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 new 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 Helen, the manager of Forum Books in Corbridge, Norhumberland, to hear about the shop, the books she recommends and what goes on among the bookshelves.
How would you describe your bookshop?
Our bookshop is in a listed chapel in the heart of Corbridge, Northumberland. So, we have a pulpit which we use as a reading corner for children during the day, and is a natural stage for our evening events. It’s a beautiful space with lots of natural light, a high ceiling and is pretty darn packed with books. We firmly believe there’s nothing like a real book, and nothing quite like a real bookshop.
What’s your go-to book recommendation for a gift?
1. The Poetry Pharmacy by William Sieghart
2. The Sweetness of Life by Francois Heritier – it's a dip-in-able delight and French
3. Leonard and Hungry Paul by Ronan Hession – a gentle gem! Everyone needs this in their life.
What’s your favourite story from behind the till?
Saturdays are usually a good, fun day. But one weekend, a reluctant class that was camping nearby was dragged into the bookshop expecting dullsville. However, as is usual for the weekend, we were having our Saturday Silent Book Disco! We got all the headsets out for all the kids and the whole place was filled with dancing, laughing children. Afterwards, the teacher said that many of them had never even been in a bookshop before, and so were extra delighted to think that we’d done something different and unexpected and fun!
Which forthcoming book are you most excited to put on the shelves?
Richard Osman’s The Thursday Murder Club – I can’t think who I couldn’t recommend this to! Best enjoyed with a slice of lemon drizzle cake.
These Women by Ivy Pochada - I loved Visitation Street, and this follow-up moves from Brooklyn to Los Angeles, interweaving the stories of three resilient, undaunted women who are often overlooked by society.
Even after a day of being surrounded by books, which book do you never tire of reading?
Banana Yoshimoto’s Kitchen and Fup by Jim Dodge. Both are short, bittersweet and never get old. I have read them so many times over. A comforting balm, and brimming with superb sentences.