Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Bookshop A Day #8: Foyles, Charing Cross Road

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:

Foyles, Charing Cross Road

Foyles is one of my favourite bookshops, and they have a crazy history (which features in The Bookshop Book). Their new flagship shop opened a couple of months ago, and every time I go there my bank balance cries. (But I can't help it, because they have such pretty things - like a limited edition David Mitchell.) For this blog post, I had a chat with Jonathan Ruppin, who is their Web Editor.

Hi Jonathan! Where can we find you?

In central London at 107 Charing Cross Road, just a few yards down the road from our decrepit former home. Me personally: up in the Buying & Marketing office on the sixth floor, although I do make a point of getting down to the shopfloor every day.

Describe your bookshop in three words. 

A stately pleasure-dome.

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

Everything. The open design of the new shop means that you can see every floor from the vantage point of the 50-foot high atrium. It’s a fabulous place to go people-watching.

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

Interviewing David Mitchell in front of a packed gallery in the old shop was probably the most fun I’ve ever had at work. He was so fascinating, so eloquent and so charming: he turned every audience question into a conversation with the person who’d asked it. 

And your best customer moment?

The Norwegian woman who said she wanted to sample the best British literary fiction of the year: I picked out 40 books for her and she went away with 25 of them, clearly intent on finishing every one.

Recommend a book you’ve been loving recently. 

Most of my reading is contemporary fiction, so I’m surprised to find myself naming a non-fiction title: Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari (Harvill Secker). It’s an extraordinarily engaging and insightful look at how human society came to exist in the way it does: starting the Cognitive revolution 70,000 years ago that allowed Homo sapiens to emerge from other human species such as Neanderthals as the dominant animal, and tackling how concepts such as money, religion and science have created our world today. I’m tipping it to be the next Thinking, Fast and Slow.

Why did you become a bookseller?

It started out as a Christmas temp job at Dillons: what else can you do as an English graduate who’s just realised he doesn’t want to be a journalist after all? I was running Fiction by New Year.

Why are you still a bookseller?

The people: writers, readers and all those involved in getting those two groups together. I love the fact that you can talk to anyone you come across in the book world and just get lost in a conversation about books.

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

Somewhere on a clifftop overlooking a wild sea: the west coast of Scotland perhaps. Admittedly, I probably wouldn’t get more than a handful of customers a week, but it would be an inspiring location to sit and read second-hand paperback classics all day. 

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

A good bookshop is the alpha and the omega of unlimited imagination and intelligent inquiry.

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

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