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 Julia, one of the booksellers at Golden Hare Books in Edinburgh, to hear about her never-fail reads and life behind the till.
How would you describe your bookshop?
This is so difficult! How does one describe a bookshop? I'd say that the atmosphere at Golden Hare is unique. We're very community-driven, so we have lots of regulars that come in, but there are also those who are simply curious as to what hides behind the deep-blue facade.
What makes our shop special is that we have many prominent wall displays, which makes the shop look colourful without being overwhelming. I think that people really appreciate the bookshop because we feature books that you wouldn't find displayed everywhere, and we are happy to order (almost) anything for our customers. In a way, they shape the shop just as much as we booksellers do!
In short: I would describe Golden Hare Books as the ideal bookshop for people who are looking for something a little bit different, in a charming setting and with enthusiastic booksellers. We even have a fireplace, which comes in handy during the Scottish winters.
What’s your go-to book recommendation for a gift?
My go-to book recommendation for gifts is usually Japanese or South American fiction. We're very big on translated fiction at Golden Hare Books, and I've found that the chances of the recipient having read the book are a bit lower when you go for Japanese or South American literature. Books I'll recommend to most everyone are The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa and Fireflies by Luis Sagasti.
What’s your favourite story from behind the till?
It's really rather difficult to choose just one favourite story from behind the till. I like it when people buy books that they are really excited to read, books they've been looking for for a while, or books that they can't wait to give to friends. It makes the job really fun!
Oh, and one time a young boy of about six asked me if I wanted to be his girlfriend. I obviously had to turn him down, but he took it very well.
Which forthcoming book are you most excited to put on the shelves?
We've been so excited for Ali Smith's Summer, which finally came out the other week! I'm also looking forward to Ready Player Two by Ernest Cline. What both these books have in common is that they're sequels, which has made the wait difficult yet ultimately rewarding. Speaking of follow-ups and sequels – Yaa Gyasi's Transcendent Kingdom should be out soon as well! What a great line-up.
Even after a day of being surrounded by books, which book do you never tire of reading?
My colleagues will anticipate this answer, but I never tire of reading Alice's Adventures in Wonderland or books that are even vaguely related to it. Alternatively, there's The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, which I find to be quite extraordinary. They're familiar favourites that I'll pull off my shelf at least once a year, but I'm also very excited about new books. You never know which one will be added to your perpetual re-read pile, so you have to keep looking.
Find out more about Golden Hare Books on their website.