Sunday, July 28, 2013

Melbourne Rare Books Week and great service

I went to a fantastic event on Wednesday night for Melbourne Rare Book Week, at Reader's Feast and had a really wonderful time. It was Never Do That To A Book, readings from Anne Fadiman's book Ex Libris.

I arrived early, intending to have a browse and only realised when I got there that the shop might have intended to shut and then re-open. Thank heavens they didn't! It gave me some time to have a lovely browse. The staff at Reader's Feast are always so great, and checked in with me to see if I was there for the event and then left me to it.

The event itself was wonderful, and was introduced by Mary Dalmau, an inspiration to booksellers everywhere. Mary has been involved in Rare Books Week from the beginning, and introduced Zoe Bertram and Roz Hammond, actors who read three essays each from Ex Libris. I have the book, and have read it a number of times, and thought that both women did a great job in bringing the essays to life.

After the readings, Mary spoke again and asked the audience to think about their favourite books, while she asked Zoe and Roz about theirs. That created a lovely atmosphere, and a few people shared their thoughts.

It was a really lovely night, and I look forward to many more events at Reader's Feast. Melbourne Rare Book Week was certainly lots of fun for me, even though I only attended a couple of events - I hope you were able to attend some too! I recommend registering for the mailing list on their website, which you can do here.

As well as being on this mailing list, I am also on many, many others, including international book newsletters. One of those newsletters is from Publishers Weekly, which includes a blog called ShelfTalker, written by children's booksellers. This entry caught my eye, and actually really touched me.

There are a few things happening in the post, but the story of a how a bookseller tried to cheer up a grumpy young girl on holiday with her family really touched me. For many years when I was younger, I was this grumpy teenager, not content to be grumpy myself, but actively trying to bring down others around me. It's not a time in my life that I'm proud of, and I work hard every day to be a completely different person. This bookseller really went above and beyond for this customer - she wasn't just out for a sale, she was really trying to cheer up someone who needed it.

That idea of service is something I really try to exemplify myself, and I just love to see it in others. As well as being an admirable quality, it makes me want to shop at stores staffed by people like this, and tell everyone about them, and come back to shop again and again. If I get the chance, I'd love to drop by the store staffed by this blogger.

Happy reading!

Monday, July 22, 2013

All the things

Phew, I've been all over the place the last couple of weeks - sorry, no time to write! I hope you've been reading something good!

As I've been all over the place, this is going to be a post with a whole lot of things included.
Firstly, last Thursday I went to the opening of Rare Books Week, Beautiful Books at the Wheeler Centre. It was such a great night, hosted by Steve Grimwade, the former Head of the Melbourne Writers Festival. I volunteered for the festival when Steve worked there, but of course he wouldn't remember me - that was years ago, and there were hundreds of us! But it was still nice to feel a connection to someone on stage. The talk was really wonderful, lots of pictures of beautiful books, both historical and more modern. The cover is what gets most of us to pick up a book in the first place, but it's interesting to think about the inside as well - what font is used, how much white space is there, are there illustrations or decorations at the start of each chapter? How much does the beauty of a book influence your willingness to buy it, or how much you love it?

I've been reading the Game of Thrones series on a e-reader recently, and although I love the books, the e-books are some of the ugliest things I've ever seen. No care has been taken with them, they are really just electronic versions of the paper book - blank pages and all. Blech, not attractive. I think it's the lack of care that gets to me. But it's much easier than lugging those 1,000 page behemoths around!
I've had to re-think going to the Bendigo Writer's Festival - I couldn't get the leave I wanted, and I've accidentally booked myself into some events here in Melbourne. I think I'll still try to see my friend Megan's panel on Sunday, but it will just be a day trip.
I came across this article over the past 3 weeks, and was not surprised to hear that Jamie Oliver has never read a book - he's dyslexic, and he pointed out he gets bored quite easily. That's cool - get into audio books, Jamie!

But what if a friend of yours came to you and said that they had never read a book, or hadn't read since high school (over 10 years ago for me), and they would like you to recommend what they should read first. What responsibility! Your choice could either turn them off reading forever, or help them fall in love with reading, a love that will last the rest of their life. What books would you recommend?

For me, it would depend on the person. This was something I loved when I worked in bookstores, talking to someone, asking what they liked - not books, just tell me what you like. If they had just read something they loved, or hated, sure, that helps to narrow down the possibilities to suggest, but it's not really necessary to talk about books to find the perfect book for someone.
Speaking of bookshops, the Australian Booksellers Association is running a poll for people to vote for their favourite bookstore. You can win book vouchers worth $500, and you can vote here. I voted already! And I'm planning what I'll buy with my $500, so I hope I win!
One of the genres I wanted to get into this year was comics and graphic novels. I'm stalled on the graphic novel area, but I'm powering ahead with comics! One of my very lovely friends works at Classic Comics, at the top end of Bourke Street, so I dropped in one Sunday afternoon and had a delightful time getting a personalised recommendation. I was so excited to see that The Phantom is still in production, as I have fond memories of reading this series as a kid - I used to spend $1.50 of my $2 pocket money on a Phantom comic every week, and still get a giant bag of lollies to read. I laughed to see that the price had hardly gone up at all - a regular issue is still just $3.50!

I also bought a Captain America comic, The Winter Soldier, which I was excited to read. I loved the movie that came out in 2011, and decided then that I wanted to read the comics, and I'm finally getting round to it.

My friend recommended Green Lantern too - I haven't seen the movie, and the comic was so interesting. A really fascinating story, which led to a lot of talk the next time I visited - yes, I am now one of 'those' people, who argues in comic book stores about whether Green Lantern or Batman is better! Green Lantern all the way!

I'm hardly a regular yet, but I am loving seeing more of my friend, and talking about comics. They are really such a fascinating area of literature, and I'm really in awe of some of the fans I've met at the store, and the staff, who can reel off Green Lantern's oath, and all the names of Batman's sidekicks, and tell you the Kryptonian names of Superman's parents, and so on. The depth of knowledge and passion some people have around comics is just fantastic!
Finally, I'm going to another Rare Book Week event on Wednesday night (24 July), Never Do That To A Book. I think tickets might still be available, but you will definitely have to book. Get onto it! Love to see you there.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Rare book week - Melbourne

I almost missed Rare Book Week! It's on in Melbourne from Thursday 18 July and runs until Sunday 28 July (a little longer than a week, but it's wonderful, so we'll forgive the extra few days). You can find all the information online here, but below are my picks of the events I'd like to attend, and the events I'd encourage YOU to attend, if you can.

In a long session on Saturday 20 July, you can bring along family treasures, which might turn out to be real treasures, to the Rare Book Discovery Day at the Melbourne Museum. Even if you don't think your book might be a national treasure along the lines of Phar Lap, you can still take your treasures along to get advice on how to care for them and store them properly, to prolong their life. This session runs from 11am to 2pm.

On Sunday 21 July, there's a session called People's Passion For Words, featuring Professor Kate Burridge. Professor Burridge is going to "examine the passion we all have when using words to express our selves." Of course, with my love of books and my willingness to listen to passionate people, I'm interested in this session.

Monday 22 July has two sessions I would dearly love to attend, but I just won't be able to get the time off work to attend the one during the day. That session is Treasures of the MCC Library, running from 12:30pm to 1:15pm - so short! I did a placement at the MCC Library at the Melbourne Cricket Ground - did you know there was a library there? It's the most amazing library in Melbourne, in my opinion, and if you have the chance to visit it and see some of the jewels of their collection, you definitely should! There's another session on Tuesday, so do try. I will have to do a post on my time at the MCC Library later on...

The other session on Monday I would like to attend is They Are Still Strange People, These Book Collectors, which is on during the evening and I'm going to try and get to. The session is about novels written about people committing crimes.

I really love Federation Square, and this next session looks like so much fun - Retro Storytime! They will be reading some classic story books, which is something I really miss - hearing books read out loud. It is a real art, and I fondly remember my own childhood bedtimes, having a story read and pleading for 'just one, more!'

An event being held in one of my favourite bookstores, Reader's Feast, is Never Do That To A Book. This is readings from Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader, by Anne Fadiman. I've just pulled my own copy of this book off the shelf! Reader's Feast is such a gorgeous store, with those high vaulted ceilings, and row upon row of shelves filled with old favourites and new favourites, just waiting for you to discover them. I'll definitely be going to this! It's on Wednesday 24 July.

The last session I want to attend is like The Book Thief in real life - it's called The Book Theft Century, and is about exactly that: people stealing books, and committing crimes against books. It talks about the crimes, and about "recognition of books as cultural objects whose value cannot be adequately captured by market price." This is something I find really fascinating - how do you put a price on something that is totally unique, such as a folio illuminated by hand by a monk from the 13th century? If someone deliberately damages that book, what is an appropriate punishment? Oh, even thinking about someone damaging such a book gave me shivers! This session is held at Melbourne University on Thursday 25 July, and I'm really going to try and get to this too.

I love that Melbourne is a City of Literature, and I love celebrations like this around books. Festivals are such hard work, and putting them together really takes a team, and blood, sweat and tears from many, many people. All of these events are free, which is also something I love! By making events like these free, especially where the events are as varied as these, it allows as many people as possible to participate. Valuing books, valuing education and valuing literacy and literature are wonderful traits, and I am glad to see so many Melbournians attending events such as these. I hope I'll see you there!