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National Bookshop Day 2019

August 10, 2019

Time for another National Bookshop Day, given my last posts were in 2013 and 2012. In those posts I named some of my favourite Canberra bookshops, particularly the National Library Bookshop, Paperchain and Beyond Q (secondhand booksellers). They are still among my favourites, but, since then, two more excellent bookshops have opened, Muse (which runs Festival Muse about which I’ve written several times) and Harry Hartog Booksellers. Both these stores sell new and secondhand books, making them extra special. What great choice we have in Canberra!

Staff picks shelf

Staff picks at Book Face

This bookshop day, I may not get to a bookshop, as I’ll be on the road between Sydney and Mollymook, so I’m including pictures from one we visited this week in Port Macquarie. I hadn’t heard of Book Face before, but the website explains that it is “a small group of local, independent bookstores whose first store opened its doors in November 2014. Owned by Paul and Leo Berkelouw”. If you don’t know the Berkelouws, and are interested in them, check out the family’s two-century plus history of bookselling on the Berkelouw website.

Book shelves at Book Face

Shelf section in Book Face, Port Macquarie

Book Face is an inviting smallish bookshop, with a lovely little cafe at its entrance. (You know how I love Muse with its excellent restaurant!) We enjoyed wandering about its bookshelves – and facing out Nigel Featherstone’s Bodies of men while doing so! Never let a chance go by is my motto when seeing Aussie authors in bookshops. Pleasingly, a couple of other Aussies (Trent Dalton and Peggy Frew) were already face out (as you might see in the pic). It was also heartening to see some Aussie authors in the little display of staff picks on the shop’s counter. Good one Book Face.

And now, for something completely different …

Author-owned bookshops

I don’t know of many Australian author-owned bookshops but there are several in the USA. Here’s a list of those I know (in alphabetical order by author name):

  • Judy Blume’s Books & Books, Key West, Fl (opened 2016): Blume, of course, is an extremely popular writer of children’s and young adult books. Her shop is a not-for-profit centre “that provides studio space for local artists, a residency program for visiting artists, galleries, and classes” as well as selling books.
  • Louise Erdrich’s Birchbark Books and Native Arts, Minneapolis, Mn (opened 2010): Erdrich (whom I’ve reviewed recently) opened this small independent bookstore with her daughters. It specialises in Native American literature, has “indigenous-language guides, literature and crafts, alongside the latest best sellers”, and a toy-filled play area!
  • Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s City Lights, San Francisco, Ca (opened 1953): Ferlinghetti, an American poet who turned 100 this year, opened his store and publishing company with college friend, Peter Dean Martin. The shop was aligned with their left-leaning politics and aimed to “break literature out of its stuffy, academic cage”. The current manager says that they don’t sell or publish bestsellers!
  • Jeff Kinney’s An Unlikely Story, Plainville, Mass (opened 2015): Kinney is the author of the very popular Wimpy Kid books. The article announcing his shop’s establishment explains his aim as being to help the book trade. He plans to be somewhat hands-on, including offering cartooning workshops at the store. It has a healthy cafe too!
  • Exterior of Alison Lester Gallery BookshopAlison Lester Gallery/Bookshop, Fish Creek, Vic (opened 2014): Lester is a popular Australian children’s picture book author and illustrator. Her shop, unlike the others I’ve included here, only sells her own books and art work, but as she’s the only Australian author-owner I could find, and the only one of the shops that I’ve visited, I’m including it!
  • Jonathan Lethem’s Red Gap Books, Blue Hill, Me (opened 2009): American novelist Lethem is co-owner of this used books shop, which is named for a 1935 film, Ruggles of Red Gap, loved by the shop’s owners!
  • Larry McMurtry’s Booked Up, Archer, Texas (est. orig. in Washington DC, 1970): Bestselling author of Lonesome Dove and other books, McMurtry sells used books. The Archer store is apparently one of the largest used bookstores in the USA. McMurtry is quoted on the site as saying “Few books are rare; we have handled only a handful in 44 years in the trade. But many books are attractive. Customers come to us from wherever the four winds blow.” Love it.
  • Ann Patchett’s Parnassus Books, Nashville, Tn (opened 2011): Award-winning novelist of books like Bel canto, Patchett is co-owner of Parnassus Books, which the two women established when Nashville suddenly lost both its bookstores. You can read the story (with links to more) on the shop’s website. It’s all about two passionate people believing they could do what corporations couldn’t or wouldn’t in Nashville!
  • Emma Straub’s Books Are Magic, Brooklyn, NY (opened 2017): Unknown-to-me novelist and short story writer Straub opened this shop with her husband, largely because their local bookshop had closed. (Rather like Patchett.) Like many of the bookshops I’ve listed, this offers author events and is keen to engage the local community. Straub says that their “bookselling philosophy is that books are magic. And that we are nonjudgmental and we aim to be encouraging.”

I’ll leave you with Ann Patchett’s passionate statement about books bookshops and social change:

Amazon doesn’t get to make all the decisions; the people can make them, by choosing how and where they spend their money. If what a bookstore offers matters to you, then shop at a bookstore. If you feel that the experience of reading a book is valuable, then read a book. This is how we change the world: We grab hold of it. We change ourselves.

Couldn’t say it better myself.

Now, can you add to the list? From anywhere in the world?

34 Comments leave one →
  1. August 10, 2019 10:12 am

    i discovered a new bookshop the other day, well my brother did and he took me. It’s an old manse in Mitcham (Melbourne) on Maroondah Hwy (the south side, west of Mitcham Rd). It’s a church charity and it’s got rooms and rooms of second hand books, well laid out, and cheap! I’m sorry I don’t have a second hand bookshop cafe of my own but I’m afraid even at this late age I still need a substantial income.

    • August 10, 2019 11:24 am

      Do you remember its name Bill? Might as well give it a shout out.

      • August 10, 2019 11:44 am

        looked it up:
        The House of Books was established 15 years ago. We are situated next to the St Johns Church. Opening Hours Monday to Friday 10am-4pm Saturday 10am-1pm

        • August 11, 2019 3:02 pm

          Thanks Bill. I love the different ways old churches and church buildings are being used in various cities and towns. Bookshops and art or craft galleries seem to be common uses.

        • August 11, 2019 3:15 pm

          Thanks for that Bill, I’ll make a trip there at some stage.

        • August 11, 2019 3:37 pm

          You’ll like it I think, but leave some books for me!

        • August 11, 2019 5:14 pm

          Sounds like there’s plenty to go around!

        • August 11, 2019 9:19 pm

          Sounds lovely, and worth supporting doesn’t it Kate.

        • August 11, 2019 5:35 pm

          Hey Kate, if you make the trip out to Mitcham, there’s another second hand bookshop nearby, McLeods, 10 Station St Nunawading (I looked it up BEFORE commenting, this time). They have piles and piles of books, literally, very frustrating but you can sometimes find a gem.

        • August 11, 2019 9:21 pm

          You’re a fast learner Bill 😁👏

  2. August 10, 2019 10:23 am

    We had a children’s book author, Bonnie Pryor, in my small town of Mount Vernon, Ohio running a bookstore when my kids were little. After she died, her daughter took over the bookstore and still runs it today.

  3. August 10, 2019 10:32 am

    When I was still reading books (rather than listening to them, as I must do now), I’d no more buy them from Amazon than leap off one of the Heads.
    Now I buy from Amazon frequently, as their audiobook selection is by far the largest.
    Sighhh …
    Bookshops are wonderful and always will be. (Have you noticed how they aren’t disapearing on account of Kindle, etc.?)
    I can only imagine that Anne Lester must have independent means. :\

    • August 10, 2019 11:41 am

      Needs must, eh, M-R?

      And yes it seems that bookshops haven’t died, that many people still love the physical book. Over 80% of my reading is still print.

      Alison Lester’s books sell very well and have a long shelf life. She grew up in the Fish Creek area so may have property there.

  4. August 10, 2019 10:34 am

    I’ll give a plug to my favourite local indie bookshop, which is Benn’s Books in Bentleigh. Readers who follow my blog will often see in the credits that the book comes from there… it is conveniently down the road from my dentist, so twice a year (at the minimum) I binge in there so that after I’ve had my teeth checked, I can go down the road to Noisette and indulge in gorgeous French patisserie – with a pile of books to choose from while I drink my coffee!

    • August 10, 2019 11:43 am

      Love your plug Lisa. I gave of course seen them mentioned many times on your blog. That’s a lovely tradition you have.

      • August 10, 2019 11:48 am

        Thus, I always look forward to going to the dentist!

        • August 10, 2019 12:02 pm

          Yes I can see the method there!! Whatever works I say!

        • August 10, 2019 12:14 pm

          The Age have a National Bookshop Day story and events to attend

        • August 10, 2019 3:57 pm

          Thanks very much Bill … will check this out.

        • August 11, 2019 3:13 pm

          I’m back from my trip and have just read the article. What a lovely store that Kyneton one is. I liked this comment: “Money has never been a driving force for me,” she says.

          “It was about having a community hub that celebrates reading and access for regional kids. I felt like there was a gap in the local community. And having grown up in a regional area, I knew regional kids didn’t get as much access to authors and illustrators as city kids do.”

          It reminded me of a restaurateur in Canberra recently who said that they were not aiming to make a profit, just a living – they wanted, he said to be part of a community. I think there are quite a lot of small service oriented business that are like that. It usually shows too, and people will come. (Not that I’m romantic enough to believe that they ensures they will survive.)

  5. August 11, 2019 2:26 am

    Super post. I did not know that so many authors owned bookstores. Here in America, bookstores went through a terrible decline that seems to have stabilized. I live on Long Island. There used to be many great, independent bookstores here. We are now down to one.

    • August 11, 2019 8:35 am

      Thanks Brian. yes, ours seemed to start to decline in our city in, say, the 90s early 00s, but I feel (looking from afar anyhow, ie not as an owner) that things are picking up. Author events etc must surely be making a difference as they create a buzz. And, the growth in reading groups. A large percentage of women my age seem now to be in reading groups.

  6. August 11, 2019 12:06 pm

    I enjoyed reading about these USA book stores. I was familiar with a couple, have visited City Lights several times which I LOVE! and the others were new to me. Thanks for sharing.

    • August 11, 2019 2:05 pm

      Lovely Pam… I’ve been to San Francisco twice but never went bookshopping there.

  7. August 11, 2019 3:17 pm

    I didn’t get to my local bookshop on the day but they can count on me for regular business! (my local WAS the lovely Tim’s Bookshop in Kew however sadly it closed its doors in July, so now my nearest is Readings in Hawthorn).

    Visiting Judy Blume’s bookshop is on my bucket list…

    • August 11, 2019 9:21 pm

      Oh, that’s sad to hear Kate. I often go to Readings in Carlton when we are in Melbourne. Love their kids store too.

  8. August 12, 2019 9:41 am

    If you get back there City Lights is not to be missed.

  9. August 13, 2019 10:48 am

    There is a Book Face in Gungahlin as well. I’ve not yet visited it. Two of my favourite bookshops are Petrarch’s in Launceston (https://www.petrarchs.com.au/) and Cracked and Spineless (an independent selling new and secondhand books) in Collins Street Hobart. I also like the Hobart Bookstore in Salamanca Square in Hobart (lots of local material), and I need to visit The Book Cellar in Campbell Town next time I am in Tasmania. (https://www.discovertasmania.com.au/attraction/thebookcellar).

    • August 13, 2019 10:55 am

      Thanks Jennifer for commenting. Yes, I read on their site that there’s one in Gunghalin, but being over in Woden I tend not to go shopping in Gunghalin so had no idea there was such a bookshop there. I think I have been to Petrarch’s, briefly a couple of years ago. I don’t know Cracked and Spineless (what a great title for a used bookstore!) but I do always visit the Hobart Bookstore in Salamanca when I visit Hobart (which admittedly has been about 4 times in the last 30 years!!) Another blogger talks of Fullers in Hobart – I need to check it out next time. Do you know it?

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