As some of you may know, today marks the end of Independent Booksellers Week. It's great to see support for independent shops, as so many people (I'm guilty too!) will opt for the easiest way out, and just buy something from Amazon. And even in terms of bookshops, Waterstones and Blackwells have a pretty good monopoly of the market...
HOWEVER. The independent booksellers are biting back! There may not be thousands of them, but I'm sure you'll agree with me that there is absolutely nothing like a small bookshop. The level of service, the intimate feeling of being with books, the personal recommendations, that feeling you get that you're in on a wonderful secret...
Well, I'll share my 'secret.'
I've talked plenty about Mr B's already, but I just want to sing their praises again. They are a wonderful independent bookshop in Wells, tucked away but quite near the centre. It's deceptively big! There are just so many books inside! Two stories, floor to wall with books. I have done a Reading Year with Mr B's (see all my reviews!), and I did a Reading Spa this year. I am slowly-slowly making my way through these books - I'm eking them out as much as my patience will allow me too, as the thought of not having them is too painful to consider!
A Reading Spa means paying to have a 'bibliotherapist' sit down and talk to you (tea and cake available!) for half and hour or so, and then they go off and find books they'll think you'll like. It's magical! And a Reading Year is most definitely the best present I have ever had. You get to know your bibliotherapist, and then they will send you - beautifully hand wrapped in brown paper and string, with Mr B's seal - a book through the post every month. It is so exciting!
My bibliotherapist is Emma, and she has been fantastic. We've continued to correspond intermittently, and it's just amazing to have someone in tune with my reading tastes.
Mr B's also host talks and signings from authors!! I haven't been lucky enough to go to one, but they have sounded exciting; they're even going to have Louis de Berniere later in the summer, as well as Justin Cartwright! So, some really big names.
Here is a little Q&A from Emma, the best bibliotherapist out there!
How long have you been working with Mr B's? Just over two years now!
What's the best thing about working there? Getting to talk about books all day and meeting such wonderful book-loving people. I particularly love being a ‘bibliotherapist’ and doing the Reading Spas with people, or choosing books each month to post out to people as part of the Mr B’s Reading Year. Both are great ways of introducing people to books and authors they may never have come across before.
Who is the favourite author you've met? My favourite author I’ve met would be China Mieville. I used to work as a bookseller at the Cheltenham Literature Festival and so I’ve met a fair few authors in my time, but none had impressed me quite as much as China who took the time to recommend me loads of SF authors as I was just getting into the genre at the time. As for recent fave author meetings… I would definitely have to say Kirsty logan (The Gracekeepers). She was just super lovely and it felt like I had met my book twin because we had such similar reading tastes!!
What books are you looking forward to this summer? So many and it’s hard to narrow it down. I will cherry-pick a few for you: ‘The Last Pilot’ by Benjamin Johncock, ‘The Seed Collector’s by Scarlett Thomas, ‘A Little Life’ by Hanya Yanagihara, and of course ‘Three Moments of an Explosion’ by China Mieville!
Top 5 books of the year so far? Oooo…again there have been quite a few already! In no particular order: ‘The Honours’ by Tim Clare, ‘The Gracekeepers’ by Kirsty Logan, ‘Villa America’ by Liza Klaussmann, ‘The Buried Giant’ by Kazuo Ishiguro, and ‘Weathering’ by Lucy Wood.
I would just like to celebrate Mr B's and all other bookshops like them. (Particularly them. But I'm biased.) Think about where you shop.
(I wasn't asked to write this post - I did it spontaneously because I love them so much!)
Some of my favourite Mr B's books:
Prep by Curtis Sittenfield
The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon
Burial Rites by Hannah Kent <= Best one!