Event: Clunes Back to Booktown.

Last weekend I went to Clunes for their annual Back to Booktown event, encompassing more than 60 booksellers in almost every store on the main street, plus churches, historical buildings and marquees erected especially for the weekend.

As I’ve blogged about here and here, I’d been wanting to attend for the past two years, but the lack of public transportation and friends willing to drive there (as I don’t have a car nor a license) meant this was the first year I could go.

My friend Andrew and I trekked the two hours from Melbourne to the country town located somewhere between Ballarat, Creswick and Maryborough; a town so small it defaults to Ballarat when looking it up on a weather website. (It was sunny and 11° on Saturday. Brrr!)

Honestly, I was surprised by the sheer amount of booksellers. I was expecting a couple of old buildings and trestle tables and that was it. Granted, the town is small, but there’s a reason people flock from far and wide to Clunes for a weekend in May.

I managed to unearth a couple of Bret Easton Ellis books for under $10 each, a copy of The Catcher in the Rye for $12.50 (steep for a secondhand copy, but c’mon, it’s J.D. Salinger!), and Agatha Christie’s Death on the Nile. I also saw a copy of Perfect Murder, Perfect Town by Lawrence Schiller on the JonBenet Ramsay murder, but I wasn’t sure I could commit to a book that thick on a subject I already know a lot about. Plus, I already have Joyce Carol Oates’ My Sister, My Love ready to go after I finish The Great Gatsby, which is a fictional account of the crime. Alas, when I decided to go back for it it had already been sold. I guess it just wasn’t meant to be.

There were also some fabulous food stalls at Clunes, with baked potatoes and Dixie cups, but I was most impressed by Widow Twankey’s Lolly Shop & Ice Cream Parlour, which sold the cheapest lollies and cakes in town (or most towns, for that matter!). Of course we stocked up on Red Skins (the racist lolly of the masses), Fantails, boiled candy and Toffee Apples. Yum!

While I was planning on picking up a few more titles than I did, I will definitely be making an appearance again next year, and I urge you to, too. Book lovers will feel like they’ve died and gone to heaven.

Related: Go Back to Booktown This Weekend (2011).

Go Back to Booktown This Weekend (2010).

Elsewhere: [Back to Booktown 2011] Homepage.

[Widow Twankey’s] Homepage.

Book Shop: Book Now, Bendigo.

So this review was originally going to be about Bendigo’s Book Mark, which still remains the best secondhand book store I’ve ever had the pleasure of visiting.

Such gems I’ve managed to find there are Mick Foley’s rare first novel, Tietam Brown, and a $7 copy of Michael Jackson’s Moonwalk. I scoured the shelves for over an hour looking for that one. When I took it to the counter, the man who served me marveled at it being left on the shelves; he’d put all Jackson-related literature on their website to be sold at an elevated price after his sudden death.

But perhaps my friend Hannah and I left it too late on a Saturday afternoon to visit the shop: they close at 4pm and we got there at 4:05!

So we decided instead to venture over to Book Now, located at 1 Farmers Lane, opposite Rosiland Park. There’s no denying I’ve gotten some good titles there before—a first edition of The Hotel New Hampshire by John Irving springs to mind—but I find it a bit stuffy and overpriced for a secondhand book store.

However, this weekend’s trip yielded some fantastic finds for both me and Hannah. Hannah is studying to be a doctor in Russian history and social sciences, so she took home a book on Nicholas II of Russia, and his wife Alexandra Fyodorovna, parents of Anastasia of Russia, and Atonement by Ian McEwan.

I knew Book Now has a large collection of Joyce Carol Oates books, so I rummaged through them in the vain hope of finding My Sister, My Love, a recent novel based on the JonBenet Ramsey murder. And low and behold, I did find it resting on a shelf right up the back of the shop.

My Book Now trip was pretty much complete after that, however I did spot some Armistead Maupin titles, and picked up a few of those. (To be honest, I own so many of his books I wasn’t 100% sure that I don’t already own The Night Listener and Maybe the Moon. But at $6 a pop, who am I to complain if I do?!) Finally, I stumbled across Naomi Wolf’s The Beauty Myth and decided to add that to my ever-growing pile.

So what began as a somewhat disappointing afternoon when Book Mark wasn’t open, ended as a surprisingly great one, with four new additions to my bookshelf.

Bendigo only has a few really good bookstores, so if you’re ever up in Central Victoria, visiting the Bendigo Art Gallery (stay tuned for more this afternoon) or the Golden Dragon Chinese Museum, pop on over to Book Now or Book Mark.

I know I will on my next visit.

Related: Evolution of the Bookshop at the Wheeler Centre.

In Appreciation of Mick Foley.

The Hotel New Hampshire by John Irving Review.

Is There Really a Beauty Myth?

Armistead Maupin in Conversation with Noni Hazlehurst.

Elsewhere: [Book Now] Homepage.

[Bendigo Book Mark] Homepage.

Image via Book Now.