See you all in 2021
2020 has been a challenging year around the world, and here in Melbourne, it was no different. Opening with a series of catastrophic bushfires, before the arrival of the coronavirus to Australian shores and a devastating mid-year outbreak in Victoria which necessitated a strict lockdown and saw Readings close their doors for the first time in 51 years of business – it’s hard to imagine anyone in our community was untouched by these events. As our managing director Mark Rubbo noted in one of his columns: “Support each other, conserve to rebuild something better, and don’t shout at loved ones or colleagues.”
Speaking of colleagues, we celebrated some awesome achievements from our staff this year. Our book division manager Alison Huber was awarded Bookseller of the Year by the Australian Booksellers Association, while Carlton booksellers Sean O'Beirne and Fiona Hardy, and Doncaster bookseller Oliver Driscoll all released books. O'Beirne’s A Couple of Things Before the End is a razor-sharp story collection about modern Australia. Hardy’s How to Write the Soundtrack to Your Life is a funny, heartfelt children’s novel. And Driscoll’s I Don’t Know How That Happened is a beautiful and unsettling poetry collection. Meanwhile, St Kilda bookseller Josephine Rowe’s beautifully crafted story collection, Here Until August, and we’re all excited to get our mitts on The Gaps – a new young adult novel from Kids bookseller Leanne Hall in March of next year.
In terms of big books of the year – Tara June Winch’s The Yield is surely the most awarded book of the year having won the Miles Franklin Literary Award, the Christina Stead Prize for Fiction, the Prime Minister’s Literary Award for Fiction, and the Voss Literary Award 2020 – as well as numerous other shortlistings. A powerful reclaiming of Indigenous language, storytelling and identity, it was among the most talked-about books of the year. All up, it was another stellar year for local literature and a special congratulations to the winners of our three Readings Prizes which recognise emerging voices. Matilda Wood’s gorgeous high seas tale, The Girl, The Cat & The Navigator, won the Readings Children’s Book Prize. Lisa Fuller’s spooky YA thriller, Ghost Bird, won the Readings Young Adult Book Prize. Elizabeth Tan’s smart, funny story collection, Smart Ovens for Lonely People, won the Readings Prize for New Australian Fiction.
We saw some definite trends in our customer’s reading habits this year, including an unprecedented rush for jigsaw puzzles and a gravitation towards feel-good and uplifting fiction such as Pip Williams’s charming literary mystery, The Dictionary of Lost Words. The tragic and highly publicised death of George Floyd in America of May this year also raised increased global awareness of the anti-racism movement – including shining a light on systemic racism here in Australia. This led to an increased demand for books about racism and white supremacy, and from First Nations voices – we truly hope these books inspire action beyond the page. We also saw an influx of books about how to rethink the world and inspire hope, such as Julia Baird’s Phosphorescence and Rutger Bregman’s Humankind: A Hopeful History. In light of these books and the ideas they contain, it is heartening to remember that 2020 has also been marked by acts of generosity and kindness from our community.
Authors Emily Gale and Nova Weetman kicked off the year with #AuthorsForFireys – an online auction where Australian writers raised funds for bushfire relief. With families confined to their homes and local surrounds, libraries transitioned to online story times and rhyme times – with authors and book shops following suit – and people started popping teddy bears in windows à la We’re Going on a Bear Hunt. Once the second lockdown in Melbourne ended and bookshops reopened, author Imbi Neeme conceived of the brilliant Bookshop Bingo initiative, which encouraged people to visit nine bookshops based on a bingo card. Support for local authors thrived on social media and online book launches opened up attendance to fans from across state lines and oceans. Our own event program moved completely online and our events and programming manager extraordinaire Chris Gordon hosted 145 zoom events, reaching just under 24,000 people – an astonishing number.
So thank you to everyone who has supported Readings this year, whether it was by visiting one of our shops or purchasing a book from us online, by attending one of our online events or flicking through a copy of the Readings Monthly, by reading our blog or listening to the Readings Podcast, and all the other small but powerful actions. We are particularly grateful to those who sent us kind words or gestures – they meant a great deal to the staff who saw them.
Our blog and social media will be quiet for the next couple of weeks while our digital marketing team take a short break. Don’t worry though – regular business on both the blog and social media resumes as normal in January of 2021 and in the meantime, all of our shops (including our online shop!) will be open as per usual.
Happy holidays, and happy reading.