Our latest Bookseller in Spotlight is the wonderful Ellen Cregan, manager at Brunswick Bound in Melbourne.

How did you get into bookselling?

I started working as a casual at a small suburban bookshop when I was in my last year of university. I had always wanted to work in a bookshop, and so I was stoked to have the job. I left that job after a while, and moved to work at chain bookshop Readings at their brand-new-at-the-time Doncaster location. From there, I worked ‘backstage’ in Readings’ marketing department for a few years, and now I’ve returned to shop life at Brunswick Bound.

What do you love most about being a bookseller?

Reading brings me a lot of joy and serenity, and I feel like my job as a bookseller is to facilitate other people finding that feeling in their lives. When customers come back and tell me they loved something I recommended, it makes my week!

What’s your pet peeve about book retail?

People asking for books that they don’t remember any useful details about… ‘I heard about it on the radio’ or ‘it has a blue cover’. I can’t search for that!

What can publishers do better?

I’d love to see more publishers actively working to support and retain junior staff so they can stay in the industry for years to come. 

Has bookselling changed during coronavirus?

Hugely. I think many people have realised if they want to see independent bookshops in their neighbourhood, they have to consciously support them. Online bookselling will always have its place and is an accessible option for those who aren’t lucky enough to have a physical bookshop in their area, but after so many months of lockdown and a lack of human connection I think the book buying public are all the more appreciative of the wisdom they can only get from a bookseller who is a member of their community. 

What kinds of books do you gravitate towards?

Books that do interesting things with language or incorporate a stream-of-consciousness element tend to appeal to me. I love dense and flowery prose, and I also really enjoy a social comedy. And anything with a touch of magic or magic realism. 

Is there a book that you think everyone should read?

I don’t think there is a single one. But I do think that everyone should make sure they are reading books written by people who have a different lived experience to them – that’s the kind of reading that will make you a more empathetic person. 

What was the last interaction with a customer that made you laugh?

I had someone call up and ask for recommendations for their partner. I asked for a few of their favourite books so I could get an idea of what they liked, and then gave my customer four recommendations based on that. Their partner had read and loved every single one of my recommendations already! At least I was on the right track? 

What is a recent Australian title you loved?

Jaclyn Crupi’s Garden Like a Nonno – Jaclyn is wiser than 1,000 Nonnos combined and this book is fortifying my green thumb like nothing else.