Have you ever wanted to get lost in a bookstore? If you’re a book buff or a reading maniac like me, I’m sure this is a familiar feeling.

I was on the north side of town last week. I’m from the south side. Okay only seven minutes in the car separates us but it’s a mindset in Perth and I crossed the Swan River.

So I was on the north side of town, standing on the rooftop level of a carpark trying to work out how to extricate a parking ticket from one of those awful parking machines. The sign said to press the yellow button, but I’d be damned if I could find a yellow button. (Side-note: I’m fairly certain I was born a century too late).

Success at last came in the form of two hours parking and my credit card made a sizeable donation to Wilson Parking. My meeting took 34 minutes which meant I had 1 hour and 26 minutes left on my parking ticket. I took a walk.

There’s a particularly good bookstore in the area ironically called Northside Books. I called in as they have recently moved premises and the owner James is a quirky fellow. James refers to himself as a ‘nobody’ but I’d rather like to put him into one of my short stories, he’s that kind of guy.

Northside Books is at the bottom end of Northbridge. Not to be confused with the top end. It’s on the corner of Rowe and William Streets and is part of the State Theatre Complex. The Perth Theatre Trust approached James and late last year Northside Books slipped down William Street towards the city.

The space is brilliant. It’s New York chic. Think exposed everything and cool artwork. Think comfy chairs and big wooden tables. The place is flooded in natural light and books are everywhere. Well, it is a bookstore. The back of the store opens out onto the State Theatre courtyard and next door is a delightful gelato shop.

Design is part of me. It’s very important. I’m interested in public spaces, interiors and building design. It’s an elegant universe and hopefully Northside reflects that in part.

Northbridge has changed since I’ve been here selling books. It’s much more family-friendly, and it’s not unusual to see prams at 9 o’clock at night.

There’s this whole new energy and vibe. We interface a lot with the Black Swan Theatre Company and we’ve got a profound connection with our regulars.

I sip my coffee while James jumps up to help customers with books, share a story here and there. Guilt tugs at me. I’m drinking coffee at a table teeming with coffee-table books.

‘Oh I’m not precious about books,’ James said as he sat down again.

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James turned his head when an older man stepped inside.

‘Oh this woman will only talk to me for a few more minutes,’ he said. I narrowed my eyes and asked James about his favourite book. He clicked his tongue on the roof of his mouth and shook his head at me.

‘That’s impossible.’

I agree but this woman is asking the interview questions.

No way is this my favourite book but I like to reread The Outsider by Albert Camus. I like his philosophy and his ideas based on empathy and humanity.

But I also keep rereading W.G. Sebald. He was a guy obsessed with memory and identity and I think he handles those concepts really well.

James is a true Western Australian. He was born in Geraldton and grew up in an Italian-Irish household. James has a smattering of Italian, is planning on learning the language and dreams about taking off on a road-trip around the Amalfi Coast one day. He wants to follow in the footsteps of Pier Paolo Pasolini and his The Long Sandy Road. James says the trip will give him the opportunity to crack his head open a bit.

I asked James about the first book he read properly and he confidently answered ‘The Pearl by John Steinbeck. I read it at eleven and it’s stayed with me. It’s where it all began.’

James is Northside Books. The store is open seven days a week from 10am to 10pm.

I have no social life. This is the hub of my life. If my friends want to see me they come here and hopefully bring wine. This shop is my everything, it’s my whole world.

I reflect on James and his world as I hurry back to my car. There’s 4 minutes left on my ticket. It’s a pretty good life when you can point to a wonderful store like Northside Books and say this is me.

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Contact Northside books by email at info@northsidebooks.com.au

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