Melbourne City Reads revives the city one bookshop at a time

Allee Richards (Photo: Bec Capp)

COVID lockdowns have hit Melbourne hard, and among the many businesses finding it tough are the city’s beloved inner-city bookshops.

In an attempt to reverse this trend and entice readers back through their doors, the Melbourne City Reads initiative will run from August to November 2021, focusing on four exciting new books by Melbourne-based authors Allee Richards, Miles Allinson (September), Emily Bitto (October) and Maxine Beneba Clarke (November).

Organised by eight bookshops in the City of Melbourne, these being: Dymocks Collins Street, Hill of Content Bookshop, Mary Martin Queen Victoria Market, Mary Martin Southbank, North Melbourne Books, Paperback Bookshop, Readings Carlton and Readings State Library, Melbourne City Reads will showcase a different book each month. Each book will be offered at a special discounted price in-store, and each author will discuss their work at a free monthly In Conversation event at the Wheeler Centre.

Local bookshops contribute so significantly to Melbourne’s status as the first and only Unesco City of Literature in Australia, and have experienced dramatic declines in retail traffic, particularly those located in the CBD.

Melbourne City Reads is supported by the City of Melbourne through its City Reactivation Event Grants program. “Melbourne’s bookshops are just as much a part of our culture as our laneways and restaurants", the Lord Mayor Sally Capp said.

Allee Richards' debut novel, 'Small Joys of Real Life'.

"They offer endless entertainment and knowledge while shining a light on Melburnian writers and stories set in our marvellous city. We’re proud to support the Melbourne City Reads initiative to bring back the buzz – and encourage everyone to celebrate their inner bookworm.”

Bookseller Mark Rubbo of Readings says, “I thought Borders was the most serious challenge to the viability of Readings that I’ve faced, but Borders pales in comparison to COVID. By banding together, the Melbourne City Reads bookshops hope to encourage our city’s passionate readers to revisit their local bookshop and purchase books by local writers, celebrating the literary culture that I believe to be one of the richest in the world.”

The first Melbourne City Reads title is a debut novel by local writer Allee Richards, Small Joys of Real Life. Set in Melbourne, Allee’s book, which is already being described as a 21st-century Monkey Grip, will be available at a special reduced price of $25 (usually $32.99) in the shops from August to September. A contemporary story dealing with friendship, grief, youthful self-absorption and desire, it follows its 20-something protagonist, Eva, as she deals with the death of her lover, an unexpected pregnancy, a career crisis and the joys and challenges of daily life in Melbourne’s inner north.

Allee will discuss her novel with Jacinta Parsons, writer and ABC broadcaster, at a free event at the Wheeler Centre on Wednesday 8 September that is being presented as part of this year’s Melbourne Writers Festival.

Allee Richards is a theatre maker and fiction writer whose short stories have been published by Kill Your Darlings, Overland and Black Inc. Her debut novel, Small Joys of Real Life, is published by Hachette.

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