Meet the Bookseller with Jessica Au from St Kilda

We talk to Jessica Au, bookseller at Readings St Kilda, about her favourite books, life working in a bookshop and discovering her doppelgänger.


Why do you work in books?

I reasoned it thus: 1. I love books. 2. Bookshops stock books. Therefore, I will love bookshops. So far, the theory’s held good.

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

Melanie Joosten’s Berlin Syndrome – tense, sharp and beautifully written. Her take on Stockholm Syndrome is incredibly deft, especially when you consider the various layers of privacy and fear in a once-divided city, combined with a now-divided love. I couldn’t put it down.

What have you noticed people buying lately?

A lot of copies of Jamie’s 30 Minute Meals. Apparently everyone in Melbourne is pan-frying duck, liquefying cherries and skilleting at warp speed whilst exclaiming ‘that’s pukka’ at regular intervals.

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

Bookshops are probably one of the sanest places on earth and while I wish I had some wild, capering story right out of an episode of Black Books, I don’t. The strangest thing that’s ever happened was when I found out that a customer had the exact same name as me, which let’s face it, is only mildly bizarre.

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

As simple and pedestrian as it sounds, I’ve got to say it’s pretty good when you see the books of people you know (whether writers or editors) being sold in front of you.

What’s your favourite book of all time and why?

This question always stumps me: my brain baulks at the thought of having to choose just one. But today, I’m in a classical mood so will go with Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go. The way he uses narrative structure, with those drips of detail and memory, completely floored me the first time I read it. Even the title, which, when you think about it, holds such beautiful sadness – it’s a command for something that can never really be done.

Name a book that has changed the way you think – in ways small or large.

In a small way, maybe Jennifer Egan’s A Visit From the Goon Squad, because it made me realise that PowerPoint can actually be deeply moving, and that there is such a thing as a modern novel that can pull off experimental writing in an altogether brilliant, non-irksome way.