The Joy of Sex* (and Books)


I have been coming to Bookfests since the very first one, more than twenty years ago. In case you’re not from around here, Bookfest is a twice-yearly, biggest charity book sale in Queensland, if not the whole southern hemisphere. There are 4 kilometres of tables with something for everyone. I call it a nerdvana. The next one starts tomorrow; please don’t contact me for the next few days.

I’ve been devouring books since I was five, and when my family migrated to Australia when I was a teenager it was through books more than anything else that I’ve managed to learn English reasonably quickly. I still remember, a few years into our new life in Brisbane, my late mum, who was a real thrift shop hound, brought home from a local Lifeline store a leaflet advertising this exciting, new, big charity book sale. I was ecstatic in anticipation and lined up early, together with other hardcore bibliophiles and bargain hunters, outside one of the smaller, low-set exhibition buildings at the RNA Showgrounds. Inside, there was a book nirvana, and I can still recall rows of books stacked on top of blanket-covered bales of hay. Royal National Agricultural & Industrial Association of QLD indeed.

Since that first time and over the next two plus decades I have not missed one Bookfest, rain, hail or shine, in sickness and in health, in good times or bad. A large chunk of my 3,500-book library comes from the successive (and successful) Bookfests. Great variety, great prices, great finds – what’s there not to love? It always makes me wonder why no one else has picked up the concept and run with it elsewhere around Australia and around the world? We are indeed very fortunate here in Brisbane – and now in many other places around the state. The southerners have always scoffed at Queensland as an anti-intellectual cultural desert, but we’ve got Bookfest and you don’t, so who’s laughing now?

A few years ago I thought to myself that I should make an effort to try to contribute more to this great Brisbane institution – and a great cause – than just a few bucks (OK, a few hundred bucks, but you have to be crazy not to take advantage of these bargains!), which isn’t really philanthropy anyway, since you’re getting a lot in return. I’ve been meaning to do more volunteering (another pious New Year’s resolution) and it occurred to me, what better way to do so, while at the same time surrounded by one of my life’s great loves?

I have been doing it a few years now and it’s always been a joy. I’ve met many wonderful people, quite a few characters, made some friends, and – most importantly – had the pleasure of watching hundreds of people go through “my” check-out with that look of quiet satisfaction on their faces that comes from a combination of happy hunting, doing good, and getting a bargain all at the same time.

On a Saturday of the first day of every Bookfest, when the doors open at 8:30 am and the tide of book-hungry humanity sweeps into Halls 3 and 4 of the Brisbane Convention and Entertainment Centre I think to myself as I stand behind the counter: this is like the Myer Christmas Sale for nerds. And it’s glorious.

If you’ve never been to a Bookfest before, come and have a peek. You could easily spend days here – and many do. Better still, come for books – and CDs, records, DVDs, games and stationery – and stay to help. Either, or both, way you will have a blast. Neil Gaiman once said that “a book is a dream that you hold in your hand”. Well, there is a whole universe full of dreams here in Brisbane, and it’s just around the corner.

When: Saturday 25 June to Sunday 3 July 2016

Where: Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre

Times: 8:30am – 7:00pm weekends      9:00am – 5:30pm weekdays

*OK, that was clickbait.