The Guest Post Series on “My Favourite Things” has contributions by those sharing my interests in travel, books, photography, music, and on issues that I am passionate about. Though the guest posts are not always by fellow bloggers, the guest authors are always those who have interesting experiences to share.
Today’s guest author is Deepa of Deepa’s Kaleidoscope. An engineer by training, but a writer at heart, Deepa writes fiction and on social issues with equal parts passion and reflection, which results in a unique perspective on a particular topic. Currently based in Melbourne, this guest post is a result of her exploration into the bewitching world of the many bookstores in the city. An exploration that has just begun and one, I suspect, is a never-ending one.
The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, so they say. This morning, I found a sweet little image that said, ‘The way to a woman’s heart is through a bookstore’. And if you’re here reading this blog post in the middle of your workday, night or while on the road, regardless of whether you’re a man or a woman, the saying probably applies to you too!
Melbourne, where I am currently based, is well-known for its Arts Precinct, a part of which also includes the Literary Arts. And when we think of literary festivals and fundraisers, how can books be far behind? Walking through the streets of Melbourne, you would be pleasantly surprised at how you encounter a bookstore every 2–3 blocks. Some of them are the typical run-of-the-mill kinds boasting of sales and specials, some are steeped in history and every one of them has a story behind it!
There are departmental store chains that have book sections and then there are independent book stores. While the former are, by and large, the same from city to city, it’s the latter type of bookstores in Melbourne that interest me. It is fascinating how each little bookstore is set unique by its little trinkets, handmade labels, doodles on the wall, crafts displayed, the staff’s personal touches, and the overall ambience within the store. It is probably also what makes the bookstore owners extremely possessive about their territory. Photography is heavily frowned upon unless you have the owner’s permission.
I didn’t realise it back then but when I think about it now, these little personalisations in bookstores seem geared towards reminding you of your childhood. Storytelling events at The Little Bookroom make it magical for kids, complete with actions and craft time. As an adult, even I felt entranced by the narration. A beautiful way to introduce children to reading, don’t you think?
Some stores like the Dymocks, a huge independent bookstore, also houses a café and a restaurant within the bookstore and allow you indulge in a hot cup of coffee, while you stroll around. Like departmental stores, it has escalators within the three-storeyed structure, but everywhere you look there are books and more books ! Check out the elaborate chai latte they serve, complete with honey, cardamom and cinnamon spiced tea and the filter! It was sheer bliss. Imagine stretching out on a cozy armchair with a novel in your hand and the chai! Starbucks doesn’t even come close!
If you’re a fan of crime fiction and love the blood, gore, courtrooms and the thrill of a psychological chase, and if you’re in Melbourne, then leaving the city without a visit to Kill City would be a crime in itself.
Largely famous for its huge collection of crime fiction, it’s a haven for aspiring authors and crime/law case researchers. Most libraries have sections of fiction, thrillers, travel and such. Kill City, which also sells second-hand books, goes a step further. Check out the categorization in the picture below (The owner didn’t let me take a picture, so I had to do with one from the net)
The owner told me how, sometimes, he has found boarding passes, letters, business cards within books and simply left them there for the next person to find! He likes to say that it is his way of connecting people!
And then there’s Kay Craddock. They call themselves an antique bookstore. However, judging by their book collection, they’re anything but. The interiors can give you the jeepers though. Dozens of owls stare at you from every nook and cranny. Their favourite genre is Sci-Fi and fantasy. The owls that remind me of Harry Potter, instantly fit!
And then there are stores designed to attract a specific target audience. Like the Hares and Hyenas, which I hear are geared towards the gay and lesbian population. Incidentally, they also host events and boast of the biggest collection of IVF and fertility related books. Someone also told about a bookstore called Syber’s Books, but the owner supposedly has cats (with an ‘s’) running around freely in the store, and apparently they can get crazy! So for now, I steer clear.
Back in Minneapolis and even now in Melbourne, all the libraries — huge ones with endless shelves of books, magazines and audio/video material are all accessible to the community for free! You heard me right! I have even rented 30 items at a time, thanks to government budgets for the literary arts. That’s one thing I love about these cities. But what astonishes me is that many of these bookstores also thrive simply on donations and charity projects. It is the owner’s passion for books and his dream of having more people read them that keeps these alive. There are more on my list that I need to check out (There’s one called Curtin House, a theater that’s been converted to a bookstore but holds shows too!), but so far its been a fun exploration!
Are there bookstores that have fascinated you too?