Hello Jen. Thank you for joining us. Firstly, congratulations on The Bookshop Book becoming the official book for the 2014 Books are my Bag campaign. Can you tell us a little about it and how you developed the idea for the book?
Thank you! Well, I’ve always loved bookshops; they’re magical places full of nostalgia and possibility. They’re places to get lost in, and discover different worlds. I’ve worked in bookselling for the past seven years (since working part-time whilst completing my degree), and I’ve written a couple of books about the weird things that customers say in bookshops (because lots of weird things are said!). However, I also wanted to showcase the other side of the bookselling world: the bizarre but wonderful stories hidden behind the shelves; the history of the bookshop; the idea of the travelling bookshop, and bookshops in remote places… Book touring with Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops led me to places such as Wigtown, a fantastic town with a dozen bookshops on the west coast of Scotland, which led me to discover that there’s an International Organisation of Book Towns – with several Book Towns across Europe and one in Australia in an old gold mining town. There are so many wonderful places out there that I thought needed to be shouted about: such as a bookshop in Africa that also sells cows, and a man in America called Walter Swan who opened up a bookshop that only stocked his book and nothing else… So, I asked my editor if I could write a book about weirdly wonderful bookshops around the world… and he said yes!
Did you visit all of the shops mentioned in The Bookshop Book?
The Bookshop Book looks at over 300 bookshops across six continents, so sadly I didn’t get to visit them all – though I spoke to people who had. I got to most of the bookshops in the UK, Paris, Berlin and Amsterdam (where I lived on a houseboat for a few days). When I was writing the book, I’d get up early and Skype with booksellers in Asia (like Ayuko, who runs a sushi-making class inside a bookshop), and Australia/NZ; then I’d go to work in my own bookshop, before skyping with booksellers in North America in the evening. So, I felt as though I was living in several different time zones – it was a bizarre, but wonderful, time. Continue readingby