Last week, I retreated to Denmark, a town in Western Australia’s Great Southern region, with the hope of making progress on my current writing project. While I was there, the local bookshop hosted a wine and cheese night for visiting authors, Deb Fitzpatrick and Brooke Davis. We were enthralled and entertained as they spoke about books, writing and the bond they have with their brothers.
Many bookshops have been doing it tough in recent years, with a number of well-known chains disappearing altogether. With the convenience and cost of on-line shopping, and the impact of e-publishing, some might conclude they are a dying breed. I don’t particularly care about the large chain stores, but I am passionate about the smaller, independent bookshops.
In a retail industry that seems to be increasingly devoid of customer service, the staff of my favourite bookshops still give a damn. They are knowledgeable, engaged and personable. Many of them are involved in their local community and actively support writers, through book launches, signings and author talks.
But mostly, I love bookshops for the kinaesthetic experience of browsing real shelves, of feeling a book’s weight in my hand, of reading its blurb and flicking through the first few pages to gauge whether it’s for me. And for the magical hope that I just might slip into another world.
In light of this, my Five Faves this month is in praise of bookshops.
1. Tea House Books (South Coast Highway, Denmark, WA)
Whenever I visit the Great Southern town of Denmark with my kids, the first ports of call are the award-winning bakery and Tea House Books, not necessarily in that order. We love owner/manager Melissa, who is friendly, knowledgeable and an enthusiastic supporter of local and visiting writers. There’s even a comfortably furnished reading room, where you can linger over cake and a cuppa.
2. Beaufort Street Books (Beaufort Street, Mount Lawley, WA)
Beaufort Street Books is another shop that supports local and visiting writers, regularly holding author events and reading sessions for children, as well as movie nights, yoga classes and literary speed dating. It’s also where Brooke Davis was working when her novel, Lost and Found, found a publisher. If you’re lucky, she might be standing behind the counter and you can ask her to sign a copy, but otherwise, there are plenty of other friendly staff to assist you.
3. Oxford Street Books (Oxford Street, Leederville, WA)
A friend recently attempted to order a book through a major bookshop chain. They refused to do so unless she bought two copies or spent over $100. No such conditions at Oxford Street Books. If it has an ISBN, they’ll find it for you. Positioned on a fabulous cafe strip and open til late, Oxford Street Books has been my local for almost 20 years (My name is Melinda and I am a bookaholic).
4. Bookcaffe (Claremont Crescent, Swanbourne, WA)
Two of my favourite past-times are reading and eating, so what more could I wish for than a bookshop that doubles as a cafe? I’ve spent many hours here, ordering pots of tea or a bite to eat, while I browse books, and attempt to draft my own. Personal menu recommendations include the soup-of-the-day and the Vietnamese Chicken Salad, with plenty of gluten-free options available. The Bookcaffe also hosts visiting author talks, and is a popular meeting place for book clubs.
I don’t need to venture far to visit my favourite bookshops, which is why number 5 belongs to you. What is your favourite local bookshop? Or perhaps you’ve traveled and discovered a gem in a historic city or small village somewhere. I’d love to plan an interstate or overseas trip guided by your recommendations, so please let me know!