“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)

Playing With Fire


A father and son stood by the door and had a lengthy argument about Gerald’s Game by Stephen King. I did not have a copy of this book and so could not assist them in clarifying their positions. But the discussion became heated enough for them to each accuse the other of not having read it.  A lady came in and thanked me for helping her buy a calendar last week from the post office. Then she passed back outside and the Stephen King dispute, which had courteously paused while she spoke, continued on.

But for most of this cold day there is nobody here except for Pepys and me

Until a couple came in from Tasmania and commented that our weather is quite fine and that the thing with reading is that you can do it whatever the weather anyway.

A lady bought a book, light romance, nothing too taxing, for her sister and presented it to her at the counter. The sister said that she was a scallywag. They admired Samuel Pepys which still sits superbly on the front counter and said that he obviously did not have enough to do with time to write a huge book like that. I said that this is only some of his diary and that actually he was always busy.

And this is true. On October 20th, 1663 having risen at noon, he found his coachmen having a fight in the street with strange fellow and he, Samuel Pepys,  had to cuff the drunk fellow several times on the chops and then left him on the street, very satisfying.

Then, later, a long intense debate between two young brothers amongst the adventure series in the front room. The trouble was that there was only one Zac Powers left and they both wanted it. The older brother presented a compelling argument to the younger brother that he might prefer Beast Quest more….the younger brother was doubtful and so was offered Star Trek, Boy and Beast and Star Wars. But he was disinterested and kept his thumb on the Zac Powers, pinning it to the table. The older brother considered the shelves a little desperately and finally, triumphantly, offered Skulduggery: Playing with Fire and then they could both come to the counter, winners. I asked chattily if they could see the fallen pepper tree across the road and they said politely ‘yes,’ but neither of them could look up from their books.

People dropped in to tell me that it was freezing and that the pepper tree over the road had fallen over. I said that I had a photo of it on my computer and they are shocked that I already have a photo of it as I wasn’t even here yesterday.

I was asked for books of elegant photography, Babar, Go Set a Watchman and if I had seen the overturned pepper tree. John read to me the first page of The Memoirs of Richard Nixon and said it was a worry. He came in while he waited for the bus and said that the buses don’t have heating on them and everything, including his troubles fell to ten below every time he had to ride in one. He held the door open while he told me this so that the temperature in the shop plummeted to match that of the bus.

Dot told me about Gorilla, Gorilla, her once favourite book that was set in the Congo and that she stole from her brothers because they would not let her read their Biggles collection. She said she just devoured books and had done all her life but that her brothers were still fools.

The rest of the day was quiet. I can tidy up the histories which fall down and the Roald Dahls which are scattered and the Robert Jordans which are out of order and the Zac Powers which are gone. I thought about the lady who used to read Gorilla Gorilla and how she had looked so sad when she talked about her brothers that were fools. She had also said that her father had though a daughter to be a waste of time.

I can read more of What Fresh Hell is This? (Dorothy Parker) which is brilliant and look out at the cold quiet people in the street and I think that the ones carrying books look the happiest.