Meet the bookseller with Gabrielle Williams

Gabrielle Williams has worked at Readings for the past six years where she juggles dual roles as a bookseller at Malvern shop, and as the Grants Officer for the Readings Foundation. She is also an award-winning author of young adult novels, most recently including the funny and heartfelt My Life as a Hashtag. Here, she shares some of her favourite recent reads and some advice on how customers can support the work of the Readings Foundation.


What is your favourite part of your job?

Working at Readings represents the perfect storm of all the things that matter to me.

As a writer, I am fascinated to see what grabs customers’ attention (and why they choose certain books over others). As a reader, I adore opening the boxes to see what new releases have arrived in store (and collecting a pile behind the counter of what I’m going to read next). As a soap-box-stander, I love recommending books to customers and basically forcing my opinion on them (I also love the fact that customers recommend books to me – some of the best books I’ve read have been recommendations from customers). As a friend, I love choosing the perfect book for my friends’ birthdays (and as a cheapskate, I love getting the staff discount). As a current affairs junkie, I love watching the zeitgeist manifest physically in the form of what books are being published, and what books customers are buying. As a procrastinator, I love that working at Readings means I can avoid working on my own novel.

And as a defender of social justice, I love that working at Readings got me my job at the Readings Foundation, where we’re in the fortunate position of giving grants to organisations in Victoria that support people in real need.

What is the best book you’ve read lately?

I’ve been on a roll, good-books-wise. Recent reads I’ve loved (in no particular order) are: My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh; A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles; Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado; No Friend but the Mountain by Behrouz Boochani; The Animators by Kayla Rae Whitaker; and Normal People by Sally Rooney.

Describe your taste in books.

I’ve always loved literary fiction, but since I started working at Readings, my reading list has diversified quite a lot. I now read natural history (The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben is just one of the many delights I’ve stumbled upon in that part of the bookshop); cultural studies (I’m a massive Malcolm Gladwell fan - I have a bit of a crush on him actually. He’s definitely someone I’d have on my Ultimate Dinner Party list, although the shameless way I’d flirt with him could be embarrassing); politics (War on Peace by Ronan Farrow is illuminating); and of course, all the literary gems.

Tell us about the Readings Foundation.

First, I love the fact that 10% of all profits from Readings bookshops go to the Foundation. When you consider that Readings is a privately owned company, you realise that 10% of all profits that could have gone into the owners’ pockets, are instead going straight to a cause that they believe strongly in. In these days of CEO’s earning obscene bonuses, it’s really humbling to work in a place where the owners have a genuine social conscience.

I also love the fact that the Readings Foundation supports organisations that are doing such important work, especially in the realm of asylum seekers’ support and disadvantaged youths. So many of us in Australia are so lucky, but then there are so many people who are doing it tough. There are kids who have difficulty bonding with people because their experiences growing up with drug-affected parents has impacted on them so heavily. There are asylum seekers who want nothing more than to live the same lucky life in Australia that the rest of us live, and yet the government is preventing them from doing so. There are teenagers who know that education is the way out of disadvantage, and yet their parents can’t or won’t support them in their desire to do well at school.

To work with the Readings Foundation in giving financial aid to the organisations that help these people is an honour and a privilege.

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What are some of the ways that people can aid in the work of the Readings Foundation?

Readings seems to attract customers who have a strong social conscience, and are happy to donate to the Readings Foundation. Often people pop their change into the donation boxes on the counter. Gift wrapping is one area where staff will actively request a donation, but of course customers are free to say no. All gift wrapping paper is donated by Mark Rubbo (the owner of Readings) so any donations customers give when they get a gift wrapped goes directly to the Foundation.

This year, we have a pool of $146,700 to grant to nine organisations who work with disadvantaged groups in the Victorian community. We’ll be announcing the recipients next week on our blog, so keep an eye out for this exciting news.

And if you’d like to donate to the Readings Foundation, you can do so either in store, or online here.