Monday, 29 September 2014

Bookshop A Day #22: A Reader's Heaven, NSW

On the run up to the release of The Bookshop Book on the 2nd October, I'm going to be blogging about a bookshop every day to celebrate wonderful bookshops and booksellers all around the world. (#bookshopaday).

Today's blog post is about:
A Reader's Heaven, Australia



I had a chat with Tamsyn - a bookshop customer who loves this place. 

Hi Tamsyn! Where can we find your favourite bookshop?

In Lithgow, a small town in New South Wales, Australia.


Describe it in three words.


A lovely, friendly atmosphere.


What’s going to catch our eye as soon as we walk through the door?

The friendly staff and the beautifully designed bookshop, and of course all the books.


What’s the best event they've ever done there?

During Halloween the staff dressed as their favourite character from their favourite book. They had customers come along and I did it too. It was really great.


What's the best book you've bought from there?

There are many favourites but the best so far is Diary of Anne Frank.


Recommend a book you’ve been loving recently.

She Is Not Invisible by Marcus Sedgwick. It's about a blind girl who flies across the world with her little brother to find their father and bring him home.


Why did you love bookshops?

They're a home away from home for me. I can spend hours in one and have a wonderful time. I was once locked in a bookshop because I didn't realise everyone was leaving and the bookshop owners didn't realise I was still there. Thankfully I got out and the owners found it funny.


If you could open a bookshop anywhere in the world, where would you open it and why?

I would love to open a bookshop in a place where people are disadvantaged and give them books for free so everyone can experience the joys that reading brings.


Sum up what books and bookshops mean to you in one sentence.

Books and bookshops mean a lot to me because I've had a disability since birth and during school I was teased a lot and told I couldn't read and was stupid by both teachers and students, so I proved them wrong by starting to read books and now I love reading and couldn't imagine not having books.

--

Details of The Bookshop Book are 
here. You can pre-order signed copies (shipping worldwide) here.

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Author Visit: MR Carey


If you missed it, folks, I set up a 'Weird Things...' Book Club over on the 'Weird Things...' Facebook page, and our first Book Club read was The Girl with all the Gifts by MR Carey - a dystopian novel which could have been the book baby of Never Let Me Go and The Walking Dead. I thought it was bloody marvellous. So, I got in touch with MR Carey (or, as he's known to his pals: Mike), and asked him if he'd like to do an interview for the blog, answering questions sent over by you. Mike's a lovely chap and he said yes, he would. So, here we are. He's got some bloody good answers, too. (Apologies if your question isn't below; there were so many submitted!)

Make a cup of tea, pull up a seat and have a read. :) xx



Hi Mike! Welcome. Tell us, how have comics influenced your writing?

I think it’s fair to say that comics taught me how to write!

When I started out trying to write novels, I never got anywhere because I never had the slightest idea how to structure them.  I wrote these big, shapeless, sprawling things – narrative soup – but had no idea to wrestle them into any kind of a structure.

With comics, you don’t have that luxury.  In most cases your page count is pre-defined, and it’s totally rigid.  You have 22 pages, or 20, or (if it’s 2000AD) 5, and within that you’ve got to get in, tell your story, and get out on a resolution or a cliffhanger.  So you find yourself budgeting pages very consciously.  You become a miser, counting your beats and sharing them out with great care and attention.  And once you become proficient in doing that you can take advantage of the freedom the novel form gives you, rather then drowning in it.


When did you start writing?

I honestly don’t remember.  It’s just always been there in my life.  I’ve got school exercise books from the 1970s in which I wrote heroic fantasy and sci-fi “novels” when I was a kid.  Probably the earliest of those I still have date from when I was twelve or thirteen, but I’m pretty sure there were others before that.

I wrote and drew comics back then, too.  My younger brother Dave and I made comics for each other, each of us creating a set of characters and then taking turns to write new instalments of the story.

But I started writing full-time in the year 2000.  That was when I gave up teaching and jumped into the freelancing lifestyle.  Before that I was writing around the edges of a full-time job.  Going freelance was liberating and terrifying.  The first month when you don’t get a pay cheque after years of being in a proper job… you feel like you’ve just abseiled into the Grand Canyon.  But it’s worked out very well so far.  I’m touching wood with my left hand as I type that with my right.


What's your favourite genre/medium to write in?

Currently, probably prose – but it changes.  For many years comics were my comfort zone because I knew them inside out.  The first novel I wrote as a grown-up, The Devil You Know, started out as a very tentative affair because I really wasn’t at all sure that I could do it.  But I got more confident as I wrote, and by the time I got to book two, Vicious Circle, I just cut loose and had a great time.

But the great pleasure is mixing and matching.  Every medium is a tool kit for telling stories, and every tool kit is completely different.  Being allowed to work in so many different media at the same time is exhilarating and incredibly rewarding.  If there was some way to do that and still have time to eat and sleep, I’d have the perfect life.


Where did the idea for TGWATG come from?

Bizarrely, it came from having to write to a specific brief, instead of dredging an idea up from my own subconscious.  I’d agreed to write a short story for an anthology – part of an annual series edited by Charlaine Harris and Toni Kelner.  The thing about these collections is that they’re always themed, and the theme is something very innocent, deliberately banal – home improvements, family holidays, things like that.  This year the theme they’d decided on was schooldays. And having said I’d contribute, I hit the buffers.  I sat there for four months staring at a blank screen.  I couldn’t come up with a single worthwhile idea.

But then about two weeks before the deadline, I woke up with an image in my head.  It was a little girl writing an essay in an empty classroom. And the title of the essay was “What I want to Do When I Grow Up”.  Only the twist was that the girl was never going to grow up because she was already dead.  

The whole story grew out of that – out of Melanie as a character, and the process by which she comes to realise who and what she is.  I wrote it in four days (I was actually at a comics convention in Norway for most of that time) and sent it in, and when the book came out it was very well received.  But I had the feeling that the story wasn’t quite finished yet.  I wanted to revisit Melanie’s world and find out more about both it and her.  So I asked my editor at Orbit, Anne Clarke, for a meeting and pitched the novel-length version of the story.  And Orbit commissioned it, even though that meant rejigging a fairly complicated contract that I’d signed.  I think Anne could tell that I wouldn’t be good for anything else until I’d written this book.


What was the journey of discovering a possible botanical source behind the story? (As so many of these stories are simply "Biology scientists did something silly and let a monkey escape the lab" and yours is not.)

It was really a case of building a strong through-line to that ending – to the scene where they get to the wall and Melanie makes her choice.  I needed a rationale for the plague that would allow us to have those beats, which meant among other things that the pathogen had to be visible.  In the short story it was a virus, but a virus really wouldn’t do.  Then I remembered the David Attenborough footage of the ants infected with Ophiocordyceps.  It was utterly terrifying, and it seemed to be a perfect fit for the story.

Then I did a little reading around and discovered just how widespread these mind-control pathogens are.  Each species of Cordyceps only targets a single species of ant – but there are hundreds of species, with more being discovered all the time.  Cordyceps is a specialist, but it’s a very versatile and resourceful specialist.  So I switched from a virus to a fungus, and never looked back!

Since then I’ve read some much more disturbing things about parasitism in nature.  Parasites may be the most numerous types of organism in the entire biosphere.  They certainly make up for the bulk of the world’s biomass.  And some of these mind-control organisms, such as Toxoplasma gondii, do target mammals.  Scary stuff!


Would you survive a zombie apocalypse?

No, I wouldn’t make it out of the opening montage.  I’d be the guy who remembered at the last moment that he’d left something crucial behind in his house or his car, and I’d go back and get eaten.  Cut-away to my distraught wife saying “What could have happened to him?  He said he’s just be a moment…”

Seriously, I have absolutely none of the skills that would allow me to survive after the fall of civilisation.  I can’t change a car battery, strip down a machine rifle, make wholesome meals out of hedgerow, anything.  If the apocalypse comes, I’m a puff of smoke.


What are your thoughts on some of the other "Starts with Z and rhymes with Kombi" stories out there?  

I love me a good zombie movie – and we’ve just lived through a kind of golden age.  The Romero sequence, especially Land Of the Dead.  28 Days Later.  And weirder fare such as the magnificent Zombieland and Warm Bodies, which I thought was terrific despite its silliness.  I confess, I haven’t read much in the way of zombie prose.  I picked up Pride and Prejudice and Zombies because it seemed like such a great premise, but I felt like it needed more Jane Austen touches.  More social satire to justify the genre-crossing.

The moments I love in zombie stories are the moment when the human surfaces within the monster, somehow not quite extinguished.  The wife going back to her own front door in The Walking Dead.  The zombies in the bandstand in Land Of the Dead.  And the whole premise of Warm Bodies.  That’s the horror, really – not just being chased by creatures that want to eat your brains, but recognising friends and family and ultimately yourself in those creatures.


Who was your favourite character to write?

Melanie, without a doubt.  When I felt like I’d got her voice right, her point of view, I pretty much jumped up and punched the air.  I wasn’t confident going in that I could catch the tone I wanted – the seriousness, the innocence, the curiosity and the endless reserves of well-meaningness.  But it came together better than I could have hoped for.


Tell us about TGWATG film - how involved are you and how far has it progressed?

It’s coming along really well, and right now it’s at a very exciting stage.  I was involved right from the start, developing the story alongside director Colm McCarthy and producers Camille Gatin and Dan McCulloch.  The BFI came on board with help, advice, and actual funding which enabled me to write a screenplay.  Then we secured a distribution deal, and Camille and Dan were able to lock in the rest of the budget.  Now we’re in the process of casting.  If all goes well, we’ll shoot early in the new year – which is blindingly fast in movie terms!


Which other writers do you love?

That’s a long list.  My formative influences include Mervyn Peake, Roger Zelazny, Ursula LeGuin, Lord Dunsany, Gene Wolfe, and going back a bit further Enid Blyton.  Authors whose work I’ve discovered and loved more recently – China Mieville, Joe Hill, Lauren Beukes, Nick Harkaway, Adam Roberts.  I lost the reading habit for a while because of work pressures, and I got it back again a couple of years ago.  Definitely in a binge phase right now.


Tell us something that might surprise us about you.

There is nothing surprising about me.  Not a thing.  Grant Morrison once wrote a superhero whose name was the ! and his power was that (to quote) “he comes as no surprise”.  Wherever you meet him – even if you wake up in the middle of the night and find him standing next to your bed – you just accept him as natural, run of the mill, completely unremarkable.  I am the !

No, okay, there is one thing.  I used to be an accountant.  Only for a year.  I was trying to get out of teaching into something that would give me more time to write, so I got a job at KPMG Peat Marwick as a trainee auditor.

It didn’t take.


What are you working on at the moment?

Rewrites to the next novel, whose working title is The Boy Inside.  The last ever issue of The Unwritten.  The second episode of a TV series I’m developing with Touchpaper, the production company that did Being Human.  A movie adaptation of Jonathan Trigell’s science fiction novel, Genus.  And a pitch for a new comic series that I want to do with Peter Gross.  I keep pretty busy.


What's something you wish someone had told you at the start of your career?

Hmm.  I wish someone had given me some advice about structuring a story.  Really basic advice, along the lines of “Don’t make it up as you go along – have at least some vague idea of where you’re going.”  Structure doesn’t come by itself.  You’ve got to work at it.  I could have saved myself a lot of heartache if I hadn’t thought it was okay to just wing it.


And if you were to give a writer one piece of advice, what would it be?

You can’t write unless you read.  Read passionately and voraciously in the genres and media in which you want to write.  If you don’t love them as a reader then you won’t be able to navigate them as a writer.  I’ve sometimes been in breach of this rule myself, and nothing good ever came of it.  You’ve got to write what you love, because if you fake it your readers will know.  And there’s a kind of alchemy involved.  Reading widely doesn’t mean you end up pastiching what you read, although that may happen a bit at first.  Something will come out of all that reading and processing that’s uniquely yours.  You’ll develop a voice.  Developing a voice in a vacuum is very difficult.  Any physicist will tell you that.


Bookshop A Day #22: The Big Comfy Bookshop, Coventry

On the run up to the release of The Bookshop Book on the 2nd October, I'm going to be blogging about a bookshop every day to celebrate wonderful bookshops and booksellers all around the world. (#bookshopaday).

Today's blog post is rather special because it's dedicated to The Big Comfy Bookshop - a bookshop in Coventry that's opening TODAY. I'm very excited for Michael, who has worked his socks off to get the shop up and running - there was crowdfunding involved, which I blogged about a few months ago. I'll also be doing an event with them on the 29th October. More details over here. 

So, yes, they opened their doors today and are now a real-life actual bookshop. Hurrah!

The Big Comfy Bookshop, Coventry



Michael! Where can we find you?

You can find me in Coventry, UK, in the new creative quarter Fargo Village. It's made out of the bones where the very first bicycles were made in the world!


Describe your bookshop in three words.

Cosy, eclectic, homely


What’s going to catch our eye as soon as we walk through the door?

Well (hopefully!) if you look up straight away, there's a huge HUGE quote spanning the width of the shop! Plus, it's all very Red.


What’s the best event you’ve ever done
?

As it's open NOW I don't have one that I've done, however, a certain Jen Campbell will be here October 29th that I'm extremely excited about!


And your best customer moment?

Whilst doing book stalls and craft fairs a young girl came screaming up to me and took no less than a dozen books in her arms then ran off! Her mum came over and bought each one!


Recommend a book you’ve been loving recently.

I visited The Book Barge and picked up Sarah Henshaw's The Bookshop That Floated Away on launch day! It's the best book I've read this year.


Why did you become a bookseller?


I came to books rather late, my early 20s, and since then loved bookshops but where I live there wasn’t one really on my doorstep, so I opened one myself.


Why are you still a bookseller?

Because my wife has just had a baby (due end of August!) and need to support my family! Plus, what I love most is mingling with new people daily and discussing the world.


If you could open a bookshop anywhere else in the world, where would you open it and why?

It'd have to be New York. The hustle and bustle and the complete insane people that would walk through the door would be amazing.


Sum up what books and bookshops mean to you in one sentence.


A second home.


--

Details of The Bookshop Book are 
here. You can pre-order signed copies (shipping worldwide) here.

Friday, 26 September 2014

Bookshop A Day #21: Collins Bookshop, Adelaide

On the run up to release of The Bookshop Book on the 2nd October, I'm going to be blogging about a bookshop every day to celebrate wonderful bookshops and booksellers all around the world. (#bookshopaday). Today I want to tell you about:

Collins Booksellers, Adelaide


I spoke to Tarran, who is their assistant manager. 

Hi Tarran! Where can we find you?

You can find us at Castle Plaza Shopping Centre in the best city in Australia, Adelaide.


Describe your bookshop in three words.

Friendly, Quirky, Family-Orientated


What’s going to catch our eye as soon as we walk through the door?

Great smiles, Event Posters and Book Pyramid.


What’s the best event you’ve ever done?

There have been so many but I think this there are three that really stand out. One was Hannah Kent, author of ‘Burial Rites’ we had so many people lined up to meet Hannah it was amazing. The second one was Matthew Reilly with his book ‘Tournament’ we had to hire a venue to fit all the people that wanted to see him speak. The third was last year’s National Bookshop Day, this is an all day event we have in Australia to celebrate the local authors. We had a special guest come and boy did it get busy. Our special guest was Peppa Pig and they had to wall off the supermarket and surrounding stores because the mall was filled with kids.


And your best customer moment?

My best customer moment is also one of the hardest because I have to repeat it. There are customers that come into the store that have told me that they have loved every book I have recommended to them and they say they will only come to me for their books now.


Recommend a book you’ve been loving recently.

One of the books I have really liked is by an British/Australian author Alan Baxter. It is a dark urban fantasy involving Kung Fu, malevolent grimoires and the end of the world, perhaps. It is very well written and a fast paced novel. Explores Australia, Britain, Rome and Alaska and has proven to me that not all urban fantasy is the same stuff with different names.


Why did you become a bookseller?

I have loved anything to do with books since I was four. I could think of nothing other than writing that I would love to do than work in the bookstore. Books are portals into other worlds and if I can help people feel the love for the humble but magnificent book then my job is done.


Why are you still a bookseller?

I have been a bookseller for 14 years now and I still love my job. I love the feel of books and I am addicted to the smell of books. There is nothing better than walking into the store after it’s been closed for the night and breathing in the scent of the store. I like finding books new homes and I love the people we meet and the interesting stories they tell.


If you could open a bookshop anywhere else in the world, where would you open it and why?
I will have to be boring and say Adelaide. There are too few bookshops left and I would love to open one down in the south of Adelaide. We are the festival city and we love good music, good food/wine and most of all great reads.


Sum up what books and bookshops mean to you in one sentence.


Books and bookshops are one of the best means to educate yourself and whether is through fiction or non-fiction, a good bookshop will inspire the reader to go further and imagine higher – Nothing is impossible.


--

Details of The Bookshop Book are 
here. You can pre-order signed copies (shipping worldwide) here.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Bookshop A Day #20: Re:Reading Bookstore, Toronto

On the run up to release of The Bookshop Book on the 2nd October, I'm going to be blogging about a bookshop every day to celebrate wonderful bookshops and booksellers all around the world. (#bookshopaday). Today I want to tell you about:

Re:Reading Bookstore, Toronto


I had a chat with Chris, who owns the bookshop. 

Hello, Chris! Where can we find you?

548 Danforth Ave Toronto On Canada www.rereading.ca @Re_Reading info@rereading.ca


Describe your bookshop in three words. 

Clean – Organized - WellStaffed


What’s going to catch our eye as soon as we walk through the door?

The large isles and large organized shelves and the giant map of the world on the wall.


What’s the best event you’ve ever done?

Opening day. We opened on April 4th 2009 after building the store in 4 weeks. Still our best day ever.


And your best customer moment?

The octogenarian Scottish lady (Alice) who came into our store once a week for the first 4 years we were open. Failing health has prevented her from coming as often but she still brightens our day every once in a while.


Recommend a book you’ve been loving recently. 

Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides  


Why did you become a bookseller?

25 years as a customer in Used Bookshops gave me the hunger to be the person on the other side of the counter.


Why are you still a bookseller?

We have been open 1900 days and I have gone home frustrated 6 times. That to me is an EXCELLENT ration. 


If you could open a bookshop anywhere else in the world, where would you open it and why?

Airlie Beach Australia. That is where I plan to retire and having a bookshop would give me a place to go everyday to meet people and talk about books.


Sum up what books and bookshops mean to you in one sentence. 


If you find a job you love, you will never work a day in your life - RH Heinlein.


--

Details of The Bookshop Book are 
here. You can pre-order signed copies (shipping worldwide) here.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Bookshop A Day #19: Spiral Bookcase, Philadelphia

On the run up to release of The Bookshop Book on the 2nd October, I'm going to be blogging about a bookshop every day to celebrate wonderful bookshops and booksellers all around the world. (#bookshopaday). Today I want to tell you about:

Spiral Bookcase, Philadelphia


I had a chat with Ann, who owns the bookshop. 

Hi Ann! Where can we find you?

Our store front is 112 Cotton St., Manayunk, PA 19127. Manayunk is a small neighborhood in Northwest Philadelphia. It used to be a booming mill town in the 1800s, but has now transformed to a quaint village-like environment replete with small indie shops, wonderful restaurants, and a strong community spirit.

You can also find us online: Our website. Our online storefrontFacebook.

Twitter & Instagram : @spiralbookcase


Describe your bookshop in three words.

Charming. Well-Curated. Devoted.


What’s going to catch our eye as soon as we walk through the door?

As soon as you walk through the door, you see our center display. We stack the books on top of vintage crates, and a giant old dictionary, creating what we hope is an interesting and inviting arrangement. Ever-changing, we populate the display with personal recommendations, and popular, thought-provoking, and unusual books. We want it to speak to our visitors and show them what they might find in the store -This is not a cookie cutter store, we have a range of new, used, and weird books, and care is given when selecting our stock.

Look to the left and you’ll be greeted by one of our top-notch booksellers and perhaps, our staff cat, Amelia, will be checking you out from her favorite perch in the Parlor of Peculiarities.


What’s the best event you’ve ever done?

That is a hard question to answer. Since we’ve opened I believe we’ve worked on about 300 events. They run the gamut from author signings, to open-mics. to musical performances, to book clubs, workshops, festivals, literary gatherings and more.

One of our more recent events - The Spiral Salon for the Literary Insane - definitely stood out. We have held other Salons in the past, bringing together an eclectic mix of authors, artists, and musicians, but as we have a predilection for the macabre and unusual we thought it would be fun to create an salon celebrating literary horror.

The evening started with a cocktail hour, featuring a folktale-inspired drink, The Yellow Ribbon. (3 parts lemonade, 1 part vodka, rimmed with strawberry jam.) At night, we formed a procession with drumming and lanterns, and moved slowly to our neighboring park to begin the terror. We shared well-known creepy tales from Poe and Lovecraft, ominous poetry, eerie urban legends, other frightful firsthand tales, and ended with a selection of murder ballads. We had volunteers to hold lanterns for the readers to see, and sinister songs moved us from one tale to the next. Everyone had a great time, and it was fun to hold a nighttime event in our local park, lending a perfect ambiance to the readings. As we are now in the Halloween spirit, we will be holding another Salon for the Literary Insane on Sat., Oct. 25th.


And your best customer moment?

There are many, many wonderful customer moments, every single day. That is one of the perks in running a bookshop - having people pop in every day with a story, or a quiet determination of finding the right book, or bringing us into their world by asking for the perfect recommendation. There are a couple of moments that stood out for me, because of their impact.

After having my daughter Zelda it took some time to adjust to the demands of parenthood and the demands of owning a small business. I was having a particularly hard day and one of our regulars came in. He could see that I was upset, even though I tried my best to hide it. He browsed and bought a book, asked about my new daughter, and as he was leaving he asked what my daughter’s name was. I said Zelda. Ah, he said. Have you heard of the song Beautiful Zelda by the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band? He then gave me a bit of a smile, and left. I immediately found it on youtube, watched it, and promptly cried. He made my day- he gave me something that I much needed at that particular moment. I was reminded what an integral part customers play in not only our shop experience, but in our lives. video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TbzsNhs62lY

Another experience that only happened a couple of weeks ago, involved a mother and her two twin teenage daughters. They came in one Saturday evening and as soon as they stepped through the door, the twins were beaming, absolutely beaming. They were speechless, walking around and taking everything in. They plopped down near our vintage book section and just started flipping through books. One looked up at me and said This place is like heaven. Oh, how I absolutely adored hearing that. They put together a stack of books, giddy from the surroundings, and we chatted for a bit. I knew the shop left a deep impression and having that ability to connect with people is uplifting and powerful.


Recommend a book you’ve been loving recently.

Why The Child is Cooking in the Polenta byAglaja Veteranyi translated by Vincent Kling.

The author’s stark narrative voice and the dark folktale that winds around the characters create an unforgettable tale, uncovering a spiritualistic understanding of hardship and brutality within the confines of a circus caravan.


Why did you become a bookseller?

I’ve always had an inner passion to connect with people and I grew up with parents who consistently encouraged my love of reading. We frequented any and all bookstores we could find and we went to the library all the time. I studied English and worked at the Library of Congress as a Copyright Specialist, so slowly but surely my book knowledge expanded and grew.

My husband and I moved to Philadelphia in 2009 and the neighborhood where we moved, Manayunk, did not have a bookshop, although we felt it was the perfect setting for one. In the winter of 2009 we posited the question - Why not? At that time I was commuting from Philly to DC and ready to take the leap - to start something of my own. I started researching more and building a collection. We were going to start on-line, but the perfect space fell into our laps, so we secured a storefront.

I wanted to serve our literary community and celebrate the printed page by seeking out and presenting both popular and uncommon titles. I wanted to become a community hub, holding events and engaging our customers, becoming that welcoming space that everyone should have a chance to experience. Our name, The Spiral Bookcase, lends itself to those beliefs. The Spiral Bookcase is a coming together of ideas and people, an extremely inclusive space, creating an environment of shared stories and shared experiences.


Why are you still a bookseller?

After four years as a bookseller, I can’t imagine doing anything else. It is a multi-dimensional pursuit and at the core - the creative act of writing and the dynamic act of reading - is, I believe, essential for a greater understanding and empathy to the world around us. I have an inner drive to not only create a shop where readers can find the next perfect book and to recommend the right book to the right person, but to also create a third space for people to relax and engage in the world around them. I am extremely devoted to the shop - to sell, discuss, and show-off stellar books and to connect the people who share in this common devotion. There is nothing like it.


If you could open a bookshop anywhere else in the world, where would you open it and why?


Cork, Ireland. I studied abroad at UCC in Cork City and formed a deep connection and appreciation with the city and with Ireland. When I returned to visit friends a couple of years ago, the connection was still there and, I think, will always remain. I visited every bookshop I could, and pictured having my own place among them. I can still picture it.

My Irish friends and I have discussed the possibility of opening a seasonal shop in Ireland. But as magical thinking goes, I think it will happen one day.


Sum up what books and bookshops mean to you in one sentence.

One word : Connection.


--

Details of The Bookshop Book are 
here. You can pre-order signed copies (shipping worldwide) here.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Bookshop A Day #18: CUP Bookshop, Cambridge

On the run up to release of The Bookshop Book on the 2nd October, I'm going to be blogging about a bookshop every day to celebrate wonderful bookshops and booksellers all around the world. (#bookshopaday). Today I want to tell you about:

The CUP Bookshop, Cambridge


I had a chat with Alastair, who works there:

Hi, Al! Where can we find you? 

Right in the centre of Cambridge close to the market square and in sight of King’s College Chapel.


Describe your bookshop in three words.

Academic
Historic
Unique

What’s going to catch our eye as soon as we walk through the door?

Our display of new publications, and our ‘green bags in seven colours’

(Fairtrade tote bags promoted as a green/eco-friendly alternative to plastic). The seasoned book buyer will also notice pretty quickly that we only sell books published by Cambridge University Press, so we’re quite unusual.


What’s the best event you’ve ever done?

One of the nicest events we do is the Alumni Tea Party that we host for the University of Cambridge every year. It’s not an event intended to make sales or to raise our profile outside the University community especially but it’s lovely to hear generations of Cambridge students come back and share their memories of Cambridge and of the bookshop. It’s heartening to know that people associate the bookshop with some of their fondest memories.


And your best customer moment?

Probably the funniest request was from an American lady asking if we had any CDs of Shakespeare reading the Bible. Also, I always smile when I remember a CUP author who, seeing me struggle with back pain, invited me to lie on the floor with her so that she could demonstrate some physiotherapy exercises whilst the other customers simply stepped over us as if nothing unusual was happening.


Recommend a book you’ve been loving recently.

I’ve finally got to the final part of John Updike’s Rabbit series. It is utterly absorbing. I also enjoyed Robert Harris’ An Officer and a Spy recently.


Why did you become a bookseller?

I became a Bookseller as a stop gap in between studies with the aim of paying off my University debts. In the end I managed to keep my job and continue my studies part time, so having my cake and eating it. Sadly I managed to keep my debts too.


Why are you still a bookseller?


For one thing I’ve never known what it is that I want to do when I grow up. But also I think bookselling is fundamentally a decent trade that attracts good people which is a lot more than can be said about other professions. I might not be changing the world with what I do but hopefully I’m not doing any harm either. And maybe, just maybe one of my customers will buy a book from me that does inspire some world-changing event.


If you could open a bookshop anywhere else in the world, where would you open it and why?

I’d be hard pressed to think of anywhere better than Cambridge given the number of willing and appreciative customers that abound. The location takes some beating too. Having said that, a quiet community in the countryside where you could really get to know all your customers quite appeals.


Sum up what books and bookshops mean to you in one sentence.


Books should be as essential to any high street as the butcher, the baker, the post office and the books they sell should nourish and support those communities in their own fundamental way.


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