Category Archives: News

Mostly Books turns 41!

On Thursday, November 8, we threw ourselves a birthday party to commemorate 41 years of business. We were joined by more than 70 loyal customers, trade representatives and past and present staff to share a toast to independent bookselling. Surviving for over 40 years in any industry is an achievement and we are proud to remain Adelaide’s oldest independent bookshop. Thank you to all those who attended, as well as the maker of our beautiful cake Mim Gollan of Four Seeds – it was the star of the show!















Local author and long-time customer, Carol Lefevre, was kind enough to say a few words to mark the occasion and we have included the full text of her speech below.

Carol Lefevre’s birthday speech

In a time when things can change in a flash, it is wonderful to think that Mostly Books has endured in our midst for forty-one years, and this through one of the most volatile periods in the history of publishing and book selling.

The business was founded in 1977 by Jacqueline Cookes, and bought by the current owner, Charmaine Power, in 2008, the same year I moved to Unley.

But that year, as well as Mostly Books, there was a book shop in Unley Shopping Centre. And later there was a second hand bookshop on the corner of Arthur Street and Unley Road. Going further back, when I returned to live in Adelaide at the start of 2005 there were many more books shops in the city – Borders, Angus and Robertson, Mary Martin’s in Rundle Street. You probably know of others.

Slowly but surely, with the rise of the internet, eBooks, and massive online stores like Amazon, these lovely stores closed their doors. Technology can do this, promise to lead us towards the light, and we are swept along. But at some point we look back, and that’s when we see that familiar lights have gone out, that the places we knew have gone dark. For a while it seemed inevitable that we would lose all our book shops, and I remember feeling very gloomy for the future of paper books around that time.

There is a quote I often return to by the English writer and critic G.K. Chesterton.

The way to love anything is to realise that it might be lost.

While I have never needed to be reminded to love books, that quote does make me think about the things that gradually slip away – because we’re busy, we’re tired, we’re stressed – and a little while ago I started to make a list of the things that have vanished in my own life time, everything from milk bottles and milkmen, to dip pens, blotters, cursive handwriting, typewriters, vinyl records, steam trains, outside bathrooms and dunnys (no real loss, you might say). But the suburban delis that were once on so many street corners – I really miss those. Then, one and two cent coins, dollar notes, petrol stations where someone pumps the petrol and checks under the bonnet, reel to reel tape recorders, cassette tapes, sixpences, bonfire night, with skyrockets and sparklers, slide evenings, department stores with lift attendants who recite the contents of each floor, and so much more.

And then there is the endangered list – public telephone boxes, suburban letterboxes, handwritten letters, possibly even the entire postal system, including stationery and beautiful stamps, postmen, and the joy of finding a personal letter in the letterbox.

I read recently a list of endangered, or at least fast-declining professions, and these included things like photographic processors, and travel agents. Libraries, too have been struggling in many places.

Buddhist philosophy teaches that the way to face change and impermanence is by developing non-attachment. But while I have successfully achieved detachment towards milk bottles and vinyl records, and even to the extraordinary sight of an ice-man sprinting up the drive to deliver a block of ice for our old wooden cooling chest (and that was a very long time ago) I will struggle long to relinquish the joy of receiving a handwritten letter, or of being able to browse in a real bookshop.

For like letters, books put us into an intimate conversation with the writer, and this conversation can extend across time and space, so that I can pick up the diaries of Virginia Woolf and hear her speak to me, as sharp, as engaging, as fully alive, as the morning or evening  she sat down to write.

Just as the whole of a letter is greater than the words on paper, a book is more than the sum of its materials, and carries a meaning that springs from the heart of the writer. Once you accept that books are a special way of speaking, the next thing to consider is what will be lost if they should ever entirely disappear.

I remember a night when there was a great storm here in Adelaide and the trees in the street thrashed wildly until, inevitably, the electricity went off. With all the usual distractions suddenly unavailable, we lit candles and gathered together in one room, and we read aloud to pass the time. The children still remember what a great night it was, and for a long time afterwards I considered organising simulated blackouts, so that we could do it all over again.

Bookshops have always been a particular source of hope and inspiration for writers. Sometimes I pop in to Mostly Books to see what’s fresh off the press, to check on what other writers have been beavering away at while I have been busy with my own work. Sometimes I come to order a book, at other times I am hoping to stumble across something I haven’t heard of yet but that I will read and absolutely love. If I am struggling with my own writing I sometimes need to come in and visualise where my own book will be shelved when it’s finished, and this sends me back to my work with greater determination and purpose.

A long time ago now, I moved to an island that only one book shop, and I didn’t discover this until I had arrived. It was small, not very well stocked, and situated at the opposite end of the island to where I lived, so each visit required an expedition.

The island’s libraries weren’t well stocked either, and for a long time I suffered for a lack of books. Eventually, a branch of the book chain Ottakers opened: two floors of books and a coffee shop! I wept for joy the first time I went in!  I was a beginning writer then, and in my lunch hours I would walk to Ottakers to work my way along a shelf reading all the first lines, all the first paragraphs, or all the first pages. I bought many books there, but I also used the shop a bit like a library, and the staff never complained. Because that’s another thing about book shops – the people who are drawn to work in them are usually extra special human beings.

And so it is with Mostly Books, and I’m incredibly happy to be still sourcing my books here ten years after first crossing the threshold. My own books have been on the shelves. My latest book The Happiness Glass is on the New Releases table now, which is a special joy.  I hope Mostly Books continues to flourish, and I know that it will, as long as we readers continue to choose and read real paper books sold to us by really lovely, knowledgeable book sellers.

So Happy Birthday Mostly Books! And thank you.

Introducing Ben and Jess

They’ve now been at Mostly Books for several months, so it’s about time we introduced them properly. Meet Jess and Ben, our newest booksellers.


Ever since she started working in her first bookstore at age 17, Jess has always loved selling, reading and talking about books. She particularly likes reading fantasy, science, history and gardening books, but often finds herself falling in love with nearly every other book that comes into the store too! Most of all, she loves the thrill of being able to make someone’s day by tracking down and finding a book that they’ve been searching for but haven’t been able to find anywhere else.


Ben writes and reads frequently. He has been selling books at Mostly Books since one of the months in 2014. When he is not in the shop he is probably working on a play, review, essay, short story, or tweet (@BenMBrooker). As of this writing, Ben is reading books by Eric Schlosser, Geoffrey Robertson, Margaret Atwood, and Albert Camus.

New Blogger in Residence: Adela

Introducing our newest Blogger in Residence, Adela, who will be joining Eloise, Niav and Jonathan in writing for us this year. Adela has been an excellent reviewer of books for our shelves for a while now, so we’re pleased to welcome her to the team.

AdelaAdela is in Year Eight, and has been reviewing novels for Mostly Books since late 2013. She likes to read quirky, original young adult fiction, and her favourite book at the moment is Laurinda by Alice Pung. (Though Looking For Alibrandi is a close second!) Adela also writes poetry. She has been published in the 2012 and 2013 SAETA Spring Poetry Anthologies, and in the ‘Poet’s Corner’ of Indaily twice. Adela is passionate about music. When she is not reading or writing, she loves to listen to her favourite albums, play her guitar and write on her music blog.

Camp NaNoWriMo: April 2014

Attention all writers aged 10-18:

Camp NaNoWriMo Participant Banner

After three years of running the NaNoWriMo Young Writers Program, this year the Mostly Books Young Writers Group will also be participating in Camp NaNoWriMo.

It’s not a literal camp – more like a mini version of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) during the school holidays. Participants are assigned to virtual ‘cabins’ during April and/or July, and choose their own writing goal to work towards over the course of the month. This may be as small as a short story of a few thousand words, or as large as a full length novel of 50 000 words. (Or larger. By all means go crazy.)

You can also work on sections of existing projects, which is something we discourage you from doing during the November challenge. For example, this April you might want to blast through the next 20 000 words of a novel-in-progress, or edit 30 000 words of a completed manuscript.

Participants will have access to online support and motivation via the Camp NaNoWriMo website. In addition, our own team of participants will be able to pep-talk each other at the April meeting (Saturday April 11), catch-up on missed words at the write-in (Sunday April 19) and procrastinate in our online chat room while (theoretically) typing away at their novels.

All local school-aged writers are welcome to join our cabin, including those who haven’t been to group meetings before. Spread the word!

To register your interest, email

Indie Awards 2014 Shortlist

It has been the loveliest kind of torture knowing the shortlisted titles for this year’s Indie Awards but not being able to tell you. Now, at last, we are at liberty to announce the 2014 nominees for our favourite annual literary award.

Judged by independent booksellers Australia-wide, the Indie Award recognises the best book written by an Australian author during the previous publication year in each of four categories: fiction, non-fiction, debut fiction and children’s fiction.


Barracuda Coal Creek Eyrie Narrow Road

This shortlist was fairly predictable – so much so that Charmaine was able to call it before it even hit our inbox. The four Aussie lit-fic heavyweights of last Christmas are head to head in the Best Fiction category. Much to Kate’s displeasure, they are all men. A notable absence is Thomas Keneally, whose Shame and the Captives appears to have been upstaged by the other big POW novel of 2013 – Richard Flanagan’s The Narrow Road to the Deep North, already being hailed as a masterpiece. Eyrie should provide strong competition – Winton’s prizewinning record is unmatched, and he’s a perennial favourite of Australian independent booksellers. Then again, so is Christos Tsiolkas, whose Barracuda, though rougher around the edges (in my opinion) than The Slap, has made waves with readers and attracted consistently favourable reviews. For all that, we can’t entirely discount Alex Miller, who, if Charmaine’s to be believed, is incapable of writing a bad novel. Coal Creek is no exception. It’s going to be close.


Murder in Mississippi Stalking of Julia Gillard Good Life Girt

We’re extremely pleased to see The Stalking of Julia Gillard on this list. (Because this bookshop doesn’t have a feminist bias at all.) The Gillard era was being picked apart by countless writers almost before it came to a close, and we’d be happy to direct you towards whole shelves of Gillard-related reading, but if we had to pick one title, this’d be it. David Hunt’s Girt was a customer favourite at Christmastime (because why on earth did no one think of doing an irreverent Australian history book before?), and The Good Life has been one of Hugh Mackay’s most requested titles yet – which is saying a lot. For us, the out-of-nowhere nominee is John Safran’s Murder in Mississippi. We sold a few copies, but none of us have read it, and there have been no first hand reports so far. Can anyone enlighten us?

Debut Fiction

Burial Rites Rosie Project Mr Wigg Night Guest

Nobody should be at all surprised to see our two favourite books of 2013 on this list: Hannah Kent’s Burial Rites and Graeme Simsion’s The Rosie Project. Without playing favourites, I think we can safely predict that the award will go to one of these two. And, even though The Rosie Project was the charmingest, feelgoodest book that has ever embarrassed me at a bus stop by making me laugh too loudly, we’re all secretly hoping it’ll be Hannah. Her overnight rise to fame has been the envy of Creative Writing students across the state (including myself) and her Burial Rites holds a special place in the hearts of a number of our staff members. 2014 should see Hannah rewarded with a string of literary honours and she deserves every one of them. All this, however, is not to overlook The Night Guest, about which critics – and some of our most critical customers – have raved. McFarlane is the underrated nominee on this year’s list, and a discerning panel might favour her. As for Mr Wigg – well, Charmaine just can’t work out what anyone sees in that book. To each their own?

Children’s Fiction

39-Storey Treehouse Alphabetical Sydney Weirdo Kissed by the Moon

The Children’s Fiction category is too often a case of apples versus oranges. How do you compare a picture book like Alison Lester’s Kissed by the Moon, lovingly illustrated and perfect for reading to babies and toddlers, to Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton’s The 39-Storey Treehouse, which has taken the Middle and Upper Primary semi-graphic-novel to hilarious new heights? In fairness to the rest of the book industry, Griffiths and Denton really shouldn’t win another award or sell another Treehouse book – they’ve already been the smash-hit of the pre-Christmas period three years running. But then again, neither should Anh Do, who won the Indie Award outright in 2012 for The Happiest Refugee. If Weirdo does win, we might just forgive Anh on the grounds that he’s the most emphatically friendly and genuine person you’re ever likely to meet. Not to mention he writes great books. The surprise nominee for us this year is Alphabetical Sydney, which never registered on our 2013 bookselling radar. It may well be a beautiful book – but we suspect its presence on this shortlist is an indication of the high concentration of independent bookshops in New South Wales.


We’ll know the category winners by the end of February. From there, bookstores across Australia will vote to choose their favourite of the four, to be honoured as ‘Book of the Year’. Their decision will be announced on Wednesday March 26, leaving our First Thursday Book Club just eight days to read the winner before their meeting on Thursday April 3. (Because book club on the edge. That’s how we roll.) We will attempt to help you by giving you some indication of who we think it’ll be, but we accept no responsibility for getting it wrong.

NaNoWriMo Approaches


Last year, seven of our intrepid young writers attempted the ultimate literary challenge: writing a novel in thirty days from November 1-30. Four of them succeeded. The other three (including myself) are winners anyway for having attempted it. Between us, we wrote over one hundred thousand words during the month of November.

NaNo CrestThis is the thirty-day period of creative mayhem known as National Novel Writing Month. You may have heard of it already – last year, nearly 350 000 people around the world participated.

Mostly Books will be facilitating NaNoWriMo’s Young Writers Program again this year. (As far as I know, we are the only people running the program in South Australia.) If you’re eighteen or under, you’re invited to join our team, set your own word count goal and be guided through thirty days of spontaneous writing.

nano_13_progress_chart_mainrgb[1]More information is available at The idea is to go into November with no idea what you’re doing, and let your imagination run completely wild. Quantity over quality is the rule. No self-editing is allowed until after the end of the month.

Once you’ve signed up on the website, you’ll receive email pep talks from professional authors, and be able to update your word count metre for all your friends to see. We’ll also have a word-count metre poster up in the shop, to be filled up with stickers as the month rolls on. It’ll look like the one on the right.

Email Samuel to register your interest and join our online classroom.

Vote Now on the 2013 Inky Awards

Inside a DogIf you’re aged 12-20, you’re eligible to vote on the Inky Awards, Australia’s most prestigious young-adult-judged prize for young adult fiction, at the State Library of Victoria’s kids book review website Inside a Dog.

Last year’s winners were Shift by Em Bailey and The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (of which we’ve sold so many copies that I’ve now lost count.)

The shortlisted books for this year are:

Gold Inky (Australian YA titles)

  • Friday Brown – Vikki Wakefield
  • Cry Blue Murder – Kim Kane and Marion Roberts
  • Life in Outer Space – Melissa Keil
  • Girl Defective – Simmone Howell
  • My Life as an Alphabet – Barry Jonsberg

Silver Inky (International YA titles)

  • The Diviners – Libba Bray
  • This is Not a Test – Courtney Summers
  • Code Name Verity – Elizabeth Wein
  • The Raven Boys – Maggie Stiefvater
  • See You at Harry’s – Jo Knowles

Read any of these? Vote at You have until October 18.

I’m too old to cast my vote – but in a way, that’s a good thing. It’s silly to have prizes for children’s books judged by adults, don’t you think?

Eloise Quinn-Valentine Wins First Prize at the Salisbury Writers Festival

Congratulations to Young Writers Group member Eloise Quinn-Valentine, whose story ‘Clear Waters’ beat one hundred others from South Australia to win first prize in the Youth Division of the 2013 Salisbury Writers Festival Writing Competition. Eloise is fifteen years old.

You can read her prizewinning story below.

Continue reading Eloise Quinn-Valentine Wins First Prize at the Salisbury Writers Festival

CBCA Winners Announced

Today is the first day of Book Week, which runs until next Friday, August 23. The winners of the Children’s Book Council of Australia‘s Book of the Year Awards were announced yesterday, and they are:

Sea HeartsOlder Readers Book of the Year 2013

Winner: Sea Hearts, Margo Lanagan

The Ink Bridge, Neil Grant
Friday Brown, Vikki Wakefield

Children of the KingYounger Readers Book of the Year 2013

Winner: The Children of the King, Sonya Hartnett

Pennies for Hitler, Jackie French
The Tender Moments of Saffron Silk, Glenda Millard and Stephen Michael King

Terrible SuitcaseEarly Childhood Book of the Year 2013

Winner: The Terrible Suitcase, Emma Allen and Freya Blackwood

With Nan, Tania Cox and Karen Blair
Too Many Elephants in This House, Ursula Dubosarsky and Andrew Joyner *

The CoatPicture Book of the Year 2013

Winner: The Coat, Ron Brooks and Julie Hunt

Herman and Rosie, Gus Gordon
Sophie Scott Goes South, Alison Lester

Tom the Outback MailmanEve Pownall Information Book of the Year 2013

Winner: Tom the Outback Mailman, Kristin Weidenbach and Tony Ide

Lyrebird! A True Story, Jackie Kerin and Peter Gouldthorpe
Topsy-Turvy World: How Australian Animals Puzzled Early Explorers, Kirsty Murray

* If I’d been judging it, Too Many Elephants in This House would have won the whole thing.