Two book launches scheduled for the weekend of 8th and 9th December tell remarkably different stories. Local writer, Steve Capelin introduces us to Brisbane Bookshops and Dancers on the Sea.

Brisbane Bookshops will be launched at the Queensland State Library Bookshop and Café on Friday, 8 December, from 5pm to 7pm. Published locally by AndAlso Books in collaboration with Paradigm Print Media, it captures the rich and surprising history of the Bookshops of Brisbane from 1840 to the present. Contributors include David Malouf, Nick Earles, Matt Condon, Raymond Evans and a host of other Brisbane writers, established and emerging. The book also contains interviews with bookshop owners, present and past, whose stories give an insider’s view into the sometimes quirky world of selling books. The well-known bookshops are all there: Folio, Read’s Rare Books, Red and Black, American Book Store, Barker’s, Thomson’s, QBD, The Women’s Bookshop and many more as are the more recent additions to Brisbane’s world of books: Books at Stones, Scrumptious Reads, Ballad Bookshop and locals: Emma’s, Avid Reader, Bent Books, The Book Merchant Jenkins and Brisbane’s earliest book purveyor: James Swan Bookseller (1849).

It is beautifully edited and carefully curated and will make a significant contribution to the literary history of Brisbane. A great Xmas present for the book lover in your life.

Dancers on the Sea, the second book launch of the December weekend (Saturday, 9 December, 3pm-5pm at Avid Reader Bookshop, West End), is a poignant memoir by Gabrielle Samson. Gabrielle is a Brisbane-born writer who spent many years working and living in PNG, Indonesia, and what became East Timor. It is her time in East Timor, living a simple life on the island of Atauro, where she and a colleague were commissioned to establish a kindergarten program for the local children that this book focuses on. Over eight years, the project grew and included a groundbreaking series of community development projects delivering sustainable eco-tourism and fish management practices. What sets this book apart is that it spans the tumultuous period leading up to the vote for independence. For much of that time, Gabrielle was the only European on Atauro, which had benefits and risks.

Most importantly, it’s a love story. Gabrielle shares her dangerous love for her Indonesian colleague, Anton when Timorese and Indonesians were in sharp conflict. She sees the grey in this Timor-Indonesia relationship. She celebrates the humanity of the people she worked with and ultimately is deeply saddened by the atrocious behaviour of some players on both sides of the conflict. It could have been a standard history, but it’s not—it is a love story of the island and its people and a celebration of a love between two people of remarkably different backgrounds. Published by Shawline Publishing Group.