An Interview with Young Australian Bookseller of the Year Finalist – Booktopia’s Andrew Cattanach

I owe books much more than they owe me. I spend every day trying to repay that debt.

Booktopia’s Andrew Cattanach was recently named a finalist for the ABA Penguin Random House Australia Young Bookseller of the Year Award.

The award recognises and rewards the excellence of a bookseller 35 or under, and promotes bookselling as a career choice for young people. We chatted to him about his life as a bookseller.


What does being a finalist for the Young Bookseller of the Year mean to you?

It’s a huge honour. I love being a part of the book industry but I never thought I would ever be recognised like this. The winner, Gerard Elson, is an amazing bookseller and does so many things in and around the industry. I’m incredibly grateful just to have my name mentioned alongside as a finalist. And my dad may forgive me now for not playing cricket for Australia.

When did you decide you wanted to be a bookseller?

For most of my childhood I was over an hour’s drive from the nearest library, and nearly two hours away from the nearest bookstore. It’s always been like this in remote areas, not a lot of people realise that. I knew early on that being an avid reader helped me immeasurably in and outside of the classroom, even if it meant reading my parents’ books over and over again. It gave me a scholarship to a good school and some perspective on life and dealing with things as a child. From an early age I always wanted to help rural areas have better access to books.

After completing my English degree, I started working at Booktopia, which meant I could put books in the hands of people who have always struggled to find them, and in the hands of children who might have otherwise neglected reading and subsequently struggled with literacy into adulthood. It’s a common story around rural Australia.

I owe books much more than they owe me. I spend every day trying to repay that debt.

What are some of your favourite books of 2015 so far?

Oh wow, where do I start? Quicksand by Steve Toltz is a brilliant, manic masterpiece, my favourite novel of the year so far. The First Bad Man by Miranda July is also gigantically underrated. I’m a sucker for short stories so Murray Middleton’s When There’s Nowhere Else to Run and Abigail Ulman’s Hot Little Hands have been a joy.

On the non-fiction front, Jon Ronson’s So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed should be read by everyone with a social media account and Peter Singer’s The Most Good You Can Do has already changed my life.

And just think, it’s only May!

Any words of wisdom for anyone wanting to be a bookseller?

In Bukowski’s poem So You Want To Be A Writer, he writes “if it doesn’t come bursting out of you in spite of everything, don’t do it”. The same philosophy applies to being a bookseller.

The hours are long and the money is less than what your friends are making, but reading, writing and talking about books is more than a job. For some, and certainly for me, it’s a compulsion, a hole in your heart that needs to be filled.

If you feel the same way, becoming a bookseller is the best thing you will ever do.

 You can follow Andrew’s ramblings on twitter at @andrew__cat

Andrew Cattanach with bestselling author John Flanagan and Booktopia's John Purcell

Andrew Cattanach with bestselling author John Flanagan and Booktopia’s John Purcell

My Favourite Australian Authors of 2014

2014 was a huge year for Australian authors. There seems no better time, January being our month of Australian Stories, to reflect on my favourite Australian authors of 2014.

So many Australian authors had career defining years in 2014, but these are a few that made a huge impact with their work both on and off the page.

Confused about the concept? So am I, but we’ll get there.


SonyaSonya Hartnett

I’ve bored everyone with my constant proclamations that Sonya Hartnett’s Golden Boys was the best novel of 2014. It’s an amazing book that we’ll be hearing more about as the awards season heats up. Hartnett also gave us The Wild One, teaming up with Lucia Masciullo to produce of the most beautiful picture books of the year.

She was also the subject of a wonderful piece by Stephen Romei in The Australian, where she gave the best quote about childhood I’ve heard for a long time. ‘‘Children live in a very animal world, one that’s constantly on the verge of war. You look at childhood and think, how do any of us survive that sort of shit?’


MaxineMaxine Beneba Clarke

Not content with producing Foreign Soil, one of the most exciting short story collections of the last few years, Maxine Beneba Clarke was called upon to be the voice of many defining moments of 2014.

From her pitch perfect portrait of the late Matt Richell to the dignified protest to Tony Abbott at this year’s Australian Book Industry Awards, Maxine had an incredible, inspiring 2014.

Foreign Soil was a standout, and her highly anticipated 2015 book The Hate Race promises to be even better.


1413331355077_wps_72_epa04446950_Australian_noRichard Flanagan

Okay, okay, I know Richard Flanagan didn’t release a book in 2014, but he still had a pretty solid year, no? His 2013 novel The Narrow Road to the Deep North narrowly missed out on the Miles Franklin, before winning the first truly international Man Booker and sweeping into Australia to not just win a Prime Minister’s Literary Award, but also give his prize money to the Indigenous Literacy Foundation, one of the most important charities around.

He also gave a performance on Q&A during the Sydney Writer’s Festival that elicited a 11pm phone call from my mother to discuss what a genius he is.

Last but not least, Flanagan had this to say on the subject of giving money to important causes. ‘Money is like shit, my father used say. Pile it up and it stinks. Spread it around and you can grow things.’

Absolutely brilliant.


OmarOmar Musa

Sometimes you read a book and you lose sleep hoping that everyone else realises how good it is. Omar Musa’s Here Come the Dogs was that book, and while it should have been talked about more, those who read it couldn’t stop singing its praises.

2014 saw Omar Musa emerge as one of Australia’s most important voices, speaking with passion on issues like immigration, sexuality and violence. He speaks, and writes, with a firm, eloquent authority we can all learn from. Already an accomplished spoken work performer, you’ll be hearing a lot more about Musa in 2015.


Brooke DavisBrooke Davis

Being a novelist is a romantic profession. Millions try, and millions fail. It’s a tough job. So what inspires people to want to be writers?

Stories like Brooke Davis’, and her journey to becoming one of Australia’s bestselling authors of 2014.

Embarking upon her novel Lost and Found as part of a PhD and a form of catharsis after the death of her mother, Davis spent five years writing it, combining teaching with working part-time at a Perth bookshop (shout out to Beaufort Street Books).

The novel was a hit at the year’s London Book Fair, rights being sold into 25 countries and translated into 20 languages for its overseas release. She also showed off her acting chops in some re-enactments on Australian Story.

That’s a pretty handy year. And just in case you weren’t sure, Lost and Found is a wonderful, emotional read, even better than the story behind it. Nice year Brooke.

Love Australian books?

Don’t forget to check out our Australian Stories collection!

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Why Reading More Books is the best New Year’s Resolution

Have you made a New Year’s Resolution yet?

Is it to get fit, eat healthy, save money, manage stress or learn a new hobby?

Our New Year’s Resolution is to read more books. Have you thought about that one? Let’s see how it weighs up against the more traditional resolutions…


Getting Fit vs Reading More Books

Getting Fit

Think of all those hours in a poorly ventilated gym listing to your personal trainer’s mixed tape of techno remixes through a broken speaker.

Think of those long runs in the morning, the long runs in the evening, the long runs at lunchtime.

And don’t forget the pain. So much pain.

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Now think of this…

pushing-daisies-chuck-books1

 WINNER = Reading More Books


Eating Healthier vs Reading More Books

Do you like cheese? Or chocolate? Or wine? Or chips? Or pizza? Or milkshakes? Or ice cream? Or burgers? Or brownies? Or soft drink? Or cake? Or beer? Or bacon? Or pa? Or pancakes?

Well, no more of that for you.

But don’t worry. You’ll love tofu.

tumblr_mjfi29q7lU1rdzuduo5_400

Now think of this…

girl-reading-book1

WINNER = Reading More Books


Saving Money vs Reading More Books

Save money? In this economy? Leave that problem to future you.

Present you deserves presents…

tumblr_inline_mzs5iwHVZn1rynlhg

 And you know what makes the best present…

books

WINNER = Reading More Books


Manage Stress vs Reading More Books

If only there was some portable device that could take you to far away worlds, help you forget your troubles and fill your heart with joy…

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If only…

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WINNER = Reading More Books


Learn a New Hobby vs Reading More Books

We’d never ask you to stop learning new things, but the learning process doesn’t need to be like this…

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It can be like this…

cats_reading_books_19

WINNER = Reading More Books


Conclusion: Books are amazing. You should be reading as many as you can in 2015, more than ever before.

AND books can help you achieve all your other, sadly non-book related, New Year’s Resolutions.

Magic.

matilda-reading

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Never Mind the Bollocks – Here are Andrew’s Favourite Books of 2014

Favourite BooksThe downside of working in such an exciting place that is growing faster than rhubarb in the dark (look it up, it’s a thing) is that because you’re always on your toes, always being presented with new challenges…

…you’re always trying to find the precious time to read.

But never fear. I’ve managed to squeeze in some fantastic books this year, and I think I’d share my 10 favourite ones with you.

So here they are.


loyal-creaturesLoyal Creatures

by Morris Gleitzman

I read Loyal Creatures the night before interviewing Morris Gleitzman for Booktopia TV. I was terrified at the prospect of grilling one of my childhood heroes. Within a few pages I completely lost myself in the book.

It’s a gorgeous read, another incredible effort from Gleitzman, and I genuinely had to hold back tears at the end of the book.

Click here for more about Loyal Creatures


the-sex-lives-of-siamese-twinsThe Sex Lives of Siamese Twins

by Irvine Welsh

You really should find time to read this caustic gem from Irvine Welsh, although perhaps not at the gym, or an organic cafe, or while watching The Biggest Loser. I say that because Welsh shines his light on the world of militant self-improvement and you may not recover in time.

If you’ve read Welsh, you know what to expect and won’t be disappointed. The only surprise will be just how much he’s matured as a writer, how adept he’s become at taking on the voice of his characters. Sometimes it only takes a mirror to see just how bizarre the world is becoming.

Click here for more about The Sex Lives of Siamese Twins


your-fathers-where-are-they-and-the-prophets-do-they-live-forever-Your Fathers, Where are They?

by Dave Eggers

The full name of Dave Eggers’ work is Your Fathers, Where are They? And the Prophets, Do They Live Forever? Such is his sense of humour I suspect he’s put together this ridiculously long title just to make end of year lists awkward. In fact I’m sure that’s why, and I love him all the more for it.

Made up entirely of dialogue, Your Fathers shines a light in uncomfortable corners while being raucously funny in many places. It’s an easy read in a sense, the real work comes from the time you have to yourself after reading it, reflecting on the world Eggers toys with. If you watch the news and don’t know whether to laugh or cry, this is the book for you.

Click here for more about Your Fathers, Where are They?


a-little-historyA Little History

by Bleddyn Butcher

If the inclusion of this in my ‘best of’ list wasn’t a big enough clue, I’m a pretty gigantic Nick Cave fan. A Little History is an intimate look at the career of Cave and his closest collaborators over the years.

It’s easy to forget how long Nick Cave has been on the scene, his music has always been so innovative and relevant throughout the years. This is a must have for all Birthday Party, Bad Seeds, and Grinderman fans. Cavesters will know what I’m talking about.

Click here for more about A Little History


colorless-tsukuru-tazaki-and-his-years-of-pilgrimageColorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage

by Haruki Murakami

I include this in my list with a caveat. You see I was not, as so many others professed to being, disappointed by Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Year of Pilgrimage. The reason is simple, if a little bit of a backhand to Murakami.

I don’t consider him to be a truly great writer.

I think he’s good, very good in fact. Norwegian Wood is one of my favourite books. I don’t, however, think he’s an immortal of the craft. If you are expecting Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki to be one of the one of the finest works of literature created, it’s not. That work only happens once in a generation.

Books are best enjoyed if you’re able to separate the work from the creator, unburden yourself from the shackles of expectation and enjoy the book purely for what is between the covers. If you do that, I’ve no doubt you’ll love Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Year of Pilgrimage, the themes of loneliness and belonging that it ponders, and agree with me that it is comfortably one of the best books of 2014.

Click here for more about Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki


foreign-soilForeign Soil

by Maxine Beneba Clarke

I was privileged to have had the opportunity to not just meet Maxine Beneba Clarke, but interview her for Booktopia TV. It was in the middle of a busy Sydney Writer’s Festival but her energy and enthusiasm for the craft of writing was amazing. I’ve read many short story collections this year, but Foreign Soil was my favourite.

Putting aside just how wonderful her prose is, how seamless her transition between characters and voices is, so much of Beneba Clarke’s stories are for the voiceless and the downtrodden. I’ve no doubt she will fast become one of Australia’s most influential and important writers. I can’t wait to read more from her.

Click here for more about Foreign Soil


lists-of-noteLists of Note

by Shaun Usher

In case you forgot, what you are reading is a list. In all likelihood only my mother and my year 7 English teacher thinks it is of note.

I love lists, I adore High Fidelity almost entirely for the constant lists. I can’t get enough of them, and it seems some of history’s most important figures feel the same way. If there was a museum dedicated to lists (if there isn’t already) this book would be the guidebook. I lost myself for hours in this incredible collection, dedicated entirely to the list.

There’s a list of ‘available names’ Charles Dickens compiled for possible characters in his fiction, Galileo’s list of parts needed to build his telescope, a list of dream lovers a pre-fame Marilyn Monroe wrote with a friend. Quite literally, the lists go on. I absolutely adore this unique collection.

Click here for more about Lists of Note


my-salinger-yearMy Salinger Year

by Joanna Rakoff

For me, my love of books expands far beyond the reading and writing. I’m intrigued by every aspect of their creation. The life of a writer, the printing process, the cover design, the editing process, acquisition meetings…

…and of course, the literary agency responsible for making and breaking so many writers.

This is a beautiful, funny, and at times melancholy look into the world of a New York literary agency in the early 90s, desperately trying to hold onto the ideals of the past. There are long lunches, huge slush piles and not a computer in sight. Oh, and did I mention J.D. Salinger rings occasionally? One for the real booklovers.

Click here for more about My Salinger Year


not-that-kind-of-girlNot That Kind of Girl

by Lena Dunham

How did she do it? How can Lena Dunham have all those expectations and all that money thrown at her (a rumoured advance of over $4mil), and somehow manage to write a brilliantly raw and honest memoir before she’s even turned 30?

I loved Not That Kind of Girl. It reminded me of how important brutal honesty is in any kind of writing, let alone memoirs. It establishes a theme and, despite what seems like endless digressions, never loses its footing. It’s an amazing piece of work. Shockingly funny like few books I’ve read. Incredible stuff.

Click here for more about Not That Kind of Girl


golden-boysGolden Boys

by Sonya Hartnett

Golden Boys is the best novel I’ve read in 2014. There, I said it. I admired Sonya Hartnett’s writing before, now I idolise it. A tender, and at times savage, exploration of lost innocence, told from the eyes of a small group of children in the suburbs of Australia.

Please, I’m begging you, grab a copy of this book and read it. It’s extraordinary. Don’t be put off by the tough subject matter, this is what fiction is for. Exploring worlds we dare not explore ourselves, hearing stories we’d usually shield our ears from. Last year I called The Narrow Road to the Deep North the best novel I’d read for the year, and I’m doing the same for Golden Boys in 2014. A remarkable book.

Click here for more about Golden Boys

Janella Purcell visits Booktopia – Signed copies available!

Janella Purcell lives the life we all want to lead. Healthy, happy and full of food!

She made a special trip from the Mid-North Coast to Booktopia to sign some copies of her bestselling new book Janella’s Super Natural Foods and teach our Incompetent Cook a thing or two about the most important meal of the day, Breakfast!

Janella is all about making food that is healthy AND easy, with over 150 recipes and countless variations for vegetarians, vegans and even plain old omnivores.

Kickstart your New Year with Janella’s Super Natural Foods, we certainly will be!


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janella-s-super-natural-foods-signed-copies-available-Janella’s Super Natural Foods

Keeping it deliciously simple is Janella’s healthy food philosophy. Using many superfoods and grains, she has created over 150 fantastic recipes that the whole family will love.

Superfoods. Food as medicine. Supergrains. Fermented foods. Wholefoods. Keep it simple.

In Janella’s Super Natural Foods every recipe will help you to achieve better health and beauty.

With over 150 delicious recipes for healthy breakfasts, lunches, dinners, desserts, snacks, drinks and sauces, Janella uses wholefoods to satisfy everyone. A dynamic mix of superfoods and a good old-fashioned plant-based diet, Janella’s philosophy of using food as medicine is simple and easy to follow.

Many of the recipes have been influenced by Janella’s travels to Italy, Japan, India, the Middle East and South East Asia – healthy food has never been so tantalising nor so easy to create in your kitchen. Clearly marked throughout with symbols for gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian, dairy-free, raw, soy-free, nut-free or grain-free, each recipe also contains alternative ingredient suggestions to please all your friends and family.

As a talented naturopath, nutritionist, wellness coach, herbalist and environmentalist, Janella Purcell is eager to share her wealth of knowledge and experience. Her passion for cooking and keeping things simple means that staying healthy has never been easier.

Grab your copy of Janella’s Super Natural Foods here

Will Richard Flanagan win the Man Booker?

I can be a little bitter sometimes…

Around this time last year I finished Richard Flanagan’s The Narrow Road to the Deep North and immediately shouted to the world “THIS WILL WIN THE MILES FRANKLIN!”

the-narrow-road-to-the-deep-northI told everyone who would listen, swelling with literary priggishness, waving them away when they offered up other worthy winners.

“No” I would say.

“You’ve got it all wrong.”

“I mean have you even read it?”

“And if you have, I mean, did you really read it, or just, you know, read it?”

Imagine my horror when, in June this year, The Narrow Road to the Deep North lost out to Evie Wyld’s bold sophomore novel All the Birds, Singing.

You live and die by your literary recommendations, and while Wyld’s talent and bravery is well worth rewarding, I couldn’t help thinking the judges had made a huge mistake, turning away the opportunity to recognise a truly great Australian novel with Australia’s greatest literary honour.

Fast forward four months and I’m sitting here typing with a smug look on my face.

all-the-birds-singingWell, more smug than usual.

Soon the winner of the 2014 Man Booker Prize for Fiction will be announced, and who do we find sitting equal favourite with the bookies?

The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan.

Perhaps it is poor form that, on the birthday of Miles Franklin, I find myself willing Flanagan to the prize because of my own hubris, but getting a book recommendation wrong stings. Just ask Oprah.

The Narrow Road to the Deep North is an extraordinary novel from one of Australia’s finest writers at the top of their game. It crosses generations and continents. It’s about love and lust, bravery and cowardice, friendship and betrayal. In a strong field, it’s a very worthy winner.

So at around 7:30am tomorrow morning when, touch wood, Richard Flanagan becomes the fourth Australian to win the Man Booker Prize think of me in my living room, punching the air like I’ve won it myself.

You see, as much as I want another Australian win, I really just want him to get up for one reason.

I was right all along.

You see…

…I can be a little bitter sometimes…


Andrew Cattanach is a regular contributor to The Booktopia Blog and was shortlisted for The Age Short Story Prize. He enjoys reading, writing and sleeping, though finds it difficult to do them all at once.

You can follow his ramblings on twitter at @andrew__cat

The Incompetent Cook Road Tests… Tex-Mex from Scratch by Jonas Cramby

Every week Booktopia’s Andrew Cattanach reviews a cookbook.

He is an incompetent cook.

He is The Incompetent Cook.


Tex-Mex from Scratch

by Jonas Cramby

It’s time for another instalment of The Incompetent Cook. This week he road tests Tex-Mex from Scratch by Jonas Cramby. Scroll down to see how you could win a Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker valued at $699!

tex-mex-from-scratch-order-now-for-your-chance-to-win-

It’s been a busy few months for The Incompetent Cook. But now it’s time to do what I do best.

Burn things and tell you about it.

From the first moment I saw Tex-Mex from Scratch I was enthralled. And then I saw its accompanying piece Texas BBQ and I fell in love. What can I say, they had me at smoked meat.

In my travels I have been to Texas. I enjoyed it immensely and was particularly taken by how many animals they found went with hot sauce. And while I haven’t been to Mexico, I am a longtime admirer of Doritos. I decided to give Tex-Mex’s Shrimp Taquitos a try.
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