Meet the bookseller with Alexa Dretzke
In our latest Meet the Bookseller column, we chat with Alexa Dretzke, the Assistant Manager & Children’s Book Buyer for our Hawthon shop. Alexa fell into the book industry by accident and first came on board at Readings more than 17 years ago! Here, she talks about the reward of selecting the right book for a customer, and shares what’s on her TBR pile.
Why did you decide to work in books?
It was happenstance, as my career was originally in graphic design. I was a customer at The Little Bookroom and one Christmas they were unexpectedly short-staffed: I filled in, stayed for nine years and my career change was complete. After three years at Dymocks I moved to Readings and 17 years later, children’s books (well, books in general) continue to give me so much pleasure.
What is your favourite part of your job?
I guess the most wonderful thing is shelving the books I ordered months ago particularly as we don’t often get to see a finished copy.
The most rewarding thing is when a young reader comes back and tells you they loved something you recommended; matching the right book with the specific interests of the customer is so satisfying.
What is the strangest question a customer has ever asked you?
“Do you have a copy of Claire’s Spleen?” Perplexed look from me leads into further delving and lo and behold what my bemused customer wanted was a copy of Lauren Child’s Clarice Bean Spells Trouble: that was fun!
Tell us about an Australian book that made a significant impact on you.
The Tall Man by Chloe Hooper is such a powerfully objective book. I admired her impartiality in telling such a highly charged story about Cameron Doomadgee’s death in custody. The tragic story of our First Nations people’s clash with white society is complex and heartbreaking and Hooper presents this unforgettable case with a sharp understanding of both cultures.
Tell us about a book that changed the way you think.
No need to think about this one, The Magus by John Fowles.
I read it at 18 years of age and it changed my reading life. It got me exploring Greek myths and one thing led to another. I probably grew up as a reader. I want to say he is an author who never wrote the same book twice but he did actually rewrite The Magus twelve years later, which I read, and he didn’t really change the story but finessed it. I loved all his books.
What books are sitting on your bedside table?
A tower of them on the table and by the bed. I get into my bed by way of a trapeze from the ceiling!
I am reading a children’s book The Girl, the Cat and the Navigator by Matilda Woods. I had the pleasure of reading her first book The Boy, the Bird and the Coffin Maker for the Readings Children’s Book Prize and I loved it. Her new one is similarly well written with a plucky, bold young protagonist and an original story line.
I also have the proof of a new adult novel coming in April, The Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip Williams. It looks right up my alley, a book about words and dictionaries, I am looking forward to it.