Hello, and welcome to Ask a Bookseller, in which we at Turnaround ask a bunch of questions to various booksellers. Next up is Gayle Lazda, bookseller, blogger and champion window-dresser over at the London Review Bookshop.
What do you get up to during a normal day at work?
All the usual stuff – selling books, shelving books, secretly reading books when no one’s looking. I’m also in charge of the shop windows, which means I sometimes get to spend my time sourcing taxidermy animals, building six foot strawbears, you know the sort of thing.
What are you reading right now?
I’ve just started Rings of Saturn by WG Sebald. I read Austerlitz a few years ago and I’ve been resisting the urge to read everything else he wrote ever since – I’m trying to be restrained and parcel it out across my lifetime, so I’ll never have to face the prospect of life without new Sebald.
Name three books on your reading list?
I’ve got a proof of the new Han Kang, Human Acts (coming out in January from Granta), which I’m excited about. I keep hearing so much about Renata Adler, so I’m going to give Speedboat a go soon. And a friend recommended Sisters by a River, Barbara Comyns’s first novel, which sounds as bonkers and wonderful as everything else she wrote.
What is the one book you wish you could sell to everyone who walks in your shop?
1982, Janine by Alasdair Gray. He’s (quite rightly) a national treasure north of the border, but down here, a lot of people seem barely to have heard of him. 1982, Janine is a good place to start: funny, heartbreaking and totally filthy. What more could you ask for?
Do you have a favourite publisher? If so, why are they your favourite?
I’ve got a real soft spot for Melville House – purveyors not only of interesting, beautifully designed books, but also really great tote bags and thoroughly amusing Instagram content. And I have to give a shout out to our Bury Place pals, Enitharmon – publishers of beautiful poetry and art books, and the best neighbours a bookshop could wish for.
What kind of books would you like to see more of, and what kind do you wish publishers would stop publishing?
I’m a huge fan of publishers like Virago and Persephone, who bring forgotten books by women writers back into print, so more of that sort of thing, please. I could live without those gift books that are just print outs of various bits of the internet – things that are mildly amusing when you scroll past them on tumblr tend to be less so when they’re taking up valuable space on your bookshelf.
What’s the weirdest book-question you’ve ever been asked by a customer at work?
‘Do you sell books?’ is always a classic.
Favourite book jacket OF ALL TIME?
Hitchcock à la Carte by Jan Olsson. If your book cover doesn’t feature a grumpy looking Hitchcock sitting behind a roast turkey with a knife stabbed in it, I’m not interested.
Thanks Gayle! Yes, that is a GREAT book cover.
And if you are a bookseller who would like us to ask YOU some questions, get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.