Hello, and welcome to Ask a Bookseller, in which we at Turnaround ask a bunch of questions to various booksellers. This week we asked some questions to one of the cutest dogs ever. A DOG, guys. Need we say more? Meet Huxley, who sells books at the Stoke Newington Bookshop, London.
What do you get up to during a normal day at work?
After the looooong walk to work (approximately 10 mins) I tend to have a nap under the shop counter. When I’m fully rested I go for a potter around the shop to check out what new titles we have received (I usually earmark a few for reading that week) and then make sure the staff are keeping the displays interesting and engaging. The rest of the day is a whirlwind of recommending books, greeting customers and checking out what beautiful new books are in the deliveries, with the occasional nap to keep me in top bookseller form.
What are you reading right now?
I’m not a big fan of winter so I’m mixing some non-fiction with some cozy crime, mostly the beautiful British Library reprints of crime classics. I am currently alternating the Farjeon novels (read The Mystery in White for the perfect Christmas mystery) with the 25th anniversary re-print of photographer Don McCullin’s autobiography. Apart from it being the most stunning looking book, filled with his emotive and often horrifying pictures, he is a fascinating man and an eloquent writer.
Name three books on your reading list?
Hans Fallada- Alone in Berlin is one that keeps popping up. The Ferrante books have suffered the booksellers curse, I have sold so many that I feel like I know it without having read it, but I definitely will. Any Vonnegut– I have somehow managed to get this far without reading any and I know I’m missing out…
What is the one book you wish you could sell to everyone who walks in your shop?
The clue is in the name! It’s got to be Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. I’m a big fan of dystopian literature generally, The Handmaid’s Tale, 1984, We, but this one is just so vividly crafted. Within a few pages I had got over the initial uncomfortable feeling of being confronted with a new model of humankind and by the end, I was so hooked on the plot that I genuinely had forgotten that this world order didn’t exist (yet).
Do you have a favourite publisher? If so, why are they your favourite?
I always thought I didn’t but recently I have noticed a trend developing- I seem to be instinctively drawn to Canongate titles. They are absolutely killing it at the moment with beautifully designed books and amazing titles! Miranda July’s No One Belongs Here More Than You (NB: we really recommend you look at the website for this book. Really.) is a great example; the stylised, graphic cover had me hooked even before I fell in love with the short stories it contained. I am also having a bit of a love affair with the Neversink Library, neglected works with the most insanely clever cover-concept.
What is your current favourite Turnaround book and why? (feel free to name more than one!)
I covet owning the Hoxton Mini Press Makers of East London and Vintage Glamour. If I hadn’t been a bookseller I think I would have liked to do something with pottery, or maybe wear a wedding dress. Completely different but I also have a bit of a soft spot for the TF at 1: Ten Years of Quartersnacks, it’s just so bone-achingly cool. In the New Year my owners have promised I can learn to skateboard so I’m hoping for this in my Christmas stocking.
What kind of books would you like to see more of, and what kind do you wish publishers would stop publishing?
I honestly would rather a person was reading anything than nothing at all. If that sounds like I’m trying to be diplomatic, please remember bulldogs are never diplomatic. At a push, I would maybe encourage publishers to explore some young adult books that are not based on vampires, dystopian worlds and doomed relationships, and which inevitably come in a never ending series.
What’s the weirdest book-question you’ve ever been asked by a customer at work?
“Do you have a book on rabbits?” “About a rabbit or the care of rabbits?” “Looking after them” “Yep, here is the RSCPA guide to caring for rabbits” “NO! I need one that tells me how to look after 300 of them” “Ok, that might not be possible.”
And finally… favourite book jacket OF ALL TIME?
I am lucky enough to own a first edition of Carson McCullers’ The Heart is a Lonely Hunter. I thought it couldn’t get any better than the absolutely breathtaking text itself, until I saw the cover. There is something so ridiculously dated about it and yet I can’t help but look at it, it makes you want to touch it and trace all the strange Hollywood- film-titles letters.
Did everyone enjoy that as much as we did? You should probably go and follow Huxley on Twitter because he is incredibly cute and likes books.
Here’s a bit more info on Huxley’s favourite Turnaround Books:
We are still on the hunt for more booksellers who would like to be asked some questions. Even if you’re not a dog. Get in touch at: firstname.lastname@example.org.