GUEST POST: The Local Bookshop: A Curator of Culture

As I browsed through the carefully curated shelves of The Avid Reader in Brisbane’s West End, I was reminded of what was so special about the local bookshop. Hailing from the Top End of Australia, I had been eyeing off this particular literary treasure trove online for some time. The Bookstore Darwin has a great range, but, like art galleries, book shops are always nice to visit when travelling. So during a brief stay in Brisbane, a visit to the city’s bohemian quarter for a good dose of literature was in order.


With my four year old daughter in tow, we hit Where the Wild Things Are first, a children’s bookstore run by the owners of Avid Reader. After a quick look on the well-stacked bookshelves, Amelie spotted a familiar cover: Herve Tullet’s glorious finger-painting extravaganza, Mix it Up. Amelie had previously borrowed it from the library and delighted in the colourful painting adventure. Then it was my turn to take home an adventure, albeit more of a slow-burning one that would command my attention. My hopes to daydream my way leisurely through the store, procrastinating on which book to choose were somewhat dashed by my four-year old’s attention span.


Fortunately, owner Fiona Stager had done the job for me, narrowing down her best reads of 2016. Fiona knows her books, having only ever worked as a book seller besides a brief stint as a waitress. Her extensive knowledge of what she sells makes her somewhat of a sommelier of literature, a curator of culture.


Fiona had many recommendations, ranging from Bruce Pascoe’s Dark Emu to Zadie Smith’s Swing Time and The Woman on the Stairs by Bernhard Schlink. Having read the beautiful words of Hannah Kent in her debut novel Burial Rites, I settled on her new book, The Good People, knowing I just couldn’t go wrong.


While the trip to Avid Reader was cut a little short by the nature of travelling with a little person, it was definitely a soul-enriching experience. It’s important to support our local bookshops and the people who invest in our culture and support a form of artistic expression that resembles, contrasts and examines the intricacies of life and society. They have stuck by traditional books in the ever changing digital world, providing this country with a rich, velvety underbelly of literary tradition.


When you’re next travelling, why not spend a morning exploring a local bookshop, breathing in the pages, savouring wild and wonderful storylines and choosing the next adventure that will keep your midnight oil burning.


This is a guest post written by Michelle Coleman. Michelle  has a background in news journalism with a keen interest in all things literary. She spends most of her spare time reading fiction and writing poetry, children’s stories and her first novel. Michelle‘s work has been published in Mamamia, Resident Magazine, Darwin Life and Visible Ink Anthology. She is the Secretary of the Northern Territory Writers’ Centre and was awarded the Daily Miracle Bursary for Journalism from the University of Queensland. 

You can find Michelle on Facebook and Instagram.

Thanks Michelle!

Fiona reviews One by Patrick Holland ahead of her conversation with him on Sunday 3rd July.

Patrick Holland will be joining us on Sunday 3rd July for our next Big Breakfast Bookclub to talk about his wonderful new novel “One”.

Here Fiona gives you a taste of Patrick’s new book:

The last bushrangers in Australian history, James (Jim) and Patrick Kenniff were at the height of their notoriety at the turn of the 20th Century. This is a fictionalised account of the last police hunt for them. This wonderful novel is set on the dry desolate landscape of the plains and ranges around Carnarvon.  Across ‘plains of desolation’, burning ridges and deep escarpments, the Kenniff brothers are being pursued by Nixon a lone police officer, the young Skillington lad and King Edward, an Aboriginal tracker.

The Kenniff brothers know this country intimately and are well protected by locals. It’s said of Jim

About him bein able to walk over sand and his tracks disappear behind him, how he can go invisible, how he can shoot the eye out of a high-flying crow. They lie in the detail, but they’re true because they tell  you how it feels to ride beside him. How it felt when his mind and his soul were good, and we all of us know what we were fighting against. We thought we were the heralds of a new age.”

One is rich in dialogue and draws deeply on religious motifs including Irish mysticism; it is an homage to the historical Western and a hymn to Cormac McCarthy.

I am really looking forward to discussing how history, religion, music and film have influenced Patrick’s writing. Please join us for what I am sure will be a fascinating conversation with Patrick Holland.  Individuals and other bookclubs are welcome to join us at the Sunday Big Breakfast Bookclub.

To buy a copy visit our website:

one by patrick holland photo

Packed to the Stacks Events Blog!

Tara Moss

Maybe you’ve seen various ads and bus stop billboards selling cable TV specials refer to June as ‘hump month’ these past couple of weeks – as if we’re all just waiting for it to be over so we can race towards the end of another year. Very silly and slightly depressing!  With our June events we’re determined to make this month one to enjoy, and we’ve hit the ground running in the first couple of weeks.

We didn’t let a tropical storm get in the way of our event with Tara Moss on Saturday, with a huge, only slightly damp crowd packed inside the shop keeping warm and dry among the shelves.

Tara proved why she’s one of the most inspiring and intelligent speakers and writers we’ve got, talking about her book Speaking Out: A Handbook for Women and Girls. Krissy has written a terrific review of Tara’s book HERE, which puts its importance into much better words than I can, but the excitement and anger in the room made it clear that there’s a lot of women who are more determined than ever to speak out and change things for the better.


The real standout event of the last week to my mind was Tara Winkler’s How not to Start an Orphanage… By a woman who did. Far from what the light-hearted title suggested, Tara’s talk was a damming analysis of the problems inherent in the culture of orphanages not just in Cambodia, where she initially started one, but all over the world. She told stories of corruption – where money donated was embezzled by corrupt orphanage managers, food and clothing resold for profit, and neglect and abuse allowed to run rampant. In some cases, it’s even in the best interest of corrupt managers for kids to be kept poor and disadvantaged to elicit sympathy and money from tourists.


My experience with developing-world orphanages had been primarily through smiling photos of my friends visiting Nepal or Cambodia to go volunteer with the kids – and while I’d never thought this temporary care and attachment was healthy, I’d never thought about the huge psychological impact on these kids who are without primary care givers and proper attachment. I thoroughly recommend watching Tara’s episode of Australian Story (on Youtube here) and buying the book. Though the stats are shocking, Tara’s new model for keeping kids with their families and giving foster carers the support to properly look after children in a real home which the Cambodian’s Childrens Trust is now implementing with the Cambodian government)  is very hopeful, and Tara’s energy and commitment inspiring.

Earlier in the week Madeleine Gleeson brought home some of the terrible truths about offshore processing or asylum seekers (and, finally, some alternative solutions) in her conversation with Paul Barclay for Radio National’s Big Ideas program. Her Book Offshore is a hefty tome, but the stories and statistics from real survivors and refugees are as vital as they are upsetting. We’re always so proud to host these important social conversations, and bring the most expert voices in every field to share with our community in an accessible and welcoming environment.

On a lighter note, we continued our run of wonderful food-based events in partnership with our mates Wandering Cooks with our Real Food Projects  event and cooking demonstration with Kate Walsh. Avid owner Fiona was there bookselling and loved Kate’s enthusiasm for Real Food techniques in home cooking. Keep an eye out for more foodie wholesomeness with Jade Blereau and a bit of decadence with chocolate master Kristin Tibbals in the coming months.

As well as our usual first-week-of-the-month bookclubs, early risers on Sunday were treated to a lively conversation between Marie Munkara and Melissa Lucashenko at our Sunday Big Breakfast bookclub, talking about Marie’s memoir Of Ashes and Rivers that Run to the Sea

Elizabeth Muir’s sell-out event for Wasted was incredibly moving and a privilege to be involved with. Elizabeth is a Brisbane local and a former emerging reader at one of our Salon Events, and it’s wonderful her create something so beautiful and important.

You can check out all our upcoming events HERE, and email myself (Madeleine) or Krissy on or call 3846 3422 for more information or to secure your ticket! Look forward to seeing you soon!

Fiona reviews the sizzling new crime novel The Dry by Jane Harper who will be appearing on Wed 15th June!

The Dry by Jane Harper

Blowflies are the first to discover the three bodies at the property. “The body in the clearing was the freshest. It took the flies slightly longer to discover the two in the farmhouse despite the front door swinging open like an invitation.” We can feel the heat coming from the soil of this drought-stricken farm, washing on the line is “bone dry and stiff from the sun.” There is no sound of birds or animals except for the blowflies.

“So nothing reacted when deep inside the house, the baby started crying.”

When the bodies of local farmer Luke Hadley and his wife and son are discovered it appears to be a tragic murder suicide.

The years of drought have stripped the land and the hearts of the farming community Kierwarra. Luke is one of the many farmers who have been leveling their rifles and shooting skinny livestock. Despite this Luke’s parents, who are caring for the baby who survived, refuse to believe the obvious.

Aaron Falk who grew up in Kierwarra and is now a federal police investigator in the finance division returns for the funeral. He and Luke were friends when they were young. They also shared a secret.

As Aaron becomes a reluctant investigator he is drawn into the town’s secrets and dramas.

Jane Harper won the 2015 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Unpublished Manuscript. The Dry was then acquired by the publisher Pan Macmillan after a hard fought auction involving all the major Australian publishers.  Rights quickly sold to over sixteen countries and Reese Witherspoon bought the film rights.

Jane Harper joins us in-store on Wednesday 15 June at 6.30pm and I am really looking forward to talking to her about her novel. For details and bookings click this link

the dry jane harper


  1. Unnecessary Wars, Henry Reynolds
  2. Everywhere I Look, Helen Garner
  3. Hang Him When He Is Not There, Nicholas John Turner
  4. The Book of Memory, Petina Gappah
  5. Boy Lost, Kristina Olsson
  6. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying, Marie Kondo
  7. My Brilliant Friend, Elena Ferrante
  8. Brisbane Art Deco, Kimberley Wilson (ed)
  9. 1001 Walks You Must Experience Before You Die, Barry Stone
  10. An Isolated Incident, Emily Maguire

We were so pleased to welcome Henry Reynolds to the shop last Thursday night (Henry in fact helped launch the original Avid Reader some 19 years ago!) to hear him speak to Paul Barclay about his fascinating new history of the Boer War.


Helen Garner’s new collection Everywhere I Look continues to do well. If you haven’t yet read it, you will want to after reading this essay about Helen Garner in The Lifted Brow by author Jennifer Down (Our Magic Hour). Another excellent launch from last week was Nicholas John Turner’s Hang Him When He Is Not There, and it’s great to see this piece of debut fiction appear in the list!



Among some old favourites reappearing (so great to see Brisbane Art Deco back in print!) there are two new books: Barry Stone’s 1001 Walks to Make Before You Die (so you’d probably better start now), and Emily Maguire’s critically-acclaimed new novel An Isolated Incident. You can hear Emily talk about the book at Avid Reader on Wednesday August 3!




Nearly all our events have been sold out in 2016, so make sure you’re the first to hear about our next events by signing up to our weekly email by heading to our website and scrolling to the bottom of the page, or subscribe our events program on Facebook!

Until next week… keep on reading!


  1. The Book of Memory, Petina Gappah
  2. One, Patrick Holland
  3. Everywhere I Look, Helen Garner
  4. Clancy of the Undertow, Christopher Currie
  5. The Vegetarian, Han Kang
  6. The Tusk that Did the Damage, Tania James
  7. A Little Life, Hanya Yanigihara
  8. The Road to Ruin, Niki Savva
  9. Not Just Black and White, Lesley & Tammy Williams
  10. Hope Farm, Peggy Frew




Our Open Bookclub Book, Petina Gappah’s The Book of Memory leads the way this week. Fiona has been raving about this book, and we can’t wait for the bookclub discussion in May! Patrick Holland’s amazing new book is not far behind (we were very pleased to launch it last Friday), and sales of our Nonfiction Book of the Month Everywhere I Look shows no signs of slowing down.




Our very own Christopher Currie’s Clancy of the Undertow (fresh from its Inky Award Longlisting) reappears this week, along with two more bookclub picks: The Vegetarian and The Tusk That Did the Damage. The list is rounded out by some of our favourites from the past few months, including the much-talked about The Road to Ruin, which you can hear talked about some more when Niki Savva visits us on Friday June 10!




Until next week… keep on reading!


  1. The Australian Native Bee Book, Tim Heard
  2. Everywhere I Look, Helen Garner
  3. Where the Trees Were, Inga Simpson
  4. Not Just Black and White, Lesley & Tammy Williams
  5. Talking to My Country, Stan Grant
  6. Balancing Act: Quarterly Essay 61, George Megalogenis
  7. Road to Ruin, Niki Savva
  8. Aboriginal Campsites of Greater Brisbane, Ray Kerkhove
  9. Blood Curse, Maurizio De Giovanni
  10. The Life of Elves, Muriel Barbery


Those bees are at it again! We were very pleased to sell copies of The Australian Native Bee Book at Tim Heard’s sold out talk at the Griffith University Eco Centre last week, and (it should be no surprise to hear) that we sold plenty!



Helen Garner has been everywhere in the past week, so it makes sense she’d appear in our top ten. Everywhere I Look is our Nonfiction Book of the Month, meaning you’ll get 10% off for all of April!


Our events program is still going strong, represented by  Not Just Black and White by Lesley and Tammy Williams, who joined us last Sunday for our Big Breakfast Bookclub, and Where the Trees Are, the wonderful new novel by Inga Simpson, who launched it in style last Thursday night.


Perennial favourites George Megalogenis, Ray Kerkhove and Muriel Barbery get a guernsey this week, along with our Crime Bookclub book of the month Blood Curse and the book that everyone’s talking about, Niki Savva’s The Road to Ruin. Don’t forget you can hear Niki Savva discussing the book at Avid Reader on June 10!


Until next week… keep on reading!


  1. Talking to My Country, Stan Grant
  2. When Breath Becomes Air, Paul Kalanithi
  3. The Whites, Richard Price
  4. The Life Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck, Sarah Knight
  5. Balancing Act: Quarterly Essay 61, George Megalogenis
  6. Aboriginal Campsites of Greater Brisbane, Ray Kerkhove
  7. The High Mountains of Portugal, Yann Martel
  8. The Midnight Watch, David Dyer
  9. Emperor of the Eight Islands, Lian Hearn
  10. The Life Changing Magic of Tidying, Marie Kondo
fiona stan and paul

Our brilliant boss Fiona with Paul Barclay and Stan Grant!

No surprise that Stan Grant led the way last week after our amazing event on Monday night. If you missed it, Radio National recorded it and will broadcast it very soon (we’ll let you know when as soon as we do!).


Shout-outs to our books of the month When Breath Becomes Air, Emperor of the Eight Islands and The Midnight Watch for also making the list. They’re both terrific reads if we haven’t already foisted them upon you!


Dr Ray Kerkhove’s book Aboriginal Campsites of Greater Brisbane continues to sell well, and we’re sure it will be on the list next week after his official launch tonight! George Megalogenis’ new Quarterly Essay also gets a guernsey. Don’t forget you can hear George discuss the essay with Yassmin Abdel-Magied and Anne Tiernan on Thursday April 28!


A special mention to our growing collection of magazines, whose sales were through the roof last week!


And last but not least, it is kind of comforting to see both The Life Changing Magic of Tidying and its natural follow-up The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck together on the list (and the one with swears being higher…).

Until next week… keep on reading!


  1. Not Just Black and White, Lesley & Tammy Williams
  2. This Present Moment, Meg Welchmann & Grace Cuell
  3. Serious Whitefella Stuff, Mark Moran
  4. Talking to My Country, Stan Grant
  5. Enemy, Ruth Clare
  6. When Breath Becomes Air, Paul Kalanithi
  7. The Whites, Richard Price
  8. My Brilliant Friend, Elena Ferrante
  9. Griffith Review 51: Fixing the System, Julianne Schultz & Anne Tiernan (eds)
  10. Aboriginal Campsites of Greater Brisbane, Ray Kerkhove




Sorry we missed last week’s bestsellers, but we can tell you this week’s list more than makes up for it! Our events programme is in full swing now, and seven of last week’s top ten is made up of books from events we’ve had or are about to have! Remember, you can always check what’s coming up on our website Events Calendar and you can also subscribe to our events page on Facebook!


The list is rounded out by our old friend Elena Ferrante (who has recently been in the headlines after a theory emerged as to who she actually is), our Nonfiction Book of the Month When Breath Becomes Air (which has been attracting nothing but rave reviews) and Richard Price’s The Whites (which our Crime Bookclub will be discussing in April).

Until next week… keep on reading!


  1. Not Just Black and White, Lesley & Tammy Williams
  2. Mullumbimby, Mellisa Lucashenko
  3. The River House, Janita Cunnington
  4. Heat and Light, Ellen van Neerven
  5. My Brilliant Friend, Elena Ferrante
  6. Gut, Giulia Enders
  7. All the Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr
  8. Cure, Jo Marchant
  9. The Cold, Cold Ground, Adrian McKinty
  10. Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, Elena Ferrante

Our newest bestseller list is dominated by authors from last Wednesday’s amazing event Indigenous Women Writing Their Stories, where we were lucky enough to host Melissa Lucashenko Tammy and Lesley Williams , Ellen van Neerven and black&write Editing Intern Yasmin Smith as they discussed their experiences and the current state of Indigenous women’s writing.

Melissa Lucashenko acknowledging her writing role models @avidreader with Ellen van Neervan facilitating.

A photo posted by Anita Heiss (@dranitaheiss) on


Coming in at number three is Janita Cunnington, who will be joining us for our Big Breakfast Bookclub on Sunday March 6!  Our old friend Ferrante is still in our top ten (and if you can’t get enough, you can read a new interview with her here!) The list is rounded out by familiar faces Anthony Doerr, Giulia Enders and Adrian McKinty, while our nonfiction Book of the Month, Jo Marchant’s Cure also gets a guernsey!




Our 2016 events program is hotting up! Don’t forget to book your ticket to see award-winning U.S. author Jesse Ball in his only Brisbane event on Thursday March 3. Book easily online here!



Until next week… keep on reading!