Current Issue #488

Drawn to the City:
Alex Andrews, the bookseller

Leo Greenfield
Alex Andrews

While roaming the shelves at Dymocks in Rundle Mall, Alex Andrews is all too happy to offer recommendations from his genres of choice: science fiction and fantasy. But, like a character from such novels, Andrews leads a double life.

As a bookseller by day and drummer in a grunge band by night, Alex Andrews’ two lives both reflect a love of creativity and camaraderie. Andrews and his bandmates are decidedly more rambunctious than his bookstore co-workers, but the feeling of fellowship is not so different. “There is a palpable sense of camaraderie at Dymocks, we are all great friends,” Andrews says. “Just like in the band, it’s a group of very different people coming together for a common passion.

“The description of my job is pretty cut and dried,” he explains. “I’m a bookseller, but that statement is always met with either interest, straight-up jealousy or a mixture of the two.” This mix surely comes from the fact most people see bookstores as pretty magical places, and it’s clear that for Andrews and his colleagues that magic certainly hasn’t worn off.

“We have to live our lives,” he says. “But here at the bookstore, we’ve lucked out with a job that is so in tune with our passions. You should see our lunchroom when we’re on a break, it’s as quiet as a cemetery, as everyone is reading.”

Andrews began working for Dymocks in 2014 and takes particular pride in customer service. In a bookstore there is a unique sense of shared passion and trust between customers and staff; this is not the place for the hard sell, but rather a chance for discussion and exchange on equal terms.

The fact that Andrews is so drawn to science fiction and fantasy makes him the perfect fit for his current responsibilities as the assigned staff member for all customer queries in those genres. “Every staff member has their specialty area in the shop, a category or genre that, when a customer asks about it, they’re the go-to for recommendations or tough questions. The rewarding part of the job comes from being able to gush about books that I love and want people to read.”

Currently Andrews is dividing his reading between two novels: DarkDawn by Perth-based writer Jay Kristoff and Attached by Amir Levine and Rachel Heller. When chatting to customers in store, Andrews may suggest one of his most loved writers such as Robin Hobb, Brandon Sanderson, or Anthony Ryan, or perhaps recommend novels such as The Martian by Andy Weir, Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One or World War Z by Max Brooks.

At work Andrews is focused and there isn’t time for daydreaming, but sometimes lyrics or musical ideas come to him. Andrews describes the music of his band, Larsen, as that of a 90s-inspired alternative rock band. They can be heard live at venues such as Jive Bar or the Crown and Anchor. Citing his family’s influence as the beginning of his love of music, Andrews says, “I grew up with a father who was a working musician. He was a songwriter and a music lover, and our house had a strong foundation of music appreciation.”

When asked about the lasting demand for printed literature, as opposed to online texts, Andrews sees a link between books and music. “The recent advent of the ebook is convenient,” he says, “but there is something about the connection with the physical book in your hand that is long lasting. There is digital music, you can stream it from your computer, but that hasn’t phased out real instruments or live music.”

For Andrews, the act of cracking open a book also holds an aesthetic appeal that can’t quite be replaced. “If people see you on your iPad, you could be doing anything,” he quips. “But a person reading a novel, now that’s respectable.”

Leo Greenfield

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Leo Greenfield is freelance illustrator. His work can be found at

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