Today’s Spotlight on Bookstores is brought to us by Joanna Penn, author and blogger at The Creative Penn: Writing, Self-Publishing, Print-on-Demand, Internet Sales and Promotion…for your book; you can follow her on Twitter. Joanna is British, lives in Brisbane but was in Sydney for the Writers Festival and revisited this brilliant bookshop.
I left England in 2000 and arrived in Sydney for the Olympics as a tourist and casual worker. The atmosphere was amazing! There were big screens set up downtown where thousands of people would sit and cheer on their countries. It was then I first discovered the mass hysteria of watching sport and Ariel Bookstore at The Rocks. For those who don’t know Sydney, The Rocks is right under the Harbour Bridge and opposite the Opera House. It is prime Sydney real estate, tiny lanes packed with cafes and tourist traps, as well as the Modern Art Museum and Ariel. It used to be the red light district, where sailors drank and whored their nights away, and now tourists buy Prada and overpriced Aboriginal paintings. You have to go!
Ariel is a tiny shop really. It is not somewhere you can sit and read. There are no comfy chairs. There is no coffee shop. The only people in there are buying books. Ariel is so good because I swear every single book is one you want to read. There is no wasted space. No bargain bin. No second rate books. There are scant choices and few copies in each genre but every book on the shelves is considered and correct. It seems they know my taste perfectly (and probably yours as well!). To go into Ariel as a booklover is to get your wallet out, happily and willingly. Do not go in there if you just want to browse. It is a booklover’s heaven and hell.
I think their success is based on scarcity of choice, but excellence in what is presented. I love books and could browse all day but often I leave over-crowded bookshops unable to buy because I am overwhelmed. Another famous bookshop is Sydney is Gleebooks which definitely suffers from overcrowding. Although an excellent bookshop, I have frequently left unfulfilled, bag empty because of too much choice. However, if you are in Sydney, definitely visit Glebe Point Road on an empty stomach. You will find much to munch on as well as brain food there!
While I have the floor, I have to mention my favourite bookshop in Brisbane (considered by many to be a cultural wilderness!). Folio Books is my solace when the day job gets too much, and is often a weekend pilgrimage. Their layout and selection is similar to Ariel, although they also have a number of huge art and architecture books, large in size and price. I buy presents from Folio – one for the birthday boy/girl and one for me.