Beachside Bookshop

Shore up your spirits with some bookshop banter. In this special series, Sydney Writers' Festival speaks with bookshops across Australia about the special place they hold in our bookworm hearts. From recommendations on your next great read to advice on getting through lockdown, hear from the people many of us trust the most. This edition, we speak to bookseller Libby Armstrong, owner of Beachside Bookshop at Avalon Beach. 

What do you love most about your bookshop? 

Our new premises (we expanded into a larger shop a year ago) at the gateway to Avalon has a wall of windows through which we can see the beach and our customers can see all our books, a bonus during lockdown.

What is your favourite moment or memory in a bookshop? 

When my husband proposed to me in the children’s section at Moscraft Bookshop, where I was working, using one of those early sound books that had a diamond ring sound. I kid you not!

What book has made the greatest impact on you?  

A bit random, but as a teen, Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle. It’s probably the fact that his novel about the exploitation of immigrant workers and disgusting conditions in a meat-works factory outraged readers and led to a change in laws in the US. 

You can’t measure the value of your time in dollar terms, only ‘feels’.

What is the best book you’ve read recently?

When Things Are Alive They Hum (Hannah Bent, Ultimo Press $32.99) for its evocative place-setting and the joyful way little sister Harper steps off the page. And Scary Monsters (Michelle de Kretser, Allen & Unwin $32.99). One word: WOW! 

What is the most surprising thing about your job?

You can’t measure the value of your time in dollar terms, only ‘feels’. 

What children’s or YA book do you think adults should read? 

The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone (Jaclyn Moriarty, Allen & Unwin $22.99). It’s like a never-ending packet of Tim Tams. Every adult who has read it on my advice feels similarly uplifted, thanks to Jaclyn’s charming prose.

Advice on getting through lockdown? 

Remembering it’s only temporary. Our Christmas lockdown knocked me around a bit to the point I didn’t want to celebrate our five-year birthday in late January (a big thank you to Danica Beaudoin who did a surprise sneaky social media post). But then all the new releases started arriving (and thank you publishers for keeping the schedules this year) and we just got back into our groove.