Meet the Bookseller with Selena Tan
We chat with Selena Tan about what she’s reading right now, and why the smell of a new book is so tempting.
Why do you work in books?
I love the smell of books, and receiving stock is always potentially exciting. Like the time I discovered I Am Maru by mugumogu straight out of the box. Also, there is the possibility of meeting authors I admire. David Levithan is definitely my meet-the-author highlight of this year.
Working at the State Library shop is additionally awesome, being a house of books within a giant house of books.
What’s the best book you’ve read lately and why?
Ai Weiwei Speaks with Hans Ulrich Obrist. As a series of conversations between an artist and a curator, I find this book endlessly illuminating. Ai Weiwei extends his practice beyond visual art to architecture, publishing and activism, and his social conscience inspires in me a spirit of defiance.
What’s the best experience you’ve had in a bookshop?
The time I found a first edition hardback of Michael Chabon’s Manhood for Amateurs. Aside from intensely loving that book, I was actually looking to buy a copy for my brother whose first baby was about to be born and that hardback was a serendipitous find. It would have been a total triumph if it was signed but one has to leave room for further best experiences.
What’s your favourite book of all time and why?
This is tough and I will have to say the novels of Arthur Nersesian. From the moment I read The Fuck-Up, I was hooked on the originality of his voice and the rhythm, style and humour of his prose. Subsequent highlights include Unlubricated, Chinese Takeout and Suicide Casanova – the hardback edition of that is in a VHS tape case.
Name a book that has changed the way you think – in ways small or large.
And The Band Played On by Randy Shilts. A significant piece of investigative journalism that shone a light on government indifference in the early days of HIV/AIDS, it saddened, outraged and impressed upon me the importance, and power, of personal advocacy.
What was your favourite book as a kid?
As a young child, Miffy by Dick Bruna. My mother would often take me to the neighbourhood library and I’d check out the Miffy books all the time. I loved the bold graphic lines and primary colours. A few years later, I was captivated by Ponyboy’s narration in S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders: ‘When I stepped out into the bright sunlight from the darkness of the movie house, I had only two things on my mind: Paul Newman and a ride home.’ What an excellent opener.
Will Grayson, Will Grayson
The Lover’s Dictionary
How They Met, and Other Stories
Love Is the Higher Law
Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares
Are We There Yet?