Explore the 2024 Program

Shop Talk: Writers on Bookstores

If you’re reading this, we take it that you’re missing browsing your local bookstores as much as we are right now. While purchasing online is not quite the same, remember that booksellers are still just a phone call or email away, and ready to recommend the perfect book or book stack for you or a loved one during this time. They’re likely missing you just as much as you’re missing them! For the last 15 years, our long-time Festival bookseller, Gleebooks, has transformed our Festival hub into a haven for Sydney Writers’ Festival’s book-lovers. We’re so grateful to work with the expert and dedicated team at Gleebooks, and we thank them for the hours of preparation and research they conduct to ensure the store is stocked to the nines for you. If you’re in need of a Festival read, we encourage you to get in touch with the brilliant team at Gleebooks.

This week we asked some of our would-be 2020 Sydney Writers’ Festival guests to share the most recent purchase they made at a favourite independent Australian bookstore of theirs. Over the coming weeks we’ll share our guests' selections with you, and together, we’ll all look forward to the day we can once again lose hours inside the doors of our favourite stores.

Gleebooks (Glebe, NSW)

I'll always have a fondness of Gleebooks in Glebe, Sydney. I remember first going there over ten years ago as a young comedian to buy a copy of I'm Dying Up Here, a non-fiction account of the stand-up comedy scene in 1980s Los Angeles. We have a one-year-old daughter now, so most of my recent purchases have been for her, but the last time I went in there, I got chatting with the owner David, about what the area used to look like, and I ended up leaving with a Pictorial History of Glebe to Balmain. I love it! Stores like Gleebooks are what independent bookstores are all about: For locals, BY locals.

– Matt Okine

Paperchain Bookstore (Manuka, ACT)

My local independent bookstore is Paperchain at Manuka, in the inner-south of Canberra. This a great browsing bookstore, with some beautiful art and design books, and a wonderful children’s section. When our kids were younger, they loved exploring in Paperchain, always delighted with what they found. Over the years, Paperchain has hosted many an event for myself and fellow authors – such gatherings are so important to the city’s cultural life and so vital for emerging authors. The last book I bought there was Charlotte Wood’s The Weekend. I get inundated with crime fiction books (I’m not complaining!), but it was a real pleasure to read such a complete novel, from the writing to the narrative arc, with humanity shining through.

– Chris Hammer

Avid Reader Bookshop (West End, Queensland)

I work at Avid Reader Bookshop and it is my spiritual homeland. Avid feels like a hub where all the Queensland writers gather sooner or later – like a kind of writers club where the bookshop brings the writers together but also where we get to meet readers. When we could meet in groups there was always a group of writers using the space to pen their next masterwork or to sit out on the back deck with a coffee. Even with the lockdown Avid has been meeting with local writers on writerly zoom dates and bringing them together with readers in online events, silent reading parties and workshops.

The last book I bought at the shop was Mirandi Riwoe's Stone Sky, Gold Mountain, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I had read a proof copy of the book and loved it, but when I saw how beautiful the real thing was I had to own it. It is wonderful to see the Australian gold rush re-imagined with people who are left out of the usual narrative. The Chinese community were a big part of Australia's history and this book works to focus our attention on their struggles and their contribution to our history. I love Mirandi's attention to detail. She fills her books with colour and texture, smells and sounds. It really transported me. I really hope that this book gets picked up to be taught in secondary schools as it would be eye-opening for students to realise that multicultural Australia is not a thing invented in the last 50 years.

– Krissy Kneen