24 June 2015

Celebrating Independent Bookshops

Posted by the Bookshop

20 - 27 June is Independent Bookshop Week, and we're celebrating! On Wednesday we're holding Happy Hour, and we've also asked some brilliant indie booksellers from around the country to tell us what makes them special – and what their customers are loving.

Chorleywood Bookshop

The Chorleywood Bookshop has been around for over forty years. Its core team of dedicated, knowledgeable and, above all, passionate staff has captured the hearts and minds of locals through their innovative community outreach work with local businesses, charities and libraries.

A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry is selling incredibly well in both our shops, even though it isn't a new book. I think this is because our staff have all read and loved it, which means we have recommended it to customers and countless book groups. It's not a conventional bestseller, but we recommend books we know and think people will love. It's great to have a title that can be shared across our community.

Kira Gibson

The Edinburgh Bookshop

The Edinburgh Bookshop likes to give to its community. We kicked off Independent Bookshop Week with a free children's book festival, with authors such as Emily MacKenzie, Pamela Butchart and Vivian French present, enthusing our community and getting them involved in storytelling. It is enthralling to be working for a fantastic bookshop with such a generous spirit.

I am also fortunate to work with a marvellous team of staff, who are all truly passionate about what they do. Cat Anderson, devoted to children's literature and more specifically young adult fiction, has almost an unbeatable knowledge of this area, reading to the toddlers and engaging with the older ones through children's fortnightly book clubs. Marie, the owner, with her familiarity with the classics and contemporaries and understanding of the community, has a fantastic sense of what her customers are looking for. Titles such as Tove Jansson's The Summer Book, Chris Haughton's A Bit Lost and Robert Macfarlane's Landmarks are all big sellers in the shop. These are books that we as booksellers love, but that also perfectly match our customers’ current interest in nature tomes.

Keira Brown

Mostly Books, Abingdon

There’s always a crop of good ‘book group books’ among our bestsellers. We run four book groups, and are affiliated to many others, all of which are looking for books that promote discussion, and ones you just know will divide opinion.

All my Puny Sorrows is a totally absorbing study of a family coping with mental illness. Miriam Toews approaches her subject in a raw and unflinching way with her story of a brilliant, successful sister, whose repeated suicide attempts leave the whole family wrung out. Yes, it’s every bit the emotional rollercoaster you might expect. But the extraordinarily vivid writing makes this novel a triumph, weaving a story about suicide into a narrative that can also be joyful and laugh-out-loud funny at times. How does she do that? The incredible warmth and humour makes this book the one this year we have wanted to press into everyone’s hands and tell them to read.

Another word-of-mouth bestseller is Andy Weir’s The Martian. Our bookshop in Abingdon sits at the heart of a huge number of science and space companies, plus science fiction is a genre we have always championed in the shop – so this fits us like a glove.

Jostling amongst our younger readers’ favourite authors (including Lauren St John, Frank Cottrell Boyce and Katherine Rundell), our favourite debut of the year is The Dreamsnatcher by Abi Elphinstone. A perfect blend of action, adventure, just the right amount of scary stuff and pitch-perfect characterisation tells you that you are in the hands of a master storyteller. Moll Pecksniff and her journey into the forest is one that deserves to become a classic.

Mark Thornton