Tuesday, 26 September 2017

T.H.U.G, a review

It's been a little while since I've last done a blog post, apologies for that! The shop has been hectic and so trying to find time can be a little tough. However, after reading this book I couldn't let it go untalked about. There has already been a bit of a buzz about this one in the wider book community but it's really amazing how much having even one staff member know/read about a book can change its rate of recommendation. So what is this book that I speak of?

T.H.U.G by Angie Thomas, refers to Tupac's description of the 'thug life' as 'The Hate U Give Little Infants F** Everyone' and indeed THUG gives (even more so) a personal face to the institutionalised struggles of class and race set against the Black Lives Matter Movement in the USA as Tupac's maxim is further unpacked.

From the author's website
"Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter navigates between the poverty-stricken neighborhood she has grown up in and the upper-crust suburban prep school she attends. Her life is up-ended when she is the sole witness to a police officer shooting her best friend, Khalil, who turns out to have been unarmed during the confrontation – but may or may not have been a drug dealer. As Starr finds herself even more torn between the two vastly different worlds she inhabits, she also has to contend with speaking her truth and, in the process, trying to stay alive herself."

 The writing is fast paced, in part due to the emotional and urgent nature of the story but it was a book that I ripped through in a single day! Clearly, it's a hard topic and one close to Thomas' heart which is apparent through her stylistic choices and elements of teen culture embedded in the pages. A key element of the story and one that resonated with me as a challenge was the way that characters, some peripheral and others central try to 'rationalise' Khalil's death by attributing it as a consequence of his life, when indeed it wasn't often his choice. This isn't to rob agency off people but to understand that if the system is stacked against you, the 'choices' you make aren't necessarily always fair or indicative of you personally. Sometimes in Australia we can seem far away from issues around the world but THUG brings a fictionalised account right to readers' doorstep and asks us to consider how different groups are treated in society. We don't have exactly the same Black Lives Matter movement here of course but neither can we ignore the disparity between Indigenous incarcerations and other social indicators. 

Thomas keeps the story relatively fictional until the final pages where she lists the names of others killed in police shootings around America and it hits hard that yes, like Starr and Khalil each had a story, life and family behind them. The book is by no means a 'cop bashing' tome with Starr's uncle being a respected detective himself but I feel that the emphasis of critique is on how individual attitudes of bystanders and those involved can truly shape the change and mobilisation of the movement and in time, the crisis. 

Young adult fiction is an excellent way to get young people interested and involved in social issues. It's relatable regardless of the society it's set in and the content isn't dry in the slightest! Come have a chat if you'd like to talk about this book more!

Saturday, 8 July 2017

NAIDOC Week Has Ended But..

NAIDOC Week has officially ended for 2017 but that doesn't mean that we stop reading, watching, celebrating and learning! Oh no! Indeed the opposite is true.

The 2018 National NAIDOC Host City has been announced as Sydney so if you're planning a trip you'll be right on time!

From the NAIDOC website:

"NAIDOC Week celebrations are held across Australia each July to celebrate the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. NAIDOC is celebrated not only in Indigenous communities, but by Australians from all walks of life. The week is a great opportunity to participate in a range of activities and to support your local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community.

NAIDOC originally stood for ‘National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee’. This committee was once responsible for organising national activities during NAIDOC Week and its acronym has since become the name of the week itself. Find out more about the origins and history of NAIDOC Week."

If you'd like to learn more we have history books, kids picture books and biographies!
Or if you're looking for something a bit tastier then SBS has you covered. 

Come in a see what's here!

Saturday, 10 June 2017

“But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.”

I suppose it's a little late now - but then again it's never too late to pick up a classic (as I am duly learning), but the play 1984 that has just (literally just) closed in Melbourne was amazing and you should have seen it/I'm so glad that you saw it! It was, as the name suggests an adaptation of Orwell's dystopian classic. The production originated in the UK but arrived in Melbourne this year with an Australian cast. The gentleman who plays the un/lovable Winston, actually also held the titular role of Jasper Jones in the production of Jasper Jones last year. What a guy! 

I believe that this production was quite different to those put on previously (alas I can't say that I know first hand) as the directors included the appendix in the play. Not so obviously tacked on at the end of course but built into it neatly. Reading the program and the comments from the writer it of course makes sense - after all, the history is not 'truth' per se but part of the fictitious narrative Orwell so thoroughly crafted. If you can't tell I loved it and the book! It will be interesting then I suppose to see how the Handmaid's Tale will tackle the historical note in the TV series. 

I will confess that we only bought tickets the week before we went to see it so sadly missed out on the $30 for under 30s but never mind. This last buying also alerted me to the fact that I hadn't actually read 1984 before despite it being under my bed for about two years - and I work in a bookshop! So I went into frenzy mode of quick read it as I tried to beat the clock. In the end I got half way (and was holding the text in the theatre, ironically the Comedy Theatre) as we were walking into our seats. In hindsight, it was actually a good thing because it was familiar enough for me to appreciate the quotes from the book, understand the premise to minimise staging confusion and just avoid feeling like a total novice. But not knowing the second half (like, at all) I wasn't expecting the violence, fear or surprise which honestly made the whole message of the novel hit a lot harder. Which was terrifying but also really cool. Moral of the story read half of books only. Joking, I quickly read the rest after. I went with some friends and we had to have a massive debrief on the train home.

Additional to the excitement and enjoyment of watching the play it [NERD ALERT] made me rerealise how important media is in learning and understanding why the world is like it is, and more so why words are more than just communication but instead represent entire systems and ways of living - taking Newspeak as an example. It also made me miss when I used to study literature in school when you would pore over a single text for a term just debating every theme and symbol. Even if you made stuff up half the time, it didn't matter because it just proved that there were so many layers of meaning in the text. Even now when I'm studying media, it's interesting to consider different media as important, not necessarily the content itself but why it's significant as a representation and reflection of the time that it was created in. 

Basically, the point of this mini epiphany is that I am now dedicated to starting a book club where we will first tackle 20th century classics because I have read too little! I did read Animal Farm the other day too and it did not disappoint. But I digress, apparently Ulysses is too hardcore for a book club but it'd be a little bit awesome if we worked on it a few chapters at a time. Being in a book club also forces you to be accountable for actually reading the book! 

I love that lots of our classics are my dad's from the 70s with yellowing pages but I want to start building my own collection too! 

So far I an keeping a keen eye out for the Annotated Edition of 1984 published by Modern Classics - I love those editions, and the play script of the 1984 play. I can't wait!

Here is a super link to the production's education resource if you'd like to find out more about the play itself. Spoilers though. 

What classic have you missed but promised yourself you'd read (for the past five years...)?

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Why Worry About Doomsday when you have Bloomsday?

Forgive me if I'm jumping the gun a little bit but I think that it's an appropriate time to get excited about Bloomsday 2017! For those of you who are not sure what I'm talking about - is this about flowers and gardening? - Bloomsday is a day long celebration of James Joyce's master masterpiece Ulysses. Originating in Dublin (as only natural) the celebration has since spread to other parts of the world. Dress ups, recitations everything you could possibly have that's Leopold Bloom related. Side note, what is the relevance of the Producers film/musical also having a protagonist called Leo Bloom? And I have also seen ads for a flower company called Bialystock and Bloom. But I digress. 

Bloomsday has been celebrated since 1994 by a very dedicated group of lasses and lads. You can find out more about them by clicking the photo. 


Oh! It would probably help if you knew the actual dates of Blomsday for this year so it is happening from the 14-18 of June. Definitely check out the website for more specific information but highlights this year include a play called Getting Up James Joyce's Nose which sounds delightful really, and it's on at the Spiegletent so you know it'll be good. 

So what is Ulysses about? 
Well as the ever helpful Goodreads tells us, 'Ulysses, one of the greatest novels of the twentieth century, has had a profound influence on modern fiction. In a series of episodes covering the course of a single day, 16 June 1904, the novel traces the movements of Leopold Bloom and Stephen Dedalus through the streets of Dublin. Each episode has its own literary style, and the epic journey of Odysseus is only one of many correlations that add layers of meaning to the text. Ulysses has been the subject of controversy since copies of the first English edition were burned by the New York Post Office Authorities.' That doesn't sound terribly gripping I know but the style was revolutionary and any book that was burned upon publication merits some sort of second look right? PS. Is this a good time to mention that I haven't read it yet? (There are so many books, especially in a bookshop that it's hard to keep track. Today I inadvertently sold a book that I kind of wanted to a customer.) 

If you'd like to read more about reading Ulysses you can do so with theses:

The Guardian: Is James Joyce's Ulysses the hardest novel to finish?
The Economist: James Joyce's "Ulysses"Why you should read this book
Sparknotes (because who doesn't love it?): Ulysses
The New York Review of Books: It's Still a Scandal

And if you're looking for the 1967 film then you can read a review here

Saturday, 6 May 2017

Does your mother remind you about Mothers Day?

Mothers Day is coming up! And we have conveniently moved all of those pesky (no we love them) down a shelf!

It's not just mothers who can be celebrated on Mothers day - close friends, aunties, grandmothers, the list goes on!


Saturday, 15 April 2017

This is Real This is Me

When you peruse the biography section it is only natural that  you come across a wide variety of stories, lives and experiences. Some are about hardships and overcoming challenges, some are muses on life and others about a life full or half lived. I'll be honest with you when I say that the first thing I do when I pick up a biography is to flip to the middle, glossy white coloured section that has all of the photographs or pictures of the said life. I find that it's a good summary about what you'll sort of find in the book. Maybe I'm just a lazy reader! Or maybe a pictorial learner.. 

Anyway we have two somewhat juxtaposing titles to share today. 

Dear Quentin, Letters of A Governor General
Apparently she wrote 50 letters a week...

You can read more about the book here

My Life as Eva, The Struggle is Real   
Sharing the inside thoughts of Eva Gutowski, Youtuber!

Saturday, 18 March 2017

Feel The Music

It makes sense that you listen with your ears to music - after all, that's what it's there for, but using your hearing receptacles are not the only way to enjoy it!

It popped up again on the ABC a few weeks ago (and from a few years before that) - the work of Amber Galloway Gallego. In fact, she is a pioneer of the industry, signing in real time - not just the words but the situations - of the music! 

See more here, video from the ABC article

But it is definitely interesting and important to consider how all of us 'listen' to music.
And of course, if you're not going to listen to music you can always read about it!

Some of our top picks are:

DIG by David Nichols
"The period from 1960 to 1985 saw Australia casting off its colonial cultural shackles and taking on the world. Dig is the first in depth account of the massive upsurge in musical creativity that swept the country during those years, and David Nichols is the perfect guide, combining scholarly research with narrative flair in this enthralling and authoritative history." [from the blurb] 

EVERY SONG EVER by Ben Ratcliff

'A remarkable new book ... goes leaping from Beethoven to Big Black, from Morton Feldman to Curtis Mayfield, identifying continuities while delighting in contrasts' Alex Ross, New Yorker
For the first time ever, we have all the music in the world to choose from. As Ben Ratliff, one of America's celebrated music critics, shows us, it's time to listen in a new way too. Opening our ears to unexpected connections, new experiences and little-known delights, this book will change the way you appreciate music forever.
'Masterly ... An instructive guide to opening one's mind and compiling a new kind of playlist ... succeeds brilliantly' John Clarke, Independent
'Smart, provocative ... in every case informative' August Kleinzahler, The New York Times Book Review
'Like a trip into the world's coolest record store' David Browne, Rolling Stone

Both of these books are sure to have your toes tapping and songs stuck in your head in no time

Saturday, 11 March 2017

Why Can't You Give Your Presence for your Present?

Since working at a bookshop, I've given almost every single person a book for their birthday. *Hot tip, if you want a new book invite me to your party ;) But anyway, moving on, it's both the lazy and non lazy approach because anyone who has had to buy a book as a present knows how many ways it can go a little bit wrong. The problem is, when you know them and are friends (clearly, you're celebrating with them) but you are just short of that knowledge of what is it that they have on their shelf. You find yourself questioning everything: do they need a book about hats? have I ever seen them wearing hats? who is their favourite characters from history? what is their favourite cuisine? do they even like reading?! And the list goes on. Well, my friends, here are some of my tips for choosing a book as a present! Goodness knows I need all the help I can get!

  • Not to be picky but I think in these instances, hardcover really does give the gift an extra layer of special(ness) 
  • I tend to go with non-ficton here because unless it's a classic, I feel like it ages less quickly as something you can keep on your shelf and keep referring too over the years
  • Especially if it's about a subject that the receiver really likes - there are some pretty specific categories out there!
  • Sometimes it's hard to know what kind of book they'd lean towards but in the event that you have absolutely no idea, I usually look in the biography or coffee table book section, be it history, photography or other general interest. 
  • But think outside the square! Where did they go for their holiday recently? What do you do together? That might help you to think of some ideas
PRESENT FOR A CHILD (who you may or may not know)
  • I think I've somewhat covered this before in a previous post so let's deal with selecting presents for kids you don't know  
  • The first question focuses on you: what kind of book do you want to get for them? Fiction (and if so: serious, challenging, funny, to increase their confidence - it's all up to you), an activity book perhaps, a picture book or if they're under five - something for them to play with now or keep for later?
  • Once you've identified that a friendly staff member will help you pick out something fitting!

Of course it would be much easier if your present could just be your presence

Saturday, 4 March 2017

Marching Towards Better Design

It is officially, one hundred percent now March. Uni is back, school is in full swing and your holiday tan may or may not have already worn off (say hi to your melanin for me) so it seems that all is normal in the world. Actually not all is normal because the hot weather seems to be coming now but indeed that is an issue for another time. 

But do not despair! Because March contains one of the swishest festival/weeks of the year! That is, MELBOURNE DESIGN WEEK from 16-26 March!

 Organised by the NGV, it's a week of talks, exhibitions, book launches and events!

Here of some of my picks (all blurbs from the NGV website):

PANEL: Does Blak Design Matter
As Australian Indigenous designers are leading a movement away from collaborative or consultative models to Indigenous-led design, the question is posed; what is meaningful Indigenous design, and why does it matter? From interior and product design to landscape, architecture and town planning, this panel, hosted by Daniel Browning, examines the practices of some outstanding Indigenous designers and interrogates how Indigenous design is defined, received, and made visible in Australia’s contemporary design environment. 

Open State: Planex Tour
Presented by Open House Melbourne
Take a tour of one of Victoria’s leading steel furniture manufacturers to see robotics and automation in action. An Australian family owned furniture designer with over 40 years experience manufacturing steel furniture, Planex demonstrate a commitment to designed-in longevity with the ability to reuse, reconfigure and recycle. They like to call this ‘built-out obsolescence’ which forms the basis of their design philosophy. Designed by Inarc Architects and winner of the RAIA ‘Best Commercial Building: 2004’, Planex’s 7000m2 purpose built, solar powered production facility has become a benchmark for Australian manufacturing. Presented by Planex the tour will run for 45 minutes and feature the product showroom, manufacturing plant, steel punching line, powder coat line, followed by coffee and tea with an opportunity to meet designers and architectural consultants.

Presented by RMIT Design HubRMIT Design Hub are hosting a special celebration for the exhibition High Risk Dressing / Critical Fashion as part of Melbourne Design Week. The party includes D&K’s performance All or Nothing and a live DJ set by Andras & Lewis Fidock, presenters of RRR’s Strange Holiday. High Risk Dressing / Critical Fashion looks at the ideas and community coalescing within contemporary fashion practice today through the lens of Melbourne’s Fashion Design Council (1983 – 1993). The exhibition also features a new ‘collective’ of contemporary fashion practitioners that activate the space through a program of fashion presentations, performances, films, publications and residencies

And finally, to cap things off, the annual Melbourne Art Book Fair!

This fair has books from a myriad of independent, cutting edge and international art book publishers. 

It's a bit hard to explain so just get down there and check it out for yourself!


Saturday, 25 February 2017

A Stellar Stella Prize

I knew that the Stella Prize was an  Australian literary prize for writing by women but what I didn't realise was that they are so much more than that! Indeed (if I'd just read their website more thoroughly) they are an 'organisation that champions cultural change'.

There are a number of ways they do this - one, the prize itself - as can be seen here the current disparity between recognition of male and female writers, then there's their schools program and workshops! Plenty to inspire, aid and abet young (and marginally older) authors!

Last Thursday I attended the first in the 'Provocations' series which was a panel of Rebecca Lim, Leanne Hall and Alice Pung discussing 'There is no one way to be Asian in Australia'. It was an insightful and interesting topic that touched on issues such as the homogenising of Asian Australian authors into a singular narrative. The trio talked about how they had never been on a panel together before as they were sort of seen as 'interchangeable' despite all coming from wildly different Australian Chinese backgrounds - one whose family came as refugees, another as economic migrants and finally another whose families (both Chinese and Anglo) had arrived in Australia in the late 1800s. Another interesting point made was that in the absence of stories they felt they could relate to, they would often turn to writings on other cultural experiences such as writings by Jewish writers or about the Civil Rights movement in the USA. There will be a number of panels and then subsequent relating blog posts too.

Personally, I just want to read a book for once where the story and life goes on but the character just happens to be of Asian background and it's not focused on as a major part of the story. I 100% see the value and benefit that migrant stories bring to Australian literature and indeed they should be told and shared but why can't there be stories about other themes as well? Benjamin Law said of his TV show The Family Law (loosely based on a book) that it's actually a story about a family going through a divorce and relationships rather than about being Chinese. This is what we should be reading and watching (not necessarily about divorce but whatever is applicable). 

Which then makes me think of 'if it's not there then write it yourself!'. As I've touched upon before, for me it's the challenge of remaining committed to the story and sitting down to write. I've started doing a bit of non-fiction which I think is easier for me to put down on paper. 

Luckily aforementioned author Rebecca Lim has begun a great writing initiative for children's to YA aspiring/authors called Voices from the Intersection with a publisher pitching event on March 5 (find out more here).

Otherwise there are a few other publications/groups that tackle the arts from a diverse range of backgrounds. If there's anymore that you know of/frequent please comment them below!

Peril Magazine - Writings on Asian Australian areas of interest 
Still Nomads - Nomadic culture '

Or you could always write your own zine...

Oh! And this is our 100th blog post! Celebrate :)

Saturday, 18 February 2017


From January through to April is the Asia TOPA festival! It stands for the  Asia-Pacific Triennial of Performing Arts and is a showcase of the cross culture exchange of our nearest neighbours (minus New Zealand (sorry New Zealand). Ranging from theatre, performance art, music and art, there's sure to be something for everyone!

Check out their website here!

So far I've been involved in a performance art piece called the People's Currency which involved signing up to a five minute 'workers contract' and then you decorate a plaster iPhone with gold leaf and then presenting it for evaluation by the 'Commander' who will 'pay' you. I learnt that five minutes goes by very quickly and also that if you can, you should participate in public calisthenics when wearing a white PVC apron and hairnet. 

I also saw the ballet the Red Detachment at the State Theatre which was indeed a spectacle featuring many iconic scenes and costumes. It was an interesting consideration of the intersection of the arts and politics as well as how the arts can be instrumental in altering public opinion or perceived public opinion.  

And if you can't make it down there we have some books that might give you some insight too!


Sunday, 12 February 2017

Farewell Babette Cole

Just under a month ago we learnt of the passing of highly acclaimed and highly hilarious children's author and illustrator Babette Cole. 

Definitely a staple of my childhood she produced books such as Dr Dog, Princess Smartypants and Hair in Funny Places. Always clever and always funny, her books introduced kids to both the facts of life and the absurdities of imagination. 

You can read her obituary from the Guardian here. And here's her website! Honestly though, I do find her very funny and she would easily be at ease doing cartoons for the New Yorker or something. It's sad that there will be no more new books from Ms Cole but at least we can muse and laugh over the large collection she has remaining!

Such as

Saturday, 4 February 2017


Have you ever heard of a zine? They are self published, independent, (often) small run publications and there's a bustling scene in Melbourne! Don't let the lo-fi sort of ambience turn you off zines, many are impeccably designed, illustrated and written. And you're sure to find a zine on absolutely anything your heart desires, from the casual (probably not that casual though and pretty intense) fanzine to the obscure and specific.

The spiritual home of zines in Melbourne is the Sticky Institute in the Flinders Street Subway. You can visit their site here. Located in a pretty underground part of the city (haha) it's volunteer run and stocked with hundreds of independent publications from all around Melbourne. Coming up on February 12 is the Festival of the Photocopier at the Town Hall!  It's a free event where you can check out the coolest zines around.

I've recently started getting very enthused by bookbinding and I've always liked to write - I'd like to do more fiction but I never know what to write about so non-fiction seems to be prevailing right now. Combining the two, zines are a perfect way to do something productive with all the musings in your head and best of all, there are no rules because you're making it! I'm very excited. But come along down and be inspired yourself to unleash your inner zine master!

Timeout has an article on how to get your zine our there here or Tavi Gevinson's Rookie blog has an article on how to make them here too. Oh, and while we're here a fun article about the Sticky Institute from the ABC! 

Happy making and reading!

Saturday, 28 January 2017

The Year to be Chicken? No! The It's the Year of the Rooster!

Gong xi fa cai! Or - Gong hai fatt choi if you're Cantonese! And also 'Xin nian kuai le'. Technically, the Lunar New Year Day was yesterday but with celebrations continuing on until today we can keep saying to to each other then. It's not just the Chinese who celebrate the Lunar New Year (of course) the Vietnamese and Koreans also have excellent celebrations! But as I am most familiar with Chinese celebrations (and that is often the sort happening in the main CBD). 

Usually I like going into the city to see the customary lion dancing in Chinatown in front of all the businesses who are hoping for a prosperous year ahead. Lots of firecrackers and drums - it's always been my dream to be a drum bearer haha. 

You can see what's happening in Melbourne on the Chinese New Year website here
or else just wander into the city and have a spontaneous celebration! 

I like the Lunar New Year because it's a time for family and food (and very loud firecrackers)! 

If you're looking for a way to celebrate yourself at home why not cook up a feast for you and your family and friends! 




Perhaps if you've got a young one learning Chinese (or you just like the pictures) 



Alternatively if you're interested in learning about Chinese Customs...



Saturday, 21 January 2017

Tennis Time!

It's an exciting week of sport in Melbourne with the Australian Open already in full swing! The weather is somewhat milder than in previous years and some big upsets already is going to liven up the finals when they roll around next week! I really do want to go for a day but it is as equally addicting to watch game after game on TV... Check out the schedule of play here

Who's your favourite player?  

Well, funny we're talking about tennis because we also have tennis books! One of my favourites is the Roger Federer Infographic book is pretty awesome. 

As is the Margaret Court Autobiography. She is phenomenal! She won 64 major grand slam titles of which 24 were individual singles titles. Will Serena surpass her that is another question. This one only came out last year so plenty of life left in it still! Much like Ms Court herself

And of course because we love Federer, another one about him (but a little newer this time) FEDERER AND ME by William Skidelsky. A poignant look into a fan's obsession with the tennis great.  


Saturday, 7 January 2017

Hey Hockney!

If you've got some spare time lying about - or even if you don't you should check out the DAVID HOCKNEY CURRENT exhibition that's currently on at the NGV. It's a lovely celebration of colour and life. I didn't realise until I went myself but a large number of works on display were actually created using an iPhone or iPad. When you see photographs of Hockney who is approaching (or already) his eighties, there's something wonderfully fun about his artistic methods. It also allows him to become about a billion times more prolific. As I was looking at the works, it increasingly felt like a new kind of impressionism as he builds up lines dabbing with his virtual brush. Even more so because the iPad is so mobile, quick and mess free, a sunset through the trees can be captured in an instant. Quite amazing was watching the video replays of his paintings coming to life as each stroke can be captured on the device. It may seem that it's easy to 'paint' on a tablet but the animations show the complexities involved and the buildup of layers. I'm still astounded!

If you'd like to expand your knowledge, we have books on Hockney! Such as 


Or perhaps you aren't quite so keen to head into the city, we can also stock the official NGV record book of the exhibition!

And let's not forget Hockney's book with Martin Gayford - A HISTORY OF PICTURES an excellent look at the history of pictures (as one would expect)!