Blues Point Bookshop
In this special series, Sydney Writers' Festival speaks with bookshops across Australia about the special place they hold in our bookworm hearts. From recommendations on your next great read to their favourite memories in a bookshop, hear from the people many of us trust the most.
This edition, we speak to Helen Baxter, owner of Blues Point Bookshop at McMahons Point.
What do you love about your bookshop?
My bookshop is possibly the smallest in NSW – just 38 square metres – located in an old terrace house close to the Sydney Harbour foreshores. I started the bookshop 26 years ago after a 25-year career in aviation with a legal background, but I’ve always had a passion for books, so I thought ‘why not start a bookshop?’.
What purpose do you feel a bookshop serves in the community?
The Blues Point Bookshop is without doubt at the centre of the Northside Community, which was confirmed when the lights were turned out as I had to close because of the pandemic. I run an extensive author event program of up to 300 people and it is always so good to see so many locals catching up and sharing a glass of wine and the authors’ presentations.
What is your favourite moment in a bookshop?
We see so many wonderful actors as we have a voice over studio next door. Many politicians and well-known identities are great customers of ours. I love when a local customer in the bookshop comes up to me and whispers to me ‘That looks like…!’ And I invite them over to say hi.
What do you get asked most by customers?
‘What book are you reading?’, seconded by ‘What is your all time favourite book?’.
“The written word is one of the great joys in life.”
What book has made the greatest impact on you?
So many, that is why I love owning a bookshop, but the chapter ‘Cover Stories’ in Ann Patchett’s latest book These Precious Days is superb. And she’s not only a great writer, but the owner of the fabulous Parnassus Books in Nashville.
What is the most surprising thing about your job?
One of the funniest asides related to my bookshop is that (when there is not a pandemic) small, international tour buses turn up and the people stand as a group in front of the bookshop to have their photo taken because they think it is the bookshop from The Shop Around the Corner, the movie with Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks.
What children’s book do you think adults should read?
Kate DiCamillo’s children's books are just wonderful writing. Like me, Kate has no children and the collection of her writing is inspirational when choosing children’s books.
Advice on getting through lockdown or realisations borne through lockdown?
The written word is one of the great joys in life. If you scroll through our Instagram and website, you’ll detect the sense of community, the sentiment related to that community and our special books that helped others in the time of the pandemic.