Good Reading : April 2010
24 goodreading ı APRIL 2010 mountains of books Victoria’s Dandenong Ranges are mainly associated with gardens, steam engines and Devonshire teas. But, as LIZ FILLEUL discovers, a group of antiquarian booksellers are determined to make the Dandenongs known for their literary attractions too. fully booked Rainy Day Books It was a visit to the Souther n Highlands Book Trail in New South Wales that prompted antiquarian bookseller Barbara Russell to set up a similar book trail in and around her home town of Kallista in Victoria's Dandenong Ranges. 'When I first started selling books, I had no idea how many other people in the Dandenong Ranges were doing the same thing -- some online and some with shops,' she recalls. 'And when I go on holiday, the first thing I want to know is: where are the bookshops? That usually means spending a lot of time going through the local Yellow Pages. 'I thought a book trail would help bring people's attention to the bookshops. After all, the Dandenong Ranges is an enormously rich area culturally -- a lot of artists and writers live here and there's a strong literary heritage. By having the book trail, we're trying to show visitors that there's more to the Dandenongs than gift shops and cream teas.' She discussed the book-trail idea with fellow bookseller Meryll Williams of Rainy Day Books in The Basin, with whom she was also planning to set up a book fair in the Dandenongs. The first Mountains of Books book fair took place on Cup Day weekend in 2008 and is now an annual event. At present, the Dandenong Ranges and Yarra Valley book trail comprises four bookshops, all in the Dandenongs, though Barbara hopes more booksellers will join them and that the trail will grow. However, each bookshop has its own special character, and you can easily visit all four in one day. Driving east from Melbourne, it is best to start the trail with either Rainy Day Books in The Basin or Wor mhole Books in Belgrave Heights and visit the two Kallista bookshops, Kallista Books and Vintage Cookbooks, in between. Rainy Day Books is run by former school librarian Meryll Williams, who had sold secondhand books via catalogue and online for 15 years before opening the bookshop in early 2006.The bookshop has a good location -- it's easily spotted from the roundabout by drivers approaching The Basin. It is a general bookshop, with Meryll selling 'everything from Mills and Boon to poetry'.There is a sofa for comfortable browsing, and the well-stocked children's corner has a rug and a box of blocks for littlies to play with.There's a good crime section, and also, to the left as you enter, an 'old and interesting' section, which includes the classics, other fiction, and children's books. Meryll's experience as a school librarian makes her a knowledgeable bookseller. 'I can recommend books to customers. If they say they like a particular author, I can suggest other writers they might like,' she says. 'I'm also a book finder -- at the moment, I've got a long list of books to find for victims of the Black Saturday bushfires, who lost their collections.' On the other side of Mount Dandenong is the village of Kallista, home to two bookshops.