberra is not only home to fabulous restaurants and some groovy fashion outlets, but also the wonderful Paperchain Bookstore, which I love so much I wrote into my novel Paris Dreaming. You simply can’t have a book set in our nation’s capital without mentioning this hub of literary culture. (Pic above is of staff member Lynda at the launch of Paris Dreaming in 2011).
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READINGS: In Melbourne, Readings are fabularse! There are six locations and I must admit I haven’t been to them all. But seeing as you’re twisting my arm and asking for a favourite, I’d have to say the Carlton shop. I do like the latest addition at the State Library of Victoria, and would happily stack shelves there if a job ever comes up (hint! Hint!).
here) she is founder of Indigenous Literacy Day/ Riverbend Books not only has wonderful events (saw the gorgeous Jessica Rudd talk about Ruby Blues there last year), and an amazingly delicious menu in their restaurant, but this shop does everything from sell books, run workshops....
PAGES & PAGES: My final shout out today goes to Jon Page and staff at Pages & Pages in Mosman, where I recently enjoyed an entertaining morning as part of National Bookshop Day (August 11). Pages & Pages appeared to be another of those ‘community venues’ with locals dropping in to say hello, buy books and have a yarn. That’s me above with the lovely Catriona Rowntree (who bought Paris Dreaming for her mum) and locals Pam and Lucy (who bought Manhattan Dreaming). Another reason I love bookshops is I get to meet my readers, and new readers, what fun!
Pages & Pages is also a staunch supporter of the Indigenous Literacy Foundation, so we love them for that also!
Show some love to your own favourite bookseller here, by letting us know where you go and why?