“The trouble with books is that they marry and have children.”

The books I am asked for every day represent the kind of reading that people are looking for right now in their life. The books don’t fit any category that I can see, except the category of The Reading That Is Needed Right Now.  

The readers who have requested books recently are aged between 7 and 82. They are locals, visitors, and travellers. Some are students, and most are young readers. A few are requesting books for others but most are collecting for themselves. Most older readers say, ‘I don’t really need any more books, but I’m getting them anyway.’ Young readers say, ‘I need more, but I’m only getting these today.’ The requests never end.

Book requests include:

Asterix in Switzerland

The Pioneers of the North-West of South Australia by Norman Richardson

Light Perpetual by Francis Spufford

Anything by Christopher Fowler

William Blake

Winnie the Pooh

All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot

The Odyssey

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

Hearts in Atlantis by Stephen King

Anything by Daniel Silva

All the Lucinda Riley Seven Sister books

The Hunger Games trilogy

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas

Carpentaria by Alexis Wright

The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane

Any books about Paris

Cat and Mouse by Gunter Grass

Book 3 of the Skulduggery series

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Middlemarch by George Eliot

Any Wings of Fire books

Anything by Henry James

Dune by Frank Herbert

Possum Magic by Mem Fox

Absolutely anything by Pittacus Lore

Any atlas of the world – as modern as possible

Anything about Vikings

A History of Western Philosophy by Bertrand Russell

The trouble with books is that they marry and have children.

Angela Thirkell (1890-1961)

Dutch

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A group of people came in off the train. There were about fourteen of them, all friends and all speaking English and what I thought was German, but turned out to be Dutch.

They loved the books. They moved from room to room. They knelt to read the children’s books to each other, in Dutch and in English, a working counterpoint that swam in bright notes all over the shop.

The husbands were shouted at. They were too slow. One man wanted a certain picture book with a kangaroo on the front. They stood in a circle around the book, tapping the pictures, talking about the kangaroos and the fairy penguins. Then he couldn’t find his wallet, or his phone. He was shouted at again. The words were beautiful, effective, unfamiliar. The wives waved bags in the air and made shushing sounds. They made sounds of impatience. They made sounds of derision. Fluent cascades of words and argument clattered about everywhere, Patricia Cornwell, Agatha Christie, Asterix, were all examined. A John Grisham book was thumped back into the shelf.

No, no, no, no! A husband offered a possibility. But, no!

Two husbands went outside and stood with their shoulders raised against the shop. A wife tapped the glass, and they swayed but did not turn around. They looked across the road.

There were so many conversations. So many books. So many opinions. Somebody brought some books to the counter and said, ‘We’re from Holland!’

Then it was time to go. The husbands were shouted at, ‘The train, the train.’

When the last person had gone, it was too quiet.

Painting by Kenne Gregoire

Yes, But Kids Just Don’t Read Anymore…

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It is the school holidays. Teachers are hilarious and free and collecting Colin Thiele for Next Term. The bakery is busy.

A young family visited with three teenage children who scattered immediately to different areas of the shop. The boy brought back Specky Magee, the youngest girl brought back three volumes of  the Eragon series and the oldest child brought back Lonely Planet Africa, Wolf Hall and Heidi. They were told they could have one book each. They obviously expected this and launched an onslaught… unfair…..not right….can’t believe it….omg……

The parents remained unmoved. The imploring continued.

The parents offered the bakery as reward for a quick exit.

The children remained unmoved. The boy now held a copy of Asterix and the Banquet.

The oldest girl turned her back on her family and asked me if I had any of the Mammoth Hunter books or Here Be Dragons  by Sharon Penman, which is, she said about medieval Wales and Prince Llewellyn.

The youngest girl was holding the Eragons with desperate eyes. But I could not collude as the parents were standing hard by. The children moved aside to whisper furiously over their dilemma. I wondered if they would sacrifice some of the books back to the shelves but they didn’t.

The oldest girl added the sequel to Wolf Hall to her pile. The younger girl added two Enid Blytons and the boy held onto the Asterix. I avoided eye contact with all parties.

There was a long discussion about lack of space at home.

The mother was sure that they already had a copy of Brisingr.

The boy added two Skulduggery books to his pile and then brought out his pocket money in an envelope. And broadsided his parents with the offer to buy the whole lot.

This won the day; the parents paid approvingly for everything on a credit card.

When they left, triumphant and laden, the father turned back and winked at me. He said there’s nothing like kids arguing well for what they want and wanting genuinely what they argue for. Then they went to the bakery.