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At the present time, our bookshops need our love more than ever. We can all support them by buying from the shops that are taking orders over the phone, by emails, or on their websites. Every day we have been sharing the bookshop love on our LoveReading social media and it is wonderful to see how many people are doing the same. I am absolutely thrilled that our May Bookshop of the Month is the Read. Holmfirth family bookshop. You can see that they have been open for just over a year, yet are obviously hugely knowledgeable booky people! They make an important point about large print books, the secret about books made me smile, and their yellow chair is calling to me, oh yes it is! I will now hand you over to Read.
When was your bookshop born and how did that come about?
We opened our bookshop, Read. in February 2019. We had always wanted to open a bookshop but it had never felt like the right time. We’d even looked at our little unit through the windows several times and thought how nice it looked. But after making the decision, things fell into place very quickly and then it was all we could think about! Hours were spent finding yellow decorative items for the shop, planning the layout and day-dreaming about what it was going to be like to sit drinking tea, reading books and chatting to customers… we’ve not had much time to do the first two of those yet!
Tell us about the journey and the changes you have seen over the years.
We opened to great support within Holmfirth and gradually that has now started to spread further afield. We have customers who perhaps only come to Holmfirth once every few months from further away and make a day trip to come to the bookshop and visit some of the gorgeous cafes that we have in Holmfirth. We have 5 staff who are all part-time and they are so valuable to us – all of us have different tastes and we find it fascinating listening to books that they recommend to people. Events for both children and adults have been a huge part of what we do; just before the lockdown we were involved in our local Literature Festival and it was heartbreaking to see so many events cancelled. But, we are determined that one day our shop will again be full of book-clubbers drinking prosecco and eating chocolate biscuits. Until then, it’s about supporting our lovely customers, who have become our friends and getting the right books to them when they need them.
Describe your shop in three words.
Community-centred (can I cheat with that one!)
Has the rise of digital retailers affected your bookshop, what were your first thoughts about ebooks and do you feel the same now?
We have come into this as the use of ebooks seems to have stalled. We speak to so many people who have come back to books. This said, there is a real gap in the market for large print books. Even Louise’s mum can’t buy books from our shop because she needs the print to be larger… surely we can do better than this as an industry? There is a place for ebooks alongside paper books but it’s very obvious that most people value the experience of browsing, talking about and buying books. Neither of us read ebooks and we never have, but as with audiobooks, it’s about offering people a choice. We’d like to think that people enjoy the experience of coming to buy books from us and certainly within the community we believe that’s what people come back for.
What is important in a great bookshop, tell us what sets you apart and makes you special.
When we first decided to do this, we were certain that the work we had done as teachers had to carry on through our shop; whether that was through writing groups, book groups, craft workshops, or just being a place that both adults and children felt safe and welcome. We think about our community and their needs all the time and we try to work with other shops and businesses in the town as much as possible. Even the current situation has led us to re-shape our business and we will continue with book deliveries in our little Read-mobile even when we are back to normality. Not everyone can get to our shop but we can get to them!
Tell us about the books you love to recommend.
Louise - I adore The Salt Path, anything and everything by Ben Myers – his books are incredible. I’ve recently discovered AM Homes and have now bought as many of her books as I can. I do also enjoy reading 9-12; Lisa Thompson’s books are excellent, as well as Katherine Rundell’s. Peter Bunzl’s Cogheart series and Catherine Doyle’s Storm Keeper’s Island trilogy are wonderful too.
And, I’m currently reading a proof copy of The Miseducation of Evie Epworth by Matson Taylor and loving it!
James – My favourite writers are Sebastian Barry especially Days Without End, David Mitchell (Black Swan Green is wonderful)l, Sarah Waters (Fingersmith is a masterpiece), Elizabeth Strout (Olive Kitteridge is a wonderful character), John Le Carre (a true master), Sally Rooney (Normal People deserves every accolade it can garner)… the list goes on! I also love graphic novels, short stories, Japanese literature, nature writing and travel writing. I’m currently reading Lustrum by Robert Harris, a writer I was introduced to at my book group, but have a TBR pile that is essentially the shelves of our shop!
What is your favourite part of your bookshop?
Our yellow chair. It doesn’t happen often but sometimes, just sometimes, we can sneak a 5-minute sit down in the chair to read a book. The light is perfect, it’s cosy, there are plenty of cushions and it’s just a lovely place to be.
Tell us a secret about books.
A TBR pile is like a rainbow; it’s impossible to reach the end of it. Particularly when you work in a book shop it seems! We work on a, “one for us, one for the customer” basis sometimes…
Apart from yourselves, which other bookshop(s) do you love to spend time in?
When we were setting up our shop, Kate who is one of the owners of the Bookcase in Hebden Bridge really helped us to focus on the figures and the reality of running the business. It’s very difficult to sit and guess how many books you might sell per day when you’ve never done it. James worked a day at the Book Corner in Halifax just as we signed the lease to our shop. I can remember thinking, “what if he hates it?!” but luckily we knew it was the perfect job for us. We love both shops and the fact that they are so different to each other and so welcoming.
What else do our members need to know about you?
Some people have asked us why we don’t have a website that people can buy books on. For us, this is simple, we chose to come into this to talk to people about books and we enjoy this interaction. If someone emails us with their order, we get to know them and have a level of conversation that we aren’t able to have in the shop at the moment. We are conscious that to some of our customers that might be one of their only interactions if they are self-isolating or live alone. Only today, Louise dropped off a book for someone and they were able to talk about On Chapel Sands that they were both reading and how much they were both enjoying it.
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