Belle Gibson’s cookbook still for sale, despite doubts about cancer survival claims

Belle Gibson built a business around her story of surviving malignant brain cancer. The book on sale at Readings in St Kilda.

A Melbourne bookstore chain continues to sell Belle Gibson’s recipe book, despite other major retailers pulling it from shelves amid accusations the author faked her remarkable story of cancer survival.

Readings has stood by its decision to continue promoting and selling The Whole Pantry, saying the publisher had not recalled stock and “we don’t ban books”. On its website, Readings spruiks parts of the controversial author’s story, including her cancer diagnoses, which have now been called into question.

Publishing house Penguin last month stopped supplying the cookbook after Ms Gibson failed to explain discrepancies about her health claims and fundraising activities detailed in the book’s 3000-word preface.

The overseas release of the book, based on Ms Gibson’s top-rating smartphone app by the same name, has also been scrapped.

Australian retailers including Dymocks, Collins Booksellers and Booktopia say on their websites that Ms Gibson’s book is no longer available. Bookworld, a division of Penguin Australia, has removed the book from its website.

Department store David Jones has also stopped selling the book, saying the decision was made after Penguin pulled it from circulation. David Jones has expanded its returns policy to permit full refunds with proof of purchase only, regardless of the book’s condition.

However, The Whole Pantry is still being sold for $35 on Readings’ website and at its St Kilda, Carlton and Hawthorn outlets. Readings spokeswoman Emily Harms said while the book was no longer being supplied, it had not been officially recalled and stock was still available.

“It’s not banned or anything; it’s just not been supplied any further,” she said. “If a book’s published and it’s not recalled, it’s not up to us to censor what can or can’t be bought. We feel really strongly that lots of different books from different perspectives are published and it’s up to the customer to have that choice whether to buy it.”

On Readings’ website, Ms Gibson is promoted as a young woman “diagnosed with terminal brain cancer at the age of 20” who “shares what she has learned about getting back to basics and discovering what it means to be truly nourished”.

Ms Gibson launched her global business off her story as a young mother healing herself from cancer, but she has come under fire after admitting that claims the cancer spread to other organs might be false. Close friends have also spoken out to say they do not believe she is sick and doctors have said they doubt her story is plausible.

According to Ms Gibson’s own business filings, she is 23, not 26, making her a teenager in 2009 when she claims to have been diagnosed with malignant brain cancer at age 20.

Penguin, which has admitted never verifying Ms Gibson’s “inspirational” story, said it pulled the book after she failed to explain allegations raised in the media last month. But the publisher has refused to comment on its contractual agreement with Ms Gibson, including any details about payments to her, or whether it planned to terminate its deal.

Spokeswoman Camilla Subeathar said: “It is not our practice to comment on commercial arrangements, so on this topic, and to your other questions, we have no comment.”

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