“I was within and without, simultaneously enchanted and repelled by the inexhaustible variety of life.”



Young readers are not troubled by where a book is placed on a shelf, nor by the section of the shop where they might find it. But if they find a book I say I haven’t got they think this is hilarious.

Many adult readers are very agitated if they find a title in the Wrong Section. Many will move them for me. One lady advised me strongly to move the Rolf Harris books right out.

I am asked how I choose the books. This is easy: they must be good books.

Or Christian books? I was asked.

I say again: good books.

Some books such as Peter Ackroyd’s massive biography of Charles Dickens must be a 1200 page satisfier because people lug it out beaming with happiness, impressed with its weight and fortified against the winter. But Schapelle Corby’s book is handled with doubt…They say knowingly…I don’t really know about this… and then they buy it anyway.

I have shelved Margaret Atwood and Alice Munro and Mazo De La Roche in the front room; the Canadians enjoying the sun together. I have put Judi Dench nearby, these four would get on.

Miley Cyrus (her autobiography), I am dubious. The other books all lean away from it, amused.

The Count of Monte Cristo stands aloft in blue and gold. Robert always admires it. He says it is the triumph of art over imprisonment.

The history shelves are always in shambles. The sports shelf remains untouched. The fantasy novels shimmer impressively under a string of lights. The classics are old and worn and in constant demand. The biographies are quarrelsome and constantly changing positions. Lance Armstrong has been jostled to the back. Oprah by Kitty Kelly always seems to have a whole shelf.

The children’s books are pulled out and sampled and moved and reshelved and retrieved and relocated in a triumphant cycle of search and selection.

The Dr Zeus books are never there.

Stravinsky’s Lunch sits on the counter so I can look at it.

The art books are forlorn, still unchosen, wishing that the erotic art books didn’t always go first.

Jerome K Jerome’s Three Men in a Boat is an odd shape and always falls from the shelf and once was trodden on. I thought: serve you right! And no matter where I hide To Kill a Mocking Bird it is always found and rushed to the counter.

Gary says my science fiction is quite good and is glad I stock the old stuff. He instructed me to separate the fantasy from the science fiction because to shelve them together is Wrong.

I was asked if I realised that Donald Trump had written books. I said that if they are good books they could be here. Therefore none of his would be here.

I was told that Bruce Chatwin’s The Songlines should NOT be in the Australian section.

Shelbe wrote me a list of all the books her dad has brought from my shop. I asked her if he has enjoying them and she said he has not read any of them and that at night time he just watches TV and drinks beer.

I display Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak and it sells within one minute.

I display Wind in the Willows in many confusing places so it does not sell and I can keep it.

Max says his collection of Australian memoirs and histories is now equal to mine.

The shop won’t stay tidy.


“I was within and without, simultaneously enchanted and repelled by the inexhaustible variety of life.”  F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

2 thoughts on ““I was within and without, simultaneously enchanted and repelled by the inexhaustible variety of life.”

  1. Love this post. How wonderful to have your own bookshop! I volunteer in an Oxfam Bookshop, and customers constantly ask if our books are in order – they are meant to be, and we even have, labels on the shelves, but people don’t look a them. I quite like the idea of introducing a more random element to the way we display our stock, but I’m not sure the manager or area manager would agree! Thanks for visiting my blog by the way.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Chris! We have an Oxfam bookshop in Adelaide (second hand books) and I love it. I get a lot of books for my shop there and also far too many for myself. Your blog is fantastic – I am a passionate collector of Viragos and Crossriggs is my absolute favourite! Thank you so much for your comments.


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