Foreword with Joe Rubbo

Many talented and dedicated people have worked at Readings over our 55-year history. In July, our Hawthorn shop manager of the last 27 years, Desiree Boardman will retire. During her tenure, Desi has been a committed shop manager and passionate bookseller. She is particularly special to me because she was my first manager at Readings. I took up a position at the Hawthorn shop as a Christmas casual about 20 years ago and I still remember the lessons Desi taught me in those weeks. She has ensured that Readings Hawthorn has been a hub for the local community and has built strong connections with customers, local schools and libraries. In this month's issue, which can be found here, she discusses her career with Readings chair Mark Rubbo. Thank you, Desi, for all your hard work over the years.

Last week I read a remarkable book, James by Percival Everett. Everett is a writer from the USA’s South who has written over 30 books but hasn’t found much of a readership here in Australia. James has arrived with little fanfare here and I think it is a book that many Readings customers will enjoy – it deserves to be towards the top of our bestseller list! James is a reimagining of the story of Huckleberry Finn, told from the perspective of enslaved person and central character, Jim. The novel does so much: it traverses genres, provides powerful commentary on contemporary race relations in America, is a remarkable companion novel to Huckleberry Finn, all while being a page-turner. If you can’t already tell, I strongly recommend it!

I’m writing this a day after the conclusion of the Melbourne Writers Festival, where we were the festival bookseller. There were lots of highlights over the weekend, but favourites were Nam Le and Leslie Jamison discussing their time at Iowa Writers’ Workshop and the craft of writing, and Readings’ own Christine Gordon chairing a discussion on the importance of free reading, which included local author Tony Birch and also international guests Ann Patchett and Lauren Groff, who spoke about their respective bookshops in the US and book banning.

This year was artistic director Michaela McGuire’s final year in the role. She has done an incredible job with the festival over the last few years and is to be congratulated. We look forward to seeing what’s next for MWF.

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Cover image for James


Percival Everett

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