One of the joys of January for me is the Lifeline Bookfest in Brisbane. This is one of the biggest second-hand book sales in the state of Queensland, and I came home loaded down with new reading. And some great finds!
It’s a kind of tradition for me and my daughter Jess; every year we make a date to go together. The Bookfest runs for 10 days but we try to go early and this year managed to hit it on the first day.
About 4km of tables groaning with literally millions of books are laid out over two massive convention halls, all organised into rough categories: history, humour, biography, literature and classics, health, science fiction, cooking, computers, religion, philosophy and science, sport, economics, children’s books and more. And travel, of course! It’s bookworm heaven!
They’re also separated by price. One whole hall is devoted to $1 books, and the other to $2.50 books and “high quality” books. A little map is handed out as you enter, for ease of finding your way through the labyrinth. There are also sections for magazines, vinyl records, puzzles, DVDs, CDs, and board games.
Everyone brings their own bags, some trundle suitcases to fill up and if you are planning to buy up really big, you can hire a supermarket shopping trolley for $2. It’s packed with avid readers, but everyone’s very polite and orderly, and there’s no pushing or shoving.
After about three hours of blissful browsing, I came home with 21 books. Jess had 28 in her pile. So…what did I buy, I hear you ask? Eight crime novels (James Patterson, Michael Connelly, Peter Robinson), a biography (Joan Baez), an Australian classic (Christina Stead’s The Man Who Loved Children, which I’ve never read), Isabel Allende’s Portrait in Sepia, and one of Lee Child’s Jack Reacher novels that had escaped me until now (Without Fail). Two old hardbacks from Australian authors: Janet Turner Hospital’s Oyster, and an Morris West’s The World is Made of Glass. A book of short stories about Brisbane by local authors (One Book Many Brisbanes).
And a few travel books of varying kinds, of course: The Old Patagonian Express by Paul Theroux, and Solomon Time by Will Randall, which will be perfect reading for my trip to the Solomon Islands on assignment next month. Then there was a gem called Wayward Women: A Guide to Women Travellers, by Jane Robinson, and a 1956 edition of Tibetan Journey, by George N. Patterson which promises “landslides, bandits, unimaginable cold and a series of bridges horrifying in their insecurity”. Can’t wait. And last of all, a tome from Australian writer Christopher Koch, Out of Ireland, a novel set in Ireland and colonial Tasmania.
But the find that made me happiest was this: The Snow Leopard by Peter Matthiessen. My own copy, bought in a second bookshop in Kathmandu in the mid-1980s, has long been lost and I’ve been on the lookout for another copy for years. And there it was! How wonderful!
Bookfest Brisbane is the biggest fundraising event of the year for the 24 hour Lifeline crisis support line. This life-saving service offers suicide prevention and bereavement support over the telephone as well as family and crisis support – 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
Whether you are a book worm, a dedicated reader, a student, a book collector or someone searching for those long lost books, Lifeline Bookfest Brisbane (on until January 26) is the place to go. As for me…all I have to do now is buy a new bookcase!