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 Hannah Lynch, owner of Bouquiniste in Kiama.
What do you love most about Bouquiniste?
Bouquiniste has become a combination of all our favourite things. We are a bookstore-cafe-winebar, so we are pretty spoilt – we get to work with an endless supply of caffeine, talk about books all day and on some Fridays we stay open late for after-work drinks serving local, boutique wine with the occasional live music performance. We also have the most supportive community who we are just so appreciative of! I love waking up every day excited to go to work and so spoilt that I get to call it work!
What purpose do you feel a bookshop serves in the community?
We are very lucky to live in an area with a passionate reading community, and while we have only been open for four years, I think our purpose for our community has been about making reading accessible to everyone, not just the avid readers.
Being a very small bookstore and cafe, it makes the store a little more approachable for those who might be intimidated by an overwhelmingly big bookstore. It also means that we know 90% of our customers by name, we know their coffee order and what they like to read, so we are able to give personalised recommendations to both avid readers and occasional or hesitant readers, and especially younger readers.
We host a lot of events and we make a huge effort to include and attract younger readers. We also encourage a celebration of reading through events, and our community is so supportive of every event we host. Our last physical event was for my partner Clay’s book launch, which booked out with 300 attendees within a week. So I think our purpose is to recognise this eagerness from our community and to support it with events and by recommending books that take people outside of their comfort zone and surprise them.
“I think that’s something that the book industry is really great at; we recognise that it’s not about competing but supporting and encouraging reading because that’s good for all of us, as readers and bookstores.”
What children’s book do you think adults should read?
Although I’m a little biased, I can confidently say adults need to read 100 Remarkable Feats of Xander Maze by Clayton Zane Comber (yes, this is my partner’s book). Xander Maze is an uplifting book that is absolutely full of heart. Although it is technically a YA novel, so many of our adult readers have loved it. Between Xander’s quirks and his unwavering love for his grandmother, the book has so many elements that appeal, but it is the universal messages of the importance of kindness and the power of wishful thinking that captivate the reader. I think Xander sparks a reminder to everyone that you never know what someone else is going through and the importance of always being kind. And I think that is the most important message right now.
Any advice on getting through lockdown?
Lockdown has been incredibly difficult for so many people, but I think the most important thing to remember is that everyone is struggling and we are all in this together, so let’s be supportive of each other. I think that’s something that the book industry is really great at; we recognise that it’s not about competing but supporting and encouraging reading because that’s good for all of us, as readers and bookstores.