Oh my. As soon as we heard about (and saw) The Little Travelling Bookshop, we knew we had to find out more and share news of this truly charming, community-centred endeavour. In place of bricks, mortar and four walls, The Little Travelling Bookshop has four wheels and a smart, shiny shell in the form of Ruby, a stylish 1964 Citroen H van that brings books to community events.
Like her steady-but-sure speed (she can do up to 40mph), the books Ruby transports are always curated with care and attention by the bookshop’s founder, owner and all-round innovator Becca Flory, with a focus on books with environmental and well-being themes, and locally-relevant titles. What’s more, with a background in ethical and sustainable fashion, Becca also sources gifts and homeware treasures created by small companies that share a similar ethos. Above all, though, Becca is committed to recommending books based on individuals’ needs and tastes - empathy is key here.
With plans to take Ruby further afield in the coming year (and beyond), here’s to The Little Travelling Bookshop roaming somewhere near you sometime soon. In the meantime, read on to find out more about Becca (and Ruby’s) inspiring journey so far.
Describe your bookshop in three words.
Joyful, unique, welcoming.
When was your bookshop born? How did it come about? Was there a eureka moment for buying and converting the van?
I launched The Little Travelling Bookshop in June this year but the idea came to me in March 2020, just before the first Lockdown. I was travelling to Dundee one day for work and I was thinking a lot about my life purpose (I had been for a little while) and I kept coming back to what I love and what has helped me through some of the darker times in my life. Books and bookshops were at the top of my list. At the same time, I wasn’t sure where I wanted to live (my life was in a bit of flux!), so I didn’t want to open a bricks and mortar bookshop. I thought, why don’t I travel with the bookshop? I got out of the car in Dundee, phoned my boyfriend and told him that I was going to start a mobile bookshop and that I wanted to call it The Little Travelling Bookshop!
Tell us about your journey (both metaphoric and literal!) and the changes you’ve seen (and made) along the way.
Like any journey, my journey with The Little Travelling Bookshop has had its ups and downs. But that is just life! I had all of these plans for 2021 but they went a bit awry for various reasons (mostly Covid-19 related). Ruby - the 1964 Citroen H van that I had converted - didn’t arrive until May so I couldn’t do my first event until June (I’d hoped to launch in Spring). She was worth the wait though. I am definitely learning what I can and can’t do with Ruby too - she only goes at 40mph, so I am now a lot more choosy about where I go with her!
Being so beautifully bijou, it must be pretty tricky to decide which books to stock. How do you approach buying new stock?
I approach buying new stock in a few different ways. When I placed my first order, I started with the books that I love and that have, in some way or another, changed my life. Then I went to my favourite authors. And then classics that are always popular. I also knew that I wanted to stock books that were health and wellbeing related, so I have focused the rest of my buying on categories like home and garden, nature writing, spirituality and travel in Scotland, for example. The more events I do, the more I learn about what my customers like and for each new event I’ll introduce new stock for people to browse and buy. I also stock a small selection of gifts and homeware products which I’ve sourced from Scottish brands and makers.
Can you tell us about some of the events you’ve hosted to date, and the community initiatives you’re involved with?
We’ve started off slow - I’m taking my time to find my feet (wheels?!) with the bookshop so we haven’t actually hosted any events yet but we have lots planned for next year. I’m already starting to make connections with people in my local community and council area and I’m really excited about the ideas that we’re coming up with together, particularly around events for school children.
Can you tell us about how you integrate a sustainable, environmentally-friendly ethos into your business? It seems to be something you’re passionate about.
Before The Little Travelling Bookshop, I ran an ethical and sustainable fashion accessories start-up and I quickly learned that you can’t possibly try and tackle every environmental / ethical problem in one business. But you can make a small difference in your own way. So I consciously stock books which have an environmental / ethical focus and I source gifts and homeware products from brands and small businesses that have the same or similar ethos to me. I also try to make sure that all of our packaging is environmentally-friendly.
What are you most proud of so far?
When I came up with the idea for The Little Travelling Bookshop, I had no idea how it would be received. I just knew that I loved it and that it brought me joy. I guess I figured that if it did that for me then it might do the same for other people. I have been overwhelmed with the response to Ruby. She went a bit viral on Twitter not that long ago and some of the comments I received were just so heart-warming. I guess I am most proud of the fact that she makes people smile.
What’s your all-time favourite…
...novel to recommend to adults? Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
...non-fiction to recommend to adults? The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
...picture book recommendation? Siobhan @home__stead (on Instagram) recommended If You Go Down to the Woods Today: More than 100 things to find by Rachel Piercey to me and it really is a beautiful picture book and interactive for kids!
...children’s fiction recommendation? Flat Stanley by Jeff Brown, a classic adventure!
Which books have you been recommending recently?
For me, book recommendations are unique to the person you’re recommending them to. I think book selling requires a great deal of empathy. Firstly, I like to ask people what kinds of books they like to read. And then they often tell you what type of book they’re in the mood for. Sometimes, we don’t want deep, soul-searching books - we just want something light-hearted and fun. I’ll recommend books based on what people tell me and what I think they’d benefit from reading based on my own experiences of reading particular books.
Tell us a secret about books.
They can save you.
Which bookshop(s) do you love spending time in?
Any bookshop that welcomes you in like a warm hug.
What else would you like to share with the Love Reading community?
I really am at the start of my journey with The Little Travelling Bookshop so if any of the Love Reading community would like to follow along then they can sign up to receive our newsletter (go to www.thelittletravellingbookshop.com). They’ll be the first to know where we’re going to be and all of our other exciting plans! I have a feeling it’s going to be a wild ride!
Stay up to date with The Little Travelling Bookshop’s joyous journey:
And head here to read our other Bookshop of the Month profiles.