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

by |May 21, 2015

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

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  • Jess

    May 21, 2015 at 11:24 am

    Love this! Congrats!

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