Ask a Bookseller: Danny from West End Lane Books, West Hampstead

Hello, and welcome to Ask a Bookseller, in which we at Turnaround ask a bunch of questions to various booksellers. Next up is Danny van Emden who works at West End Lane Books, a really amazing indie in West Hampstead, London.

Danny Photo

What do you get up to during a normal day at work?
My job is children’s buyer/events manager/PR and marketing, so every day is different. I usually open the shop, check email and Twitter straightaway; then, as well as womanning the til, I’ll be on the case with authors I want to visit the shop, PR’ing events I’ve already got booked and tweeting our many followers about Life In A Bookshop.

What are you reading right now?
I’m reading the latest Rebus: Even Dogs in the Wild by the fantastic Ian Rankin who was good enough to do a signing at our shop last week!

Name 3 books on your reading list:
SPQR by Mary Beard: I can’t wait to dive in and lose myself in Ancient Rome! Cockfosters by Helen Simpson. I love a brilliant short story and was delighted that Helen has just published a new collection: she’s wonderful at creating a whole world in a few pages. Number 11 by Jonathan Coe: he never lets me down.

What is the one book you wish you could sell to everyone who walks in your shop?
Gosh, that’s tough. Probably one of my Staff Favourites: The Expendable Man by Dorothy Hughes (possibly the most elegant thriller I’ve ever encountered), The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim or One Fine Day by Mollie Panter Downes.

Danny Shop

Do you have a favourite publisher. If so, why?
I love Big Picture Books at the moment: they create some of the most beautiful and inviting and ingenious kids books on the market. I also very much admire what Persephone do: I’ve discovered so many rare gems through their lovely editions.

What is your current favourite Turnaround book?
African Titanics: pure zeitgeist and heart in a 1980s novel of immigration.

What kind of books would you like to see more of and what kind do you wish publishers would stop publishing?
More brilliance please, less celebrity tat.

What’s the weirdest book question you’ve ever been asked by a customer at work?
Customer: Do you have photographic books of dinosaurs? Me: Do you mean photographs of their remains? Him: No actual photos of live dinosaurs please.

And finally…favourite book jacket of all time?
I’m completely in love with Shackleton’s Journey at the moment so I’ll say that.


Thanks Danny!

If you’ve never been to West End Lane books then you are definitely missing out. Go pay them a visit! We guarantee you will find some real treats in there.

To read more about Danny’s favourite Turnaround book, click here. African Titanics is by Abu Bakr Kahal and is published by Darf.

And finally: we are still on the hunt for more booksellers to take part in this feature. So if you are a bookseller who would like to answer some of our questions, please get in touch at


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