Ask a Bookseller: Robyn from Blackwell’s Holborn

Hello, and welcome to Ask a Bookseller, in which we at Turnaround ask a bunch of questions to various booksellers. Next up is Robyn Law, the events manager at Blackwell’s in Holborn, London.

Robyn photoWhat do you get up to during a normal day at work?
I’m the events manager, so what I do changes constantly depending on what events we’re running. It might be ordering stock for a signing or a festival, meeting publicists to discuss future collaborations, or, as often as I can, helping out on the shop floor serving customers and playing with our book displays.

What are you reading right now?
Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and his Years of Pilgrimage by Murakami

Name three books on your reading list?
I’ve got the four Elena Ferrante books waiting for me which I’m really excited about, as well as The Old Man and the Sea by Hemingway which to my shame I have never read, and Grief is the Thing with Feathers by Max Porter. The latter I’m a bit apprehensive about as it looks like it’s going to make me cry on the bus, which happens rather a lot with books.

Robyn Blackwells photoWhat is the one book you wish you could sell to everyone who walks in your shop?
The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy because it is the most beautiful book I’ve ever read. Failing that, anything by Cormac McCarthy or Donald Ray Pollock, though I realise I’ve rather over-stepped the parameters of the question…

Do you have a favourite publisher? If so, why are they your favourite?
I have favourite people at a lot of publishers, mostly reps who clearly love books as much as I do, or publicists who have a genuine enthusiasm about the authors they’re promoting. Plus it helps if the publisher sends me lots of proof copies…

What kind of books would you like to see more of, and what kind do you wish publishers would stop publishing?
I think it would be awful if we stopped publishing anything, but maybe it would be nice if we didn’t have to wade through things that are clear copies of popular titles. All the books that look identical to Gone Girl, or 50 Shades of Grey are difficult to get excited about.

What’s the weirdest book-question you’ve ever been asked by a customer at work?
Someone once asked me if the Sylvia Plath books we were taking to an event would be signed by the author afterwards.

Favourite book jacket OF ALL TIME?
I really love the hardback cover of Hannah Kent’s Burial Rites.burial+rites_book

Thanks Robyn! (especially for the Ferrante enthusiasm, as we LOVE her.)

And if you are a bookseller who would like us to ask YOU some questions, get in touch at

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