Located in Bristol, Storysmith Books shines with everything a person could want from their local independent bookshop, and a whole lot more besides.

  1. Passionate booksellers who know their stuff, share their stuff, and support customers through their respective reading journeys. 
  2. A wonderfully creative approach to stock selection that means said customers are sure to find the books they’ve come in for, and brilliant books they’ll be delighted to discover.
  3. Roy the shop dog – just look at him!

Huge thanks to Dan for taking the time to talk to us, and for sharing recommendations we’re already adding to our teetering to-be-read piles.

Describe your shop in three words.

Adventurous, representative, selective.

When was your bookshop born? Tell us about your journey and the changes you’ve seen (and made) along the way.

We officially opened back in October 2018 in a tiny split-level shop on our beloved North Street in Bedminster, after packing in our jobs and hoping for the best! 

Fortunately, it worked out - we are supported by a city of voracious readers who are very often looking for something they might not find elsewhere, and even throughout a tumultuous pandemic period our customers were not dissuaded from shopping with us. 

We were able to relocate to a larger shop in November 2022, and so far we're absolutely loving it - hopefully all the things that made us interesting and special have survived the journey to the other end of the high street! 

What’s important in a great bookshop?

For us, it's the clear impression that the personality of the booksellers is identifiable on the shelves and tables. We're a small team of four, but we're always ensconced in different things, so the range of books we can enthuse about is surprisingly large. 

We really encourage our booksellers to follow their niche passions and subject areas, purely because it makes it so much more interesting for our customers to hear them recommending something we're all invested in. 

What sets you apart and makes you special? 

Hopefully there are two things - firstly it's how we understand and respond to each customer's reading journey. We know that books aren't the most important thing in the world to some people (difficult as it is to accept this), that people fall in and out of love with books, they hit slumps, they need challenges as much as they need comfort, and sometimes they need someone to do the research for them (which for us means you sometimes need a mind like a microfiche reader).

The second thing is our stock selection: there's no magic formula or algorithm that can nail that sweet spot of “just enough books you recognise, just enough books you don't”, so we try not to be too scientific about what we put on the shelves besides ensuring representation and diversity and ignoring almost everything the supermarkets stock. 

Basically, if it's something that we love or it looks like something we would love if we had time to read everything, then it's got a good chance of becoming a stalwart.

Also, we have a shop dog named Roy, who has his own cohort of visitors that aren't even that interested in books. 

What’s your all-time favourite…

- picture book recommendation?

Nadia Shireen's Billy And The Beast, Billy And The Dragon and Billy And The Pirates are all basically flawless: plucky and inquisitive heroine, spiky, funny (for adults too), and a sidekick called Fatcat. 

- children’s fiction recommendation?

Alex T Smith's Claude books are something we recommend almost daily. They are the perfect 'between' books for kids who want something a bit more grown-up than picture books, but aren't quite ready for big chunks of text with no pictures. 

- YA recommendation?

This is interesting! Between all of us booksellers, we decided that one area we had been slightly neglecting in our own reading diets was Young Adult, so we challenged each other to read some contemporary YA and feedback what we found to the others. 

Speaking purely from my experience (Dan), I can wholeheartedly get behind Femi Fadugba's The Upper World - it's madcap, emotionally wrenching and also nailed together with some mind-boggling time-travel science. 

Which books have you been recommending recently? 

A fantastic piece of historical fiction called The Twilight Zone, by Nona Fernandez (translated by Natasha Wimmer). It's a really inventive and moving account of life during the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile during the '70s and '80s, which does that extremely special and clever thing of balancing the real gravity of its subject matter with a real and involving story to tell. 

There's also a fantastic reissue of Imogen Binnie's Nevada, which is like a trans-punk road trip, a delightfully unconventional epic that feels urgent and timely despite being 10 years old. 

We're also deeply into a short story collection called After Parties, by Anthony Veasna So, which is brilliantly witty and energetic and thought-provoking, but also conveys the Cambodian-American immigrant experience. 

And in non-fiction we're a bit obsessed with Rebecca May Johnson's Small Fires, which is a sort-of madcap love letter to the notion of a recipe, but one that becomes surprisingly emotional as she delves into just what a tomato sauce or frying up some sausages really means to the person cooking it, or the person eating it. 

What’s your favourite area of your bookshop?

One of the nice things about designing your bookshop from scratch is that you can curate exactly what you're going to be looking at all day. 

So, while there's a beautiful main wall of fiction, and our custom-built display table is a work of art in its own right, the view from the counter directly towards our art & creativity section with its selection of big and beautiful till-side treats is extremely pleasing. Or maybe the coffee machine. 

What are you most proud of? 

We're so proud of the community of readers we've created around the shop. We have five book clubs, members of which have become friends rather than customers, but beyond that the gentle but inexorable way that booksellers slide into the lives of readers is the most wonderful thing. 

Relationships are built on mutual recommendations, sizing each other up, working out the perfect new book for them and then eagerly waiting a week for them to come back and tell you what they thought. That's the kind of thing you can't rush, and nor can you fake it: the fact that we have these conversations at all with our customers makes us feel extremely lucky and proud.

Who would you invite to your dream literary party? 

Patricia Lockwood, Deborah Levy, Sayaka Murata, Percival Everett, George Saunders keeping score and catering by Rebecca May Johnson. 

Tell us a secret about books.

For the most part, they're very reasonably priced. 

Find out more about Storysmith Books:

Website: https://storysmithbooks.com/

Twitter: @StorysmithBooks

Instagram: @storysmithbooks

Facebook: @StorysmithBooks

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