Over forty years ago I read a wonderful book Shakespeare and Company by Sylvia Beach.
She wrote about her intimate acquaintances with local, expatriate and visiting writers who were captivated by her bookstore Shakespeare and Company that was established in 1919 on the left bank in Paris France.
She revealed glimpses of James Joyce, Ernest Hemingway, Scott Fitzgerald, Sherewood Anderson, Andre Gide, Ezra pound, Gertrude Stein, Alice B Toklas, D. H. Lawrence and other famous writers and artists in her book. It left a lasting impression on me and stirred my love of books and bookstores.
I was fascinated by the warmth, the stimulating ideas and dialogue shared at this bookstore, and its books. Sadly Sylvia Beach was forced to close her beloved bookstore during the Second World War.
In 1951 American George Whitman opened Le Mistral a book shop on the left bank of the Seine specialising in English-language literature.
“I created this bookstore like a man would write a novel, building each room like a chapter, and I like people to open the door the way they open a book, a book that leads into a magic world in their imagination.”
In 1964 George Whitman renamed the bookstore Shakespeare and Company as a tribute to Sylvia Beach whose original bookstore was the inspiration behind his current one.
Today many local and independent bookshops have sadly gone. This has left a vacuum especially in some small country towns.
The rise of technology has changed the world in many ways and communication is often done with the tap of fingers and little personal interaction.
However I am fortunate to still have my local bookstore the Constant Reader Bookshop to browse, discover, make connections, honour and celebrate ‘the book.’
Lisa Genova author of the million copy bestseller Still Alice expressed my sentiments about books in her more recent novel Love Anthony.
“It reminds her of how she used to love the feel of one of her new books hot off the press, the culmination of years of writing by the author and months of editing by her, its smooth shiny new cover, maybe with embossed lettering, and the satisfying weight of it in her hands. She still loves the feel of a new book. While she appreciates the convenience of those thin, slick e-readers, they don’t give her the three-dimensional sensory experience that comes with a real book.”
The Constant Reader Bookshop is located in Crows Nest on the Lower North Shore of Sydney, which boasts a restaurant hub with a very vibrant cafe scene.
The village-style community centre Bookshop was first opened in 1979 and is one of the oldest independent bookshops in the city of Sydney.
Its deceiving size allows it to provide a large collection of excellent stock. It is known for its wide range of curated titles. Discerning readers will find there is a book for everyone no matter what age or interest.
The window display changes to accommodate new titles and is always designed to excite the reader with the strong focus on the books.
The Staff is warm, enthusiastic and knowledgeable. Service is rare in the retail world and it’s cherished when experienced.
Going on holidays is the perfect foil for having time to read. After much indecision about choice I approached a staff member at the Constant Reader Bookshop.
She gave me a marvellous title suggestion, When God was a Rabbit by a new writer Sarah Winman. She expertly matched customer to book and this skill is priceless.
Inside there are clearly defined sections and quirky books on the counter. An unusual array of wrapping paper and cards are also available.
Ultimately it provides for astute one stop shopping.
The Constant Reader Bookshop in conjunction with Stanton Library organise a free Writers at Stanton Program.
This offers the public the opportunity to hear talks and experience first hand book readings and discussions by critically acclaimed national and international writers.
It was at one of these presentations several years ago that I had the good fortune to hear Ann Patchett discuss her celebrated novel ‘State of Wonder.’
In 2010 when Ann Patchett found that her hometown of Nashville in the USA no longer had a suitable bookstore, she bravely embarked on co-founding Parnassus Books with Karen Hayes. The bookshop opened in 2011.
Ann Patchett writes in the Bookstore Strikes Back from her compelling book length collection of non-fiction This is the Story of a Happy Marriage.
‘If what a bookstore offers matters to you, then shop at a bookstore. If you feel that the experience of reading a book is valuable, then read a book. This is how we change the world: We grab hold of it. We change ourselves.’
Recently highly respected journalist Kerry O’Brien as part of the Writers at Stanton discussed his new book ‘Keating.’
Media personality Amanda Keller was in conversation with her radio partner Brendan Jones chatting about her Biography Natural Born Keller.
This Program continues to offer an eclectic range of authors speaking frankly and insightfully about their books. Writers at Stanton is highly valued by both the local and wider community.
The exchange of ideas, the intrinsic rewards of thinking and the opportunity for questions within the sessions is doubly inviting as this service is free to everyone. It is truly egalitarian.
The chance to purchase an individually signed book is also very appealing.
The extensive range of books at the Constant Reader Bookshop offers the perfect setting for purchasing Christmas gifts that will delight, motivate, inspire, enhance and challenge the recipients.
The joys of reading blurbs, perusing beautiful illustrations and photographs, finding forgotten gems, sifting through the latest recipes, treasuring the wonder of children’s literature and much more awaits at the Constant Reader Bookshop.
Rose Niland, Special Features NSW, The Culture Concept Circle, 2015