The popularity of books and reading soared in 2020 – at least one positive to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Our collective lockdowns and slower pace meant we had extra time to enjoy the finer things in life, such as reading.
As a lover of the printed word, Cairns local Maree Otto saw the opportunity to take over ownership of Sue’s Book Exchange at the Showgrounds Shopping Centre on Mulgrave Rd as her perfect job.
She's now turning the page on 2020 and the store's 35-year history, entering the new year with a new name – Ree's Book Shop.
Tropic had a chat to Maree about what's in store for this beloved bookshop.
Tropic: What sparked you to take over ownership of the book exchange?
Maree: It would have been a shame to let the shop close. I’ve been a customer for many years.
I was looking for a career change – I couldn’t bear sitting at a desk staring at a computer any longer.
The bookshop seemed to be that perfect change, and a chance to interact with people and share the joy of reading.
T: What are your favourite things about the book exchange?
M: I love books – to read, to look at and to share with others.
There’s such a wide variety of genres and topics collected in the shop. I’m enjoying the interaction with the customers.
I delight in witnessing the joy and exhilaration expressed by a person who’s just found that book they’ve been looking for.
T: What are some of the most treasured books at the exchange?
M: I love the beautiful photographs in the ‘coffee table’ books, the reference books, photos of animals by David Attenborough for example.
I’m an avid reader of the classics such as Jane Austen. The old classic stories from my childhood by Enid Blyton, May Gibbs and Beatrice Potter are treasures.
Sharing the appreciation of these stories with young children is a pleasure.
T: What type of books and literature do you enjoy?
M: I enjoy a girly romance by authors like Maeve Binchy, Di Morrissey, Monica McInerney and younger Australian authors such as Fleur McDonald and Fiona McCallum.
I also love reading stories with historical facts by authors like Diana Gabaldon, Marion Zimmer Bradley, and even Elizabeth Gilbert.
T: What can people expect from the book exchange when they visit, especially if it's for the first time?
M: The shop has a fresh new look and there’s more to come.
We have a very broad variety of books – something for everyone of all ages and preferences.
Children’s books ranging from babies through to young adults, comics, fiction, science fiction, fantasy romances, fishing, sports, motor cars and bikes, hobbies, cooking, crafts, gardening, animals including pets, spiritual development, fiction in foreign languages, dictionary, writing skills, and much more.
T: Why are book shops and exchanges important for our community?
M: Everyone loves the feel (and smell) of paper books – they express that sentiment as they walk in the door.
Sharing a well-loved read with a friend or family is a treat for the soul. People like to see the books re-used – they don’t want them to be destroyed.
Visit at Ree's Book Shop at the Showgrounds Shopping Centre, 157/173 Mulgrave Rd.
This story originally appeared in Tropic Magazine Issue 27. Read the issue here.