From the street, The Mockingbird Lounge looks just like one of several quaint, cottage cafes on Broadway, in leafy bay side Glenelg. Why do people come from across Adelaide to visit? I wonder as I step inside, enticed by the aroma of freshly made coffee and the display of homemade treats.
I’m immediately drawn to the cosy alcoves and floor-to-ceiling shelves filled with pre-loved books, neatly grouped alphabetically and by genre. Several people are seated around tables, in animated discussions. Welcome to the 10am first Monday of the month book club!
I’m told by Stacey, the owner, that the café is like this most days and several evenings too. There are 65 book clubs here each month, involving more than 500 members.
“I opened the Mockingbird Lounge eight years ago because it seemed there was a gap in the market – between book shops selling full-price titles and op shops where you have to rummage through boxes in the hope of finding a gem. I wanted to have an inviting, relaxed place that offered good quality, second-hand books for sale at reasonable prices.
“Over time, as I gathered books from various sources including customers, friends and family, I started to get multiple copies of the same title. What do you do with ten copies of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin.” ?
As she got to know the regulars, Stacey found more and more people were keen to discuss books they’d read while having a coffee or a light meal. The book clubs idea was born…
“It just made sense, and to be honest, much of the growth has been customer-driven,” she explains.
For a monthly membership fee of $12, which includes the book and a coffee, people come together in a friendly environment for a couple of hours each month to chat about a book. There’s no need to be concerned about tidying the house or providing snacks and drinks to fellow club members; it’s all done.
Stacey creates the group, based on what clients like to read and their availability, and she chooses a selection of titles for each group to choose from. “My tastes influence what titles go in. For a while we focused on WW2 fiction, then thrillers, and now we’re into biographies. If I liked a book I’ll include it. I guess I’m in all the book clubs really.”
Long time book club member Michael, says he’s read books with his group that he would never otherwise have considered picking up.
“You learn so much from others too. Some people get really into the structure and the characters. I like a good story myself,” he says, chuckling.
“The friendships you make are really important too.”The number of book clubs at The Mockingbird Lounge continues to grow as word gets around. There’s also monthly art exhibitions and knitting and creative writing classes, if they take your fancy…