There were celebrations at Avid Reader on Monday evening. We all knew something was up, but Kevin and Fiona had managed to keep a tight lid on their reasons for inviting us along. Some thought it might be a marriage announcement, others thought perhaps retirement, others, a Winter Solstice ritual, but the real reason had people whooping and hollering. Why? Fiona Stager, co-owner of West End’s much loved Avid Reader, had been awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) as part of the King’s Birthdays Honours for her service to literature as a bookseller.


When she received the Governor General’s email, Fiona thought it was a scam. Then as it dawned on her it was real, she questioned whether she should accept the award and what it would mean if she did.


And I thought, accepting it gives me a chance to do some thank yous.”


“It’s a special year for me to get this Award, it is the first time more women have been recipients.”


Fiona gave a special thank you to partner Kevin Guy and daughter Verdi Guy, her sister and family, to all who have or still work at Avid Reader, and to friends and customers.


“There’s an amazing Alumni of Avid Reader staff out there, and I’d like to take this chance to thank them. They’re all across the world now. They’re doing amazing things and we’re really proud of them. And of course, to friends and customers, and there’s often no difference between our friends and our customers. So, thank you, thank you for everything that you’ve done over the years.” 

Fiona considers the award recognises the role booksellers and bookshops play in our communities. 


“It’s a recognition of all the hours booksellers put into reading, sharing our love of books and literacy, and turning up and opening our doors every day.” 


“We’re booksellers, but we’re also shopkeepers in the broadest sense.”


Fiona reflected on small businesses as employers of local people. 


“They employ kids, they get kids their first job. They’re contributing so much endlessly. And without a small businesses, without shops, our lives would be that much emptier. I saw that reflected in the flood. … our first response was to come down and open the shop – a place for people to come and charge their phones and do their washing. We just had to bring normality back to our world by opening our shops.”


Avid Reader customer Toula Mossman nominated Fiona for the award, and it was endorsed by Sallyanne Atkinson (AO), Helen Abrahams, Kristina Olsson and Fiona’s close friend Dr Anita Heiss (AM). 


Fiona encouraged us to nominate more people in our community for these awards. 


“My only tip is not to say, “I’m thinking of nominating you”. Because if you do, most people, women in particular, will say “oh no, no, no”. 


Toula said she had observed Fiona as an Avid Reader customer over the years.


“And I’m thinking oh my gosh, she does things in such a quiet, unassuming, almost unremarkable way, and yet she very capably comes up with the most remarkable results.” 


One evening Toula said she was sitting at an Avid Readers event, and commented to the woman sitting next to her, “She’s amazing. This woman is amazing.” And from there, Toula researched Fiona and put together her nomination.


“I knew nothing, except that she was bloody good, and she was of significance in this community: this community being West End, but also in the writing community and the literacy community.”


“This little shop is the heart of West End, particularly in times of doubt, particularly in times of crisis”. 


Toula spoke of Fiona’s passionate support of Indigenous literature and of local and emerging writers.


“She enables writers to have an audience….”


Fiona’s daughter Verdi Guy wrapped up the formalities.


“I just want to say how proud we are of you Mum… You’ve created a place here where people feel safe and it’s a community. You’ve had complete selflessness in all the things that you do every day… doing that unassumingly with no fanfare with a commitment to improving the lives around you.”



With partner Kevin Guy, Fiona Stager is co-owner of Avid Reader and children’s bookstore, Where the Wild Things Are. Avid is now in its 26th year in business. 

Fiona has been a judge for The Australian/Vogel’s Literary Award, the Stella Prize and the Queensland Literary Awards. Fiona has received the Johnno Award for services to the Queensland writing community, and in 2014 the Australian Booksellers Association made her a life member. See

In 2021, Avid Reader was selected as the Australian Bookshop of the Year in 2020 by the Australian Book Industry Awards (ABIA).

The Secret is out: Avid Reader is Australia’s Top Bookshop

Supporting West End Businesses – Avid Reader

All images, Jan Bowman