Adventures / Books / Life

Weekend Adventures – Lifeline Book Fair

Twice a year Canberra’s bookworms come out into the light, stand in a long line and wait to get into book lover heaven – aka the semi-annual Lifeline Bookfair. 

Lifeline is an important organisation providing “access to crisis support, suicide prevention and mental health support services”.  You can learn more about them here:

In order to raise funds for these vital services they run a Bookfair using the books that have been donated by the public.   It has grown over the years and certainly in Canberra it is a major event.  So much so that they changed it from an annual event to a semi-annual one.   They are also held in other cities and states but you’ll need to find them.  Unfortunately Lifeline don’t seem to have one page that lists them all.

When I first started going along with my Dad, the fair was held in the beautiful old Albert Hall which is near the Hyatt Hotel.  I remember lining up waiting to get in and the sheer joy of all those books.  SO many to be read.  All those stories!  All the things I could learn. Then was the inevitably negotiation for how many I could actually have because even second hand books added up.  It was always an event to look foward to – I’m not sure if I was more excited about finding the books or reading them.

It’s 10 years since I last went to the opening day (probably more if I’m being truthful).  We had been at the Balloon Festival (there will be a post on this soon) and the boys were heading off to the BookFair afterwards.  I thought it was crazy to be heading over nearly an hour before it opened because I had forgotten how many people line up.  This year the line snaked around carparks and buildings all the way down through the gates onto the main drag.  The longest it has been in a while apparently.  We met a lovely couple of men who run a bookstore in Newcastle – one I’d actually been to!

Still once they doors opened it doesn’t take long for the line to move and then you are inside!!!!

Exhausted book bargain hunters

You can find books on pretty much ANY topic here.  There are several tables for history alone – broken down by region, DVDs, magazines on all topics, audiobooks, childrens books, crime fiction, biographies, political sciences, self help – I could go on for some time.  There is a special collections room with some very old books.  There were also a very large range of graphic novels.   If you are a writer needing to research for your book – this is certainly the place to find whatever topic you are researching.

Literally there is something for everyone.  Well mostly.  I wanted a book on the science of Time Travel.  I didn’t find it.  Perhaps I didn’t look hard enough.  My Dad found a lot of books on Time Travel though not quite a users manual.

I was also a little surprised that the Young Adult section wasn’t bigger.  Having thought about it, I put it down to the fact that YA is often put into other categories and indeed I saw a lot of YA books in other areas.

Nerds in their natural habitat (It's ok, I was one of them).

Here’s an important tip:  Go early.  If you can go on opening day it’s definitely the best time.  The best quality books are out and the range is better.  Books are continually put out so it’s worth a return trip or two if you are after specific things but the best ones are on the first day – especially if you are after recently released popular books in good condition.

 Here’s another tip: If you are prone to buying books, GET A TROLLY or at least take something with wheels to cart them around in.  Books get heavy fast even if you are only buying paperbacks.  Sadly I had forgotten my own little crate on wheels that I use for markets (though my Dad had one, I was most jealous).  I had Coke box full of books to donate, which I did on the way in.  Sensibly the woman offered me the box back as I had pretty much arrived empty handed (foolishness, a rookie’s mistake).  In about half an hour I already had refilled the box which was then dragging on my arms.

The problem with being loaded down is you get too tired to look properly which means you miss sections or rush through section and then miss great finds.  After having been up at 5am I tired pretty quickly and didn’t get to look at some of the sections I normally would.  Still, I managed to walk out with as many books as I had given going in.  I’m not sure if that’s a win or not?

My final tip:   If you are looking for something in particular go early and head straight for that section.  Write what you are after down!  Oh and I recommend having the books you do own in a database you can access otherwise you end up buying books several times.  My Collectorz database (which syncs to my iPhone and iPad) helped prevent that this time (though you need to have all your books IN the database for that to work.

Otherwise, enjoy! May you bag a bargain (or many).

[Edit] I have another tip!  Sunday afternoon is definitely the best time to pick up a bargain.  They start selling books by the bag.  Today they were selling their canvas bags or shopping bags (the supermarket kind) full of books for $15!  If you can’t afford to spend much money, Sunday afternoon is the best time for you.  Of course that means you have to take your chances with what’s left but there was still plenty when I was there an hour before closing.


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