Hello, and welcome to Ask a Bookseller, in which we at Turnaround ask a bunch of questions to various booksellers. We’ve gone a little further afield this time, with Telka Pelova at Ark Books in Copenhagen. Basically, she has the job all of us would probably kill for.
What do you get up to during a normal day at work?
I am currently living in the bookseller’s utopia, the mythical place of Shangri- La. After working as a bookseller in a large and brilliant bookshop in London, I now work for a small, independent bookshop in Copenhagen. I open up in the morning, drink copious amounts of black coffee, listen to jazz, talk to customers about books and literature, make them coffee – we have the cosiest leather sofa in the world – and read books all day long. In my work it’s encouraged! So basically it’s what people who are not booksellers think booksellers do. I also do some actual work sometimes; arranging displays, looking out for new titles etc…
What are you reading right now?
Right now I am reading Ben Learner’s Leaving the Atocha Station, which I’m really enjoying. I think our bookstore is turning into Ben Lerner’s fandom; everyone has read Atocha Station and we are going to have an audio podcast on Ark’s website discussing it in October. I am also reading Inger Christensen’s Azorno.
Name three books on your reading list?
Three, hmm… Wittengstein’s Mistress by David Markson, The Mare by Mary Gaitskill (which is hopefully coming out soon!!!) and The Illogic of Kassel by Enrique Vila- Matas. I am also getting through all the Ferrante books. (Head over to Turnaround’s Ferrante posts to read more about Ferrante)
What is the one book you wish you could sell to everyone who walks in your shop?
I would recommend Mary Gaitskill’s Bad Behaviour. As well as providing comfort, reading should also be challenging and thought provoking, taking us out of that comfort zone to the places inside ourselves we don’t know yet. And Bad Behavior does that intensely.
Do you have a favourite publisher? If so, why are they your favourite?
I do have favourite publishers! I tend to like publishers who specialise in translated literature. All time favourite is Peirene Press. I am also a big fan of Deep Vellum and Archipelago (Distributed by Turnaround!)
What kind of books would you like to see more of, and what kind do you wish publishers would stop publishing?
I would love, LOVE to see more translated literature being published. I don’t think publishers should stop publishing certain types of books. I may not like Fifty Shades of Grey but I hope that via Fifty Shades of Grey I can gently nudge the customer who is after “something like Fifty Shades” towards Anais Nin or Henry Miller.
What’s the weirdest book-question you’ve ever been asked by a customer at work?
Too many weird questions to remember… Someone asked me if I have read all the books in the shop. At that time I was working in one of the biggest bookstores in the world spanning over four floors.
Favourite book jacket OF ALL TIME?
This is really difficult question. I can think of Shire by Ali Smith with art work by Sarah Wood. Also The Plague by Albert Camus, in the Penguin Modern Classics series (the sea is on the cover). And also Penguin Modern Classics for Kafka’s titles are really good.
Thanks Telka! We are super glad you like Archipelago, and that you have #ferrantefever. Your bookshop is a dream.
If you’re a bookseller who’d like us to ask you some questions, get in touch! Email firstname.lastname@example.org and we will ask away.