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Love Your Bookshop Day: Gertrude & Alice

For the final instalment of our Love Your Bookshop Day series - during which we've been shining a spotlight on some of our very favourite bookshops - today, we're featuring the beating book heart of Bondi; the beautiful Gertrude & Alice.

Can you tell us a bit about your bookshop? 

We opened in 2001 as a second hand café bookstore and we now sell new and second hand books, stationery, games and puzzles. Over the last 20 years we have seen a lot of changes in the book industry and have tried to adapt to those changes to stay relevant. It is now run as a family business.

What’s the best thing about working in a bookshop?

There are a few that spring to mind: the people you meet and the friends you make; the fact that you are exposed to so many different books and genres that you would never have tried if not for being a bookseller. Watching the process of adult non-readers become readers and develop a love of reading - this is very special to me. Reading to little ones and then when they start school having them practice their reading on you. Someone coming across a book that they have been searching for since they were a child and discovering it in our shop. There were many tears that day. She refused to buy it online. Finally, having the support of a vast reading community

Apart from your own, which is one of your favourite bookshops?

Atlantis Books in Santorini, Greece, Shakespeare and Co in Paris and a little café bookstore on the south coast called Bouquiniste.

What does an average day look like for you?

The day is always long and never starts out as planned. The café keeps us really busy so bookselling and organising doesn’t often take place until mid-morning after the coffee rush. Lots of deliveries, people selling books, people donating books, customer orders in store and online, packing curated gift book boxes. Pricing, shelving, tidying, sorting and recommending books – our favourite part of the day.

Is there a book you recommend to almost any customer?

A Little Life by Hanya Yanigahara. It’s a book that’s not for everyone but it’s been a bookseller favourite for many years now.

Do you have a favourite book of all time?

That’s such a hard question. The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand and In Cold Blood – by Truman Capote started my love of reading. A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry and Circe by Madeline Miller are 2 books that I have loved. There’s my Top 4.

What do you love most about reading? 

The peace and quiet of getting lost in a story. Forgetting about life for a while and escaping with fictional characters. Learning from a non-fiction book that gives you a different perspective on things. I love curling up on holidays and reading in the sunshine. Napping and reading. Books are always the first thing that I put in my suitcase!

Any memorable customers that have stayed with you? 

There are so many!  And after so many years we have made friends with so many of our customers.  Over the past 18 months the support of our customers is what has kept us going. We wouldn't have made it through this pandemic without them.

What advice do you have for anyone who wants to work in a bookshop? 

Don’t think that you will ever open a book to read while at work.  I think people think that it’s a lot of sitting around and reading – but it isn’t.  There is always things to be done. It might sound glamorous but it is a lot of hard work.   

What would you be doing if you didn’t run a bookshop? 

I’ve been doing this all my life so it’s hard to think if what else I would be doing – I really don’t know as its never crossed my mind