Posted by: Lisa Hill | August 20, 2011

2011 National Bookshop Day

Today, all over Australia it was National Bookshop Day.  This is an initiative of the Australian Booksellers Association.  It was a day to celebrate bookshops, , their contributions to the local community and to Australian literature, culture and society.

Naturally, I visited a couple of nearby favourites and bought a couple of books…

Tracey, Ulysses Bookshop, National Book Day 20 Aug 2011 001

This is Tracey, from Ulysses Bookstore in Melrose St Sandringham.  How could I not love a bookshop named after my favourite book?  We met earlier this year when Ulysses sponsored a session at the Bayside Literary Festival and of course it wasn’t long before I went to check out her new shop. Tracey is a keen reader herself (which is why she couldn’t choose between the two books she’s clutching, Bereft and Past the Shallows).  She runs a book group at the shop and you can find out more about that (and browse the list of recommended titles for book groups) on the Ulysses website.   There’s also story-time for little ones every second week on Thursdays, and best of all, she has the expert advice of her teenage sons about which books are suitable for which age levels.  Goodness knows how she finds the time but she blogs too, at the Bayside Reader.

From Tracey I bought James Halliday’s latest 2012Wine Companion and the Glovebox Guide to Wine Touring, both indispensable for the semi-serious wine lover!

From Sandringham I went to Bentleigh to check out the action at Benn’s Book Store in Centre Rd.  I am a regular at this bookshop because it is so conveniently close to my dentist and my hairdresser.  Not only that there is great coffee at Cafe Vercelli only a couple of doors up so I can get started reading my new books straight away.

Ah, Benn’s Books, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways!

First of all and most importantly they have a great collection of literary fiction with books that I don’t seem to be able to find anywhere else.  They have all those orange Popular Penguin reprints, classics, international prize winners and the less well-known –  and all the best of new Aussie fiction.  They have an interesting shelf full of philosophy books, art and architecture books, and recipe books that go beyond the usual celeb chefs.  They have a small but tempting shelf of audio books, and nice gift books too.  I bought a lovely book about Chanel for my mother’s Christmas present at Benn’s last year – she loved it.

From Benn’s I bought a couple of things from their bargain shelves.  Most bookshops have these but Benn’s has classy titles like that one you can see that is called A Timeline of Western Literature and that lovely coffee table book about South Africa.  I actually bought it to add to my school’s library, but now I think I might keep it myself. Umberto Eco on Beauty is a gorgeous art book (which wasn’t from the bargain shelf but was not horribly expensive).  It’s going to educate me about perceptions of beauty from its earliest beginnings.

Best of all, however, was that when I fronted the till, I discovered that I had earned a discount through their loyalty program.  Every retailer you encounter these days has one of these, and I’ve been invited to join two more, just today!   But I nearly always decline because I can’t stand all those loyalty cards cluttering up my purse, and I get peeved by the way that joining gives them carte blanche to send me floods of advertising. Benn’s, bless their old-fashioned socks, doesn’t do it like that.  Theirs is a personalised service and they know their customers by first name.  They keep a record of purchases in their till, and I don’t have to do a thing.

So there you are.  I think this is a great initiative from the ABA and I hope that booksellers round the nation made heaps of money!

Did my readers visit a bookshop today?  If you did, tell us in the comments below which one is your favourite store.


  1. Well Lisa,

    I am a Victorian, living in NSW.. We came up here in 1967 and I have been homesick ever since. I am old now and in poor health so it is unlikely that I will be visiting Melbourne again. I was born in Glenhuntly, and lived all of my early years in Caulfield. Enough about me. What I want to say is how much I enjoyed reading about your little trip to Sandringham and Bentleigh to those book shops. I don’t know the shops you mention, but I know the areas. Thank you for all the writing you do on this ‘blog’ (I don’t like that word much). It gives me a lot of pleasure, as I have always been and still am, an avid reader.


    • Wow, Truganini, thank you for sharing this with me. I wonder what part of Caulfield you lived in? I spent the Australian part of my childhood in Melby Avenue near Hotham St, and as a young adult spent some time in Crotonhurst Avenue off Hawthorn Rd. So my shopping centres were in Balaclava Rd, Glen Eira Rd and Glenhuntly Rd, and I still visit them, though less often now that my parents are interstate and my dear old piano teacher has passed on. Caulfield is a lovely area with beautiful old houses and not too far from the beach or the CBD.
      Best wishes, Lisa


  2. I went to my local bookshop, Better Read Than Dead in Newtown (Sydney) and picked up a copy of “The Last Werewolf”, which I’d been eyeing off for a while. This seemed like a good excuse to me. :)

    The booksellers in the shop were all dressed up, they had Pippi Longstocking and Alice from the Wonderland books, plus Gandalf.

    They’d set up a little park with benches out on the street outside the shop, so I took advantage of the lovely Sydney weather and sat down and read the first chapter of my book.



    • What fun! I wonder if I can persuade my fave bookstores to do this too next year?


  3. Hi Lisa
    Unfortunately I was unable to visit my local bookshop in Bega for National Bookshop day due to work commitments but I did pop in to see them on Thursday. I have been wanting ‘The Strangers Child’ by Alan Hollinghurst so made my purchase and asked about what they were planning for the day. They were encouraging customers to dress up, and then invited to read favourite passages from their loved books and collecting donations for a nominated charity. They also had erected a large paper wall hanging where you could jot down anything you liked in regard to books, favourite titles and quotes. Sounded like such fun and so sorry I missed being able to participate .

    Maybe next year……..


    • I expect they’ll have photos in the local paper so that you can see the fun. I missed the TV news last night so I don’t know if it got any coverage, I hope so.


  4. nice to see your local shops lisa and what you brought ,all the best stu


    • You know me, Stu, any excuse to buy a book! BTW Was it you that reviewed The Life of an Unknown Man by Andrei Makine ( a Russian who writes in French)? I reserved it at the library and it’s just come in – I’ve only read a bit of it so far but it’s a fascinating book!


  5. Nice post Lisa and it’s a great initiative. I heard the other day there are 3000 bookstores in France. How many are there in Australia?

    PS: I read two Australian books lately (Company – Syrup both by Max Barry) but when I came here to link your review to mine I didn’t find him. Did I do something wrong in the research?


    • Hi Emma – sorry, I don’t know how many bookshops there might be in Australia – perhaps Bookseller & Publisher might know?

      No, you haven’t made a mistake with any research, I’ve never read Max Barry. I found this website, if that’s any help


      • Oh, Max Barry is a good bit of fun. I’m eyeing off his latest book in the shops at the moment, “Machine Man” I think it’s called. He writes satires, about modern society. “Jennifer Government” is his best, in my opinion; Emma, if you liked “Company” and “Syrup”, it’s definitely worth looking for.


        • Oh dear, oh dear, I just can’t keep up with all the great writers there are! It’s the one thing that keeps me super-confident about the future of Australian publishing: there are so many great writers wanting to write and so many readers wanting to read their books, however things sort themselves out in the great digital future that’s ahead, readers and writers will go on finding each other some how.


  6. The Grumpy Swimmer in Ormond Road, Elwood is one of my ‘locals’. The other is Sunflower Bookshop in Glenhuntly Road, Elsterwick.

    Zev and Margaret (and their delightful staff) at Sunflower have been my friends for years. Their stock of new publications is always up to date and my simple shopping expeditions for groceries always take much longer because I end up at the bookshop. As a librarian in the Jewish community I found their excellent stock and knowledge of contemporary Israeli literature a great help in purchasing new acquisitions. As supporters of local authors, they always have featured displays of books written by my late husband, Alan Collins – posters, flyers, window coverage. Sunflower will always find those ‘hard to get’ titles, particularly works by international authors, and bring them in for me. Best of all, I think, is their strong sense of ‘community’ – they are an integral part of Elsternwick.

    Clifford at The Grumpy Swimmer is educating me. Where else would you find a bookseller to lend you a book because it’s important? Of course I ended up buying the work in question – it was Jerusalem: a biography by Simon Sebag Montefiore. The shop is stocked floor to ceiling with the very best of titles that are no longer first releases as well as novels hot off the presses. Prices are usually well below rrp and compare most favourably with online. I appreciate an honest trader and Clifford ever so gently steers me clear of the latest fad in new books and instead introduces titles I ought to have read but somehow didn’t. Right now I’m reading Tony Judt’s monumental explanations of European history. But the most recent purchase was Where’s Wally? because my eight-year old grandson just needed to have it.


    • Ros, I’ve been to the Sunflower Bookshop quite a few times – but I’d never heard of The Grumpy Swimmer! I’ll be checking it out next time I’m in that area, I love the name:)


  7. Hi Lisa,

    Great blog!

    I spent the better part of Saturday visiting bookshops all ’round Melbourne, and what a treat it was. Chatting to Barry Jones, Toni Jordan and Kate Holden at Hill of Content and Paperback Books (they shared); eating macarons and chatting with staff and customers at The Avenue Bookstore; sitting on the comfy couch at Brunswick Bound; Calling past Readings in Carlton and SLV… great seeing them both full of customers; then calling into my local in Fairfield (eponymously – Fairfield Bookshop) where Jen Storer was talking to customers and my son was busking for the Indigenous Literacy Foundation. Where else but bookshops could you do all this?

    PIty I couldn’t get to Brissie, and get behind a counter with James Moloney at Riverbend; or get kitted in my best hipster gear at Avid Reader. Then again Sydney had authors everywhere! There were people dressing as their favourite characters, or hanging out in a shop-generated park in Newtown (Better Read Than Dead); book busking in Mosman (Pages & Pages); face painting in Beecroft (Children’s Bookshop)…

    Bookshops are great places to spend a sunny (or rainy) afternoon! All over the country, from the biggest cities to smallest country towns.

    (For the sake of full disclosure, I am chief executive of the Australian Booksellers Association. We were the organisers of the day.) But really it was a grass roots movement by booksellers who thought it was time to celebrate our role in the community. What fun it was!


    • Hello Joel and congratulations to you on a great day – you must be feeling very pleased with the success of this initiative, and proud of all the booksellers, publishers and authors that supported it.
      Next year will be even bigger and better, I am sure:)


  8. I didn’t I’m afraid … I did visit hospital though. I do have some favourite independent stores here including the one at the NLA and Paperchain in Manuka. This latter has the sort of sale tables your shop has Lisa and I love to browse them.

    This is a wonderful initiative.


    • Things have been a bit hectic in your life, I know…I do hope everyone is on the mend and that you are getting a bit of a rest every now and again.
      There’s also the Co-op Bookshop in Canberra, isn’t there? I joined the co-op when I was at the Summer School a couple of years back and have bought quite a bit of music scores from them.


      • Thanks Lisa … yes everyone is slowly on the mend but it will be a while yet before it all settles down.

        Yes, you are right about the Co-op. I used to go to it a lot when I worked because the Archive was on the edge of the ANU campus, and I’ve been a member since my undergraduate days in Sydney. My membership number is one of those ones I know by heart. I got a shock when I presented my Co-op card at La Trobe a couple of years ago – I thought it was a national organisation but clearly it isn’t. I still go to it occasionally … love to explore its shelves.


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