Meet the Bookseller with Chris Rainier from Readings Hawthorn

We chat to Chris Rainier from Readings Hawthorn about 70s paperbacks, meeting Michael Palin and the alleged reading tastes of Great Danes.


Why do you work in books?

It’s just about the only way I can keep track of the avalanche of books, music and film that gets ceaselessly poured onto the world – and get paid for it! There’s always something new. It’s a working environment that never ceases to surprise.

What’s the best book you’ve read lately?

I have the bad habit of reading bits of various books at the same time – apparently this makes me a ‘polychron’ – but all it really does is make me forget when I read what. The most recent book I remember powering through (almost) in one go was Wild Coast: Travels on South America’s Untamed Edge by John Gimlette, but equally fascinating was Reinventing Food: Ferran Adria: The Man Who Change the Way We Eat by Colman Andrews.

What’s the strangest experience you’ve had in a bookshop?

Apart from having very large Che Guevara hardcover biographies thrown at my head and resuscitating narcoleptics in the gift book section, my all-time best anecdote has to be when an elderly gentleman brought a copy of the classic Western High Noon to the counter. Upon remarking that it was a classic of the genre, he proceeded to inform me: ‘It’s not for me, it’s for the dogs.’ (His two Great Danes had their own TV room). ‘They don’t like watching SBS with me, so I have to get them something they like.’ I was speechless.

What’s the best experience you’ve had in a bookshop?

Meeting Michael Palin at a Readings Hawthorn event. Asking him how many takes of the fish-slapping dance he had to do in Monty Python. One of the more surreal moments one has in a workplace!

What was your favourite book as a kid?

Although when I was a kid it was mostly about ‘the Tintin’ (thanks for nothing, Spielberg & Jackson), I find it virtually impossible to choose one adventure above any other, so I’d have to say that when I was very young it was Sendak’s Outside Over There or Ungerer’s The Three Robbers, and later Stevenson’s Kidnapped, by which time I’d discovered my father’s library of 70s paperbacks and was reading everything I could reach, even though I only really understood every third word. Highlights include Papillon, Down and Out in Paris and London and the naughty bits in Tropic of Cancer.