Wednesday, February 1, 2012

My Local Bookshop

In a belated response to Farhad Manjoo's misinformed and poorly written attack on bookshops in Slate Magazine I thought I would tell you about my local bookshop: Readings on Acland Street here in St. Kilda. Readings is a great local bookshop with a friendly atmosphere, opinionated staff who know the stock, and a handy location right in the heart of St. Kilda opposite half a dozen cake shops and patisseries. 
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Bookshop worker George Orwell used to live in fear of the little old lady who would appear on a busy Saturday morning asking for the "novel that came out a few years ago with the green cover, about the man, who was doing all those things." At Readings St. Kilda I believe they would find you that book because they love literature and they pride themselves on being well read. Contra Farhad Manjoo bookshops are a sign of high civilization and any town or large city district without one isn't really partaking of the culture at all. Readings is a notch above your average bookshop with a terrific children's section and (I love this) separate sections for Penguin Books, Faber, the New York Review of Books Press, Dalkey Archive Press and other terrific independent or smaller quality labels. 
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Sometimes Australian books can be a little bit pricey so when I do buy a novel I want it to be excellent before I lay down my cash. At Readings they don't mind if you read for a while before purchasing. For the last week or so I've been checking out Chad Harbach's The Art of Fielding and I'm now at page 30 and it's pretty good - so I think I'm going to buy it, unless the Melbourne Age sends me a free copy which I don't think they will because they already reviewed it. 
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Another good thing about Readings is that they don't serve coffee, muffins, biscotti, tea, herbal tea or anything that you can eat or drink. The only reason to enter the shop is to buy a book, or, admittedly one of the vinyl records at the back. I'm not knocking desperate book shop owners who've had to convert their shops into cafes to get the punters in, but its nice in Readings not to hear the annoying hiss of the espresso machine or to find muffin crumbs on the floor. What you might hear however is some eclectic music. Last week I was pleasantly surprised to get the Blade Runner soundtrack album which I've never heard in another bookshop, ever. 
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Ok that's that. If you're in Sydney check out Jon Page's wonderful bookshop (see previous post). If you're in St. Kilda do check out Readings. (I have nothing to gain from this if you do. They have no idea who I am and I don't even know if they stock my books as I avoid the crime section.) And the cake shops across the street are pretty damn good too. Oh and if you're looking for the only place that sells Ruddles County or Marston's Pedigree in Australia try Acland Cellars also just across the street.