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The Best Kind of Secrets

Reading books is by nature a solitary and intimate affair.  If you are lucky, you have friends who share your taste and who’ll borrow the book after you, or who’ll let you talk about what you’ve read.  But for most of us, reading is a quiet, reflective time spent alone with the author’s ideas that eventually gets returned to the shelf.  But not at BOOM Clunes. 

In 2011 there was a book published by American author, Erin McKean called the Secret Lives of Dresses.  It’s set in a secondhand dress shop and the granddaughter of the shop owner discovers that for decades her grandmother has been crafting short stories about the secret lives that each dress may have had before it came to her shop.  The grandmother had been tucking those stories in an envelope and sharing it with each dress when it was bought.

At BOOM Clunes, a social enterprise launched during COVID by Clunes Neighbourhood House, we realised that our books have secret lives too, so we decided to take inspiration from Erin McKean and start collecting and sharing the secret lives of the books we sell.   Preparing the groundwork in 2023, BOOM Clunes has now launched the ‘Secret Lives of Books’ project.

To date we’ve had more than 60 secret lives written by local and visiting volunteers and customers – fictional tales themselves, sometimes even written in the previous reader’s own hand - that capture the spirit of the book in whatever way appealed to the prior owner.

“We all know there can be magic between the pages of books,” said Lana de Kort, Manager, Clunes Neighbourhood House.

Visit our Store to Discover a Secret for Yourself

“Visitors to the store never know if the second hand book they purchase has a secret life or not.  There is nothing better than seeing the surprise on someone’s face when you tell them their book has already had a life all its own, and you hand over that sealed envelope,” explained Lana.

“Regulars to BOOM Clunes, many travelling from nearby Maryborough or Ballarat, now come back hoping that to find something else to read that comes with a secret life.  That our team, volunteers and customers can share this magic in this way is incredibly special, creating connections that cross so many barriers – age, geography and circumstances.”

Secret Lives of Books project is an initiative of the Living and Ageing Well in Hepburn project, supported by the Western Victoria Primary Health Network under the Australian Government’s Primary Health Networks Program.  Locals and visitors alike are welcome to be a part of this project 😊. 

For more information visit


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