Sunday 15 December 2019

Insider Life: David O'Callaghan, youth book buyer

David O'Callaghan - 'ultimately books will always rock'.
David O'Callaghan - 'ultimately books will always rock'.

David O'Callaghan is the youth book buyer at Eason

"I live in Stoneybatter, so it's a 35-minute cycle to work. It's an early enough start – 8.30am – so a bit of music on the bike, currently The Fault In Our Stars soundtrack, gets me pumped for the day. Day to day I look after the 0-12 age category and the teenage, young adult category. It's not exactly Tom Hanks in Big, with a giant piano I can jump on, but half the time it doesn't even feel like work. I'm a massive pop culture nerd and pop culture falls under my remit (at work). Luckily for me, all I do is read books and love watching TV and movies in my downtime.

There's a lot of serious stuff too: number crunching, admin, predicting trends and meeting book reps to see what book titles are coming down the line. John Green is the hot thing in Young Adult right now, but it's also about what might happen in children's publishing next. I love the fact that this category is always surprising me; after all, who could have predicted that vampires & dystopian genres would follow Harry Potter and become the next big thing?

The big focus now is Department 51, an area of the store which will first open in Dundrum and then roll out to the rest of the Eason stores. We used to have an area called 'Nerdvana' which we are now joining up with our Young Adult sections to make Department 51. When you go into Department 51, it will be packed with pop culture merchandise and on-trend book genres. We've had to source product from license fairs in the UK & US, and there's some great retro nostalgia stuff in there too... Goonies, Gremlins and Hanna-Barbera are my current favourites. Whether you're a full-on nerd or an obsessive of a show like Game Of Thrones, The Walking Dead or Breaking Bad, a t-shirt, mug, bag or game will be waiting for you.

My house is a pop culture nerd heaven, and Department 51 is basically an extension of my house. There's pop culture stuff which I've collected over the years, every which way you look. I love to buy beautiful things, which is what most of these things are to me. Nerdy but beautiful.

For years, I've collected things like Tim Burton figurines, which sit in the window. If the house was burning down, the three things I'd save would be: a Radiohead setlist that Thom Yorke gave me at the Olympia show; a ticket from the Serenity premiere in London that Joss Whedon and Nathan Fillion signed for me as a thank you for refereeing their dance-off, and my framed Empire Strikes Back painting.

On evenings and weekends, I'm constantly watching TV and going to the cinema or gigs. At one point I was following so many shows – about 12 – that I had an Excel spreadsheet to tell me what shows were on which day in the US so as not to lose track. Right now I love Game of Thrones, True Detective, True Blood and am excited about a new show called The Strain, which is a more chaotic spin on the vampire genre. There's also a new show called Halt & Catch Fire that's quite retro and cool.

Luckily, despite the perceived uncertainty in the publishing industry, children's books are having a boom moment. I do my best to stay out of figuring out the future of the industry, but I do laugh when someone says something about how books are dying out. All it takes is an EL James or a Hunger Games phenomenon to put paid to that. Ultimately, books will always rock.

In the evenings, I have lots of pop culture events in my house for friends, as there's a gang of us living in 'The Shire' of Stoneybatter. We used to have the One Door Cinema Club, which is like a book group for movie fans, but it has now been replaced by Nerd Chooseday. I'm also trying to bring back 'girlie' night – Girl Friday – because I actually have a soft spot for dance movies and rom-coms. Sitting still is often a problem for me ... well, unless I'm in the cinema. Or watching TV. Or reading."

First published in INSIDER Magazine, exclusive to Thursday's Irish Independent
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