What is it that makes an independent bookshop truly great? Personal recommendations, community atmosphere and lots of good conversations – at their best, indies are the beating heart of the bookselling industry.
In this series, Penguin.co.uk will be speaking to staff from independent bookshops from across the country, gleaning the stories and tips that keep customers coming back.
This week, meet Anne, who founded Addyman Books in Hay-On-Wye in 1987, to hear about her never-fail reads and life behind the till.
How would you describe your bookshop?
We have three bookshops in Hay (the main store, the detective-focussed Murder and Mayhem and the more off-piste Addyman Annexe), and all of them sell second-hand books. We want to make all of them as magical as possible, so it feels like the book chooses the customer, rather than the other way around. With the main shop, we want people to feel as if they’re entering the beginning of a children’s story and don’t know what’s around each corner. We want to keep it feeling like someone’s front room – comfortable, where you can sit, relax and read. What I love is when you see three children squashed into a big armchair reading books.
What’s your go-to book recommendation for a gift?
But I love giving beautiful books, and I love the fact that Queenie, by Candice Carty-Williams has covers printed in lots of different colours, I think people are collecting it. Around here myth and legends books, such as Celtic tales, tends to go down well and we also sell a lot of rock and pop stuff. Leonard Cohen’s Book of Longing, for instance, or Bob Dylan: The Essential Interviews, which has a nice cover.
What’s your favourite story from behind the till?
There’s a few! Iris Murdoch, before she died, came in with her husband, and I wasn’t there – and I love her books, one of my children is named after one of her characterds – and she signed all the copies of her books that we had in stock, which made them astronomically valuable! That was good. Tom Keneally – we saw him walking into a burger place up the road, so we took him out to eat instead and then a local Fringe event, and he spent the whole evening with us. He told us that winning the Booker Prize was good, but having grandchildren was better.
Alexander McCall Smith came in and signed 400 paperbacks without being asked... Rowan Atkinson came in and asked me to print out directions before SatNav, asking, “How do I get out? How do I get to London?”
What book came in recently that you were really pleased to get?
Even after a day of being surrounded by books, which book do you never tire of reading?
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