Shop here: Skoob Books, London

Skoob Books
66, The Brunswick, off Marchmont Street, London
www.skoob.com/

Skoob Books was another one of those places that popped up on my Sygic Travel app while I was looking at other things in the area. It was described as a “second-hand bookshop boasting a huge selection of academic and art books.” Count me in – I was hoping there’d be more than just university text books in there.

Enter at street level and down the stairs you go, like Alice down the rabbit hole. I can see how some people might find the dingy, windowless basement vibe a bit claustrophobic and uncomfortable, but I instantly felt right at home in there. Because in that dimly lit basement, there are books everywhere. So many that the divine smell of musty old pages hits you before the sea of paper fills your vision.

This shop is filled to the brim with books. Crammed onto the shelves, piled on the floor, tucked under tables and falling out of boxes. They claim 55,000 books in a 186 square metre shop – that’s 295 books per square metre. That’s heaven. And it turns out they have a lot more than academic and art books – their range is probably the best I’ve ever seen in a used book store. Everything from philosophy and science to religion and history is covered in an atmosphere that can only be described as semi-organized chaos.

Possibly the best part is that the books are actually really reasonably priced, and they are constantly getting new books in (unlike some used bookstores that just have the same ones in stock for months on end because they’re too overpriced for anyone to purchase them…); they have a warehouse where they have over a million (!!!) books ready to replenish the shelves.

It’s a scary time for us bookworms; one day we read that book sales are up again, the next they’re closing bookstores as more people favour electronic devices to read from. But visiting Skoob gave me a bit of hope that maybe places like this can survive. Its the kind of place you immediately feel a kinship with the other patrons, where you get the feeling that the staff are there because they want to be and actually read, too. A bookshop where things are disordered enough that you feel comfortable being in there, but at the same time, the books are treated with the care and reverence by the types of people who understand that they’re not just books. This is the kind of bookshop that I really hope will never die out, because it’s a place that actually inspires you to pick up a book and read.

Shop here: Libreria Acqua Alta, Venice

Libreria Acqua Alta
Where? Calle Lunga Santa Maria Formosa, 5176/B, 30122 Venice
When? Open daily 09:00 – 20:00

If you’ve ever been to Venice in the colder months, you’ll have no doubt seen what looks like trestle tables stacked up in random corners of the city (go on, Google it – I’ll wait). The city is not perpetually prepared for a giant street party; it’s ready for acqua alta.

When the tide rises, the waters of the Adriatic Sea come roaring in, and poor little Venice dips even further under water for a while! Those trestle tables go up to be used as elevated walkways (called passarelle), and everyone tries to keep their belongings and merchandise dry.

Luigi found a novel solution for the bookshop he named after this natural inconvenience, which he opened in 2004 – he put his books in water proof bins, small boats, bathtubs, even a gondola, parked in the middle of the store. When you open a store full of books on an island that’s slowly sinking, you have to take some extreme precautions!

It’s a haphazardly arranged shop with both new and old tomes, a fire escape that leads to a canal, and a stairway to heaven made of old books with one hell of a view from the top. The staff member I spoke to, while not terribly friendly, did speak English and was able to point me in the right direction. There are some books in English, French, Spanish – mostly they’re in Italian, though. There’s really not much else to write about this place that other bloggers haven’t already So, here’s another set of photos from this little piece of heaven, because how could you possibly get sick of looking at these?!

5 Reasons To Renew Your Library Membership

Remember back in the day when you used to go to the library after school, pick up your books like it was the most exciting thing in the world, and head home to your juice box and teddy bears to read (chances are if you weren’t born in the 80s, you probably don’t)? Unsurprisingly, I had pretty high library attendance rates when I was a kid. I went through books like a pack-a-day smoker goes through cigarettes, and it wasn’t cheap for mum and dad to keep up with my habit. So I went to the library.

Many years later, not much has changed. I don’t smoke. I don’t really drink, other than the odd glass of wine. I don’t buy myself nice clothes, fancy shoes, new handbags or jewellery – my money goes towards books. That’s my guilty pleasure. But with my travel habit getting more and more expensive, something’s had to give. So I toddled on down to the local library, and signed myself up, expecting a half-decent collection of old books, at best. What I found instead, I was not expecting.

Libraries have upped their game since I was last a member back in the 1990s. They’ve got new books, old books, and so much more than books. I’m kicking myself for not having signed up earlier, because the easy access to books has meant I’ve been able to tear through 24 of them so far this year already! My habit is satisfied, and I’ve found a whole new world I didn’t know existed a few months ago. I’m really glad I went back to the library, and here’s why you should, too…

 

1. It’s not just access to your local library – it’s your whole council.
Say you live in the confines of the Whitehorse City Council. Say you live in the suburb of Blackburn. It’s not just Blackburn’s library you can borrow from; you can use your library card to borrow from Box Hill. Or Doncaster. Or Nunawading, Vermont, Bulleen or Warrandyte. You have no idea how nifty this is until you want to borrow a book on your way home and it’s way easier to drop into a different branch!

2. Easy reservations online or with apps.
You know how frustrating it is when you finally get to the library and they don’t have the book you want? Well that’s a thing of the past, now. Councils like Darebin have introduced an app you can download; from there, you can search the library catalogue and make a reservation! And, to prove step one really is efficient, it doesn’t matter which library the book is currently residing in – they can bring it to your library of choice for collection! AND you’ll get a handy sms to let you know when it’s ready for you, so you don’t have to make the trip down for nothing. Amazing!

3. They look after the kids.
Libraries have seriously upped their game when it comes to activities for the small ones. The City of Moonee Valley are outstanding, providing not only sessions for kids of all ages (rhyme time for babies, a mix of singing and stories for the toddlers, a story time program for pre-schoolers, and even an after school program for the older kids), they also have a gorgeous initiative called “Begin With Books” that gives a free book bag to all babies born within their council 🙂

4. Free community events.
Did you know that most libraries actually hold a ton of free events?! Libraries like those in the City of Yarra host regular events, ranging from social (crafternoons, Lego clubs and kids’ reading clubs) to educational (digital coaching and how to create your own food gardens), and all you have to do is register online and turn up!

5. Free books – duh!
Sooooo many books! All yours! For free! For a time, anyway. Oh, and it’s not just physical books that libraries lend out anymore; you can also get eBooks to download to your favourite electronic reading device! And as you can see on Moreland City Council’s library page, you can also get eAudiobooks, And eMovies. And eMagazines. Libraries are keeping up with technology to stay relevant and accessible, and that can only come in handy!

Eat & drink here: Buck Mulligan’s, Melbourne

Buck Mulligan’s
217 High St, Northcote
http://www.buckmulligans.com.au/

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!! I thought today might be a good day to let you know about a special little place that’s managed to stay under the radar for the past few months. When we walked past Buck Mulligan’s a few weeks ago, we had a pretty strong inkling that it was going to be our new favourite place – whiskey bar AND bookshop? Why yes, I think so!

Following an afternoon movie at Westgarth (and a large bucket of popcorn ), we made our way up High Street to Buck’s, and immediately fell completely in love. Exposed brick fireplace, wooden bookshelves, comfy couches and dusk light pouring in through the windows, we knew this was our place.

Husband wanted to sample some whiskey, and they have a great list to choose from – including a huge selection of Irish whiskeys. Husband went with the Teeling Flight, a selection of whiskeys from the first new distillery in Dublin in over 125 years: Small Batch, Single Grain, and Single Malt. They all got glowing reviews, and there’s a very good chance we may be visiting them in Dublin when we’re there in November…

They have wine and beer and cocktails, too, if whiskey isn’t your jam. And food – when you gorge on popcorn, you only need a light dinner, so we picked a few plates from their menu of nibbles:
– Clonakilty Bites (black pudding, fennel bread and relish), $6
– Traditional Ploughman’s for one (ham, cheese, pickled onions and relish, with Irish brown bread), $14
– Continental Ploughman’s for one (cold meats, cheese, olives mix with white crusty white bread), $15


Perfect. Simple, quality food is all you need, and this is it. The black pudding isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but we love it if it’s done right, and this was. We were also super impressed by the serving sizes – for $15 and the quality of ingredients,  they were VERY good value for money.

And don’t forget thr books – a great selection of new and used books by Irish authors, a few from local writers and small publishers, and regular book reading and launch events. We’re already planning on spending many more hours tucked away at Buck’s,  sipping on whiskey and reading books… you might want to drop in, too 🙂

Shop here: Kookaburra Books & Antiques, Hobart

Kookaburra Books & Antiques
113 Hampden Rd, Hobart, Tasmania
https://m.facebook.com/Kookaburra-Books-Antiques-246204455412440/

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With a window full of antique teapots and cups, it would have been just about impossible for this place not to catch my eye. It’s only small, but it is literally FULL of treasures! It had some great antiques and clothing/shoes, but the real pot of gold was the collection of books…

 

I’ve trawled through a LOT of second hand book shops, and I’ve ever before seen a collection that has even come close to rivaling this one. Beautiful books, old books, rare, collectibles, readables… Leather bound, hard back, full collections, just a few… Poetry, classics, history books and old children’s book.

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How I walked out with only two is an absolute miracle (actually, probably more to do with the exorbitant amount Tiger Airways would have charged for excess luggage). If you’re a bookworm, this is an absolute MUST visit in Hobart!

A Christmas gift guide… for the classic bookworms

Well, this is it! Saturday morning and time to get that Christmas shopping done! Before you get started, here’s one last guide – some of the literary classics for the bookworm in your life! Bonus? They can all be ordered online at Book Depository to arrive in time for Christmas!

Clockwise from top left…

1. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
What’s it all about? The classic teenage struggle against life and death and loneliness and isolation and all of the difficulties that come with those tumultuous years.
Buy it for: The one who’s had a rough trot.

2. On The Road by Jack Kerouac
What’s it all about? One of my favourite books of all time, Jack Kerouac’s semi-autobiographical piece is based on the travels he and his friends took across America which defined a generation, and continues to capture those of us with gypsy hearts even now, almost 50 years after it was published
Buy it for: The gypsy heart and wanderluster

3. Dracula by Bram Stoker
What’s it all about? It’s the classic Victorian horror tale about the vampire that inspired all the tales and movies to come. And it’s a classic for a reason.
Buy it for: The fantasty and horror buffs

4. Slaughterhouse5 by Kurt Vonnegut
What’s it all about? A satirical look at the experiences of the protagonist’s journey through World War II, told in flashbacks and memories
Buy it for: Anyone who’s seen a “everything was beautiful, and nothing hurt” tattoo and not known where the quote came from.

5. 1984 by George Orwell
What’s it all about? The original Big Brother – the classic dystopian tale of a society where nothing is sacred and nothing is secret.
Buy it for: The skeptics. And the optimists.

6. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
What’s it all about? This is another huge favourite of mine – it’s about Dorian Gray, a beautiful young man who wishes to stay that way. This isn’t about a piece of art, it’s about the evil within us all and the lengths we’ll go to to get what we want.
Buy it for: The one preoccupied with youth and beauty

7. Around The World in 80 Days by Jules Verne
What’s it all about? The premise of the story is quite simple: Phileas Fogg, an upstanding but eccentric English gentlemen makes a bet with his mates to the tune of, today, what is around £1.6 million (or just over AUD$3 million!) that he can travel around the world in exactly 80 days
Buy it for: The escapist.

8. Lillytales wooden bookmark
What’s it all about? These gorgeous wooden bookmarks are handmade in Melbourne, and they are the best accessory for a new book!
Buy it for: Everyone! Obviously!

9. Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote
What’s it all about? The romantic comedy with a sad twinge about a young woman with commitment issues in New York who’s just trying to find her way. Still quite relevant, despite being written over 50 years ago…
Buy it for: The one who doesn’t realise the movie was based on a book.

A Christmas gift guide… for the travellers

Happy Friday! Hope everyone is ready for the weekend Christmas shopping anarchy that’s about to hit… A little more help coming your way this morning, your gift guide for the travellers and explorers…

Clockwise from top left…

1. Scratch map
What’s it all about? A world map with a foil layer that can be scratched off to reveal the countries you’ve visited. Amazing! Available all over the place – Australian Geographic stores, Etsy, eBay, etc…
Buy it for: The visual record-keepers.

2. Mini globe & stickers
What’s it all about? I decided to take my scratch map idea to another level – I found this cute little globe for $7 at Kmart and bought a pack of stick on sparkles to lay over the cities I’ve visited. Awesome little piece to add to anyone’s bookshelf.
Buy it for: The travellers who like to decorate with their travels.

3. Notebook
What’s it all about? Pretty straightforward – I always carry a notebook when I travel, and I’d rather have  a pretty one! I picked this one up for $4 from Officeworks; Typo also have a lot of very cute ones around.
Buy it for: The travellers who like to record as they go.

4. Luggage tag
What’s it all about? Finding your suitcase on the conveyor belt is never fun – a colourful luggage tag is a no-brainer. I love the ones from Typo and have bought them for heaps of family and friends over the years.
Buy it for: The easily frustrated and impatient traveller.

5. Lonely Planet’s The World’s Best Street Food
What’s it all about? One of the best parts of travelling is experiencing all the different food. This is a part travel guide, part cookbook. It’s a great way to re-live the memories you’ve eaten, and it gets a lot of use at my house – the gozleme are a massive favourite!
Buy it for: The travelling foodie.

6. Lonely Planet’s The Travel Book
What’s it all about? It’s a classic for travellers – all of the places in one nifty little volume with all the basic information to get you motivated to pack your bags and visit Tunisia or Belize or New Caledonia…
Buy it for: Everyone!