As you might imagine, reading is a popular past time for Dave and I these days. It’s also something we were both looking forward to on the trip. Prior to our departure, as we packed up the house we made little piles of books we’d take and not so little piles of books we’d have our friend Mary send to us down the road.
Along the way, we’ve added to our collection from good finds in used bookstores in Christchurch and more recently in Australia. We’ve found that each store is a little different and most are overflowing with more character than books!
The little, hippie mountain town of Katoomba in the Blue Mountains has a disproportionately high number of used bookstores for its size. We cruised a few and traded in 6 of our previous reads for 4 more. The shop owner seemed please enough with the Booker Prize winners. The others he referred to as “potluck”. There was no convincing him about Sarah Vowell. The best used bookstore we’ve come across by far was in Newtown in Sydney. Much like the neighborhood, Gould’s Book Arcade is overflowing with personality! Our introduction to the bookstore was actually a news story we caught while traveling elsewhere in Australia. A bus driver became a local hero when he leaped from the bus he was driving to chase a thief from Gould’s down the street and performed a citizen’s arrest. He returned to a standing ovation from his passengers and is quickly being immortalized around town. The best part of the story was that (for a reason that I unfortunately can not recall) the bookstore owners actually gave him the books he tried to steal! I want to say they were self-help books, but just can’t recall. Apparently Mr. Gould is a real mainstay of the Australian left. You could guess as much with the dozens of books and zines on how to grow cannabis along side a small collection of porn magazines near the front register. Rest assured there is a time limit for perusing the porn on site. These are quirky, amusing parts of a visit to the book arcade, but not actually what first grabs your eye. The first thing you really notice are the aisles and aisles of seriously big stacks of books. Aside from the knee high stacks of books blocking the lowest shelf, I have to admit that the fiction aisles were pretty well organized. Within a few minutes we had rounded out our Paul Theroux collection with an additional 3 books. The real laugh was upstairs. If you really want that book on economics, you are going to have to work for it! Who knows how many books were in Bob Gould’s Book Arcade, but you could easily spend a day roaming, or should I say climbing, the stacks.
For better or worse, Dave and I have had fun building our book collection. When we leave Darwin for Mumbai, we should have it down to a mere 14 books. Yes, we are crazy, but we also have a few long plane and train rides ahead of us!