Blethering with the local bookshop

The Book Barn, Daylesford, Victoria, Australia:  a local gem

Andrew Green runs a delightful second-hand bookshop and cafe on the shores of Lake Daylesford, in a small country town about 90 minutes from Melbourne. It’s the perfect spot to indulge in some scones and tea (or some local wine) on the deck whilst contemplating life and your next book purchase.

I chatted with Andrew about his business and what it’s like to own a local bookshop.

So, why books?

They came as an extra! The location of the Book Barn was the attraction in my escape from Melbourne. I had no experience with second-hand books when I arrived and it was a steep learning curve. At the start I was fortunate to have a mentor, who still advises me 10 years later.

What’s your favourite section of the shop?

This has to be the display section as people enter the shop. Each week I change the stock to have a feature of books that have something in common. For example, I recently had an India section; much more than just cricket. Or if someone dies, in particular an author, you have a window to clear their past works.

Books  you would never stock?

We don’t condone censorship, however, when it comes to good taste, we don’t stock Mills & Boon or anything by Andrew Bolt [very conservative Australian journalist]. They go outside on the ‘please steal table’. While I do have a small royalty section, as a republican I find the royals and their fan-base distasteful.

The most famous customer you’ve had?

Now this is the time to boast. We have a lot of well-known people as customers. I have a Barry Humphries story too long to tell…

I am terrified when Barry Jones [Australian polymath and former politician] comes in as I very often don’t understand the question let alone know the answer.

We were visited by Cate Blanchett and her family, and Stephanie Alexander [Australian chef] has written some very nice things about the Book Barn in at least two of her books.

 Book shops you like to visit?

As I work 7 days a week I don’t get out much, but on a recent trip to Sydney I was impressed with the books in the Sydney Art Gallery shop. And yes, while in Sydney I bought a book – a really nice coffee table book on the garden that Wendy Whiteley has created from old railway land (Wendy Whiteley and the Secret Garden).

Your favourite book of all time?

When I first read On the road by Jack Kerouac in the late 60s it influenced me to come to Australia. I re-read it recently; he was just a sexist pig! How you learn and change as you get older and wiser.

Andrew at work

If you weren’t selling books in Daylesford?

This is the best time of my life and I am living in the now (I could write a personal development book on this) so I have no thoughts on the future. The shop is me and my identity. It’s in a little backwater, quirky yes, and probably one of the last of its kind. The small cafe and all the ‘other’ stuff help subsidise the books. It’s certainly not a financial gold mine. But I’m happy and the only regret is that I should have done this years ago.

This is a site about books and about tea, and how we should read more books and drink more tea. Sometimes, it's hard to know what books to read and what tea to drink. This is where I can help out.

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