Good Books Change Lives

In an age where so much information is accessed through the internet, the desire to browse bookshelves in search of writing which stimulates the mind and uplifts the spirit has not lessened. Studies support the view that the human brain retains more information through engaging with hard copy, than by looking at computer screens. Further, readers appreciate the physical engagement of books: their smell, their feel, and the artistry in their publication. There is a dignity in opening a book. The reader is given a sense of entering into a world which is yet to be discovered. The same may not be said of the ubiquitous, utilitarian computer screen. For these reasons among others, Inform remains in hard copy, while also being online for a more casual "flick through".

St Augustines Bookshop

I recently visited St Augustine's Bookshop, found off the foyer of the Church of Christ the King in Burnside. I asked its founder, Dan Martin...

What first prompted him to set up a Catholic second-hand bookshop?

"I always enjoyed exploring the Catholic faith, be it at my great-aunt's bookshelf when I was young, or at the big Mercy Library in Christchurch as a young adult. The Church has two thousand years of living tradition from which to draw. Being able to tap into the truths of the faith and reading about people's lives throughout the centuries has always fascinated and inspired me. I was also blessed to complete a theology degree at Holy Cross Seminary in Auckland. Through my studies, I had access to the extensive Good Shepherd College library, much of which had been brought to Auckland after the closure of the Marist Seminary at Green Meadows. I naturally kept up to date with an amazing selection of the latest offerings from Catholic authors. During this time, I often reflected on how to make second-hand Catholic books available to people searching for good quality literature on the Church, her people, and her communities."

How did St Augustine's Bookshop come about?

"Three years ago, with the restructuring brought about by Our Faith, Our Future, a room became available at the Church of Christ the King in Burnside. I approached parish priest Fr Rick Loughnan to seek his support for setting up a second-hand bookshop there. He was very encouraging, as he is himself a bookworm, and knows the impact books have in developing and deepening our faith. Through advertising in the Christchurch North parish and beyond, I sought donations of Catholic books which people no longer wished to keep. While I was concerned that I would not get many books or that their quality might be dubious, I was surprised and thrilled to receive over 1,000 interesting books, ranging from spiritual classics, apologetics, history, theology, saints, and children's books. Having received these books, renovated the old parish office into a shop, and recruited volunteers to staff it, the next question "would anyone be interested in buying the books?"”

Why is the bookshop under the patronal name of St Augustine?

"St Augustine came to mind as he had a huge impact on Catholic thought and writings throughout the centuries. His most famous book, "Confessions," is considered the first Western Christian autobiography ever written. So, if any saint is going to help readers find the appropriate book for them and their spiritual growth, I thought he would."

Has there been much interest in the shop?

"Fortunately, we received customers from day one and word has kept spreading. After two years of operation, we have sold over 1,000 books. We are especially blessed to have a small number of wonderful volunteers to staff the shop and engage with the customers. We are also now making some books available on TradeMe, to widen our reach across the country."

What impact can reading more about the faith have on the reader?

"I once stood outside Scorpio Books and read Helen Exley's quote that “Books can be dangerous. The best ones should be labelled ‘This could change your life’”. I think this is especially true of Catholic books. Reading about people who have fully lived the Catholic faith or of how God has interacted with the world throughout the centuries and guided His Church, can only help us be inspired and draw us closer to God."

St Augustine's Second-Hand Catholic Bookshop,
Christ the King Church Foyer, 90 Greers Road, Burnside.
Opening Hours: Wednesday to Saturday, 11am-2pm.
For more, visit their Facebook page:

Ken Joblin
Inform Editor

Published in Inform Issue 137