Confessions of a Former Bookseller

In my early twenties I worked full-time in a bookstore whilst studying part-time. Even though I worked EVERY weekend (oh the joys of retail), it was a great year and a bit in my life. For a book addict like me, working in a bookstore was my dream come true. But like every retail job it had its array of lovely, weird and downright funny moments. I had the best customers and the worst customers but the books made it all worthwhile.

Take a walk with me down memory lane as I recount the good, bad and annoying parts of being a bookseller:

The Detective Work: A customer walks in asking about a book but they can’t remember the title or the author. All they can remember is that the cover was red and it started with the word ‘the.’ A game of ‘guess that book’ ensues. There was no better feeling than asking probing questions and finally guessing the title. I lived for those small triumphs!

The Needle in a Haystack: The computer shows there is one copy instore of the book a customer wants. I look in the appropriate section but the book is nowhere to be found. Someone has misplaced it! Try finding a missing book in a store filled with thousands of books while a customer waits impatiently. The best scenario was finding it against all odds. The worst was finding it five minutes after the customer left the store.

Spending Half my Salary on Books: The owners of the bookstore used to pay me weekly in cash. Yes, a small envelope stuffed with cash! Now that I think about it, this was a genius move because all the sudden I would have a handful of money and a whole bookstore at my disposal. I would end up handing a chunk of my salary back to the owners on payday.

Being at Peak Fitness: I spent 95% of the working day on my feet. There was one chair behind the counter that during the week the owners took turns sitting on, so I was always standing. I also spent the day lifting boxes of books, unpacking stock and carrying huge piles of books up and down the back stairs of the shop from our storeroom below. I would have to carry sales items on tables outside the store and get them in at the end of the day. I was the size of a twig during these days but paid for this strenuous work later in life with a very dodgy back.

New Release Week: For a few days each month all the new release books from publishers would arrive in a huge delivery of boxes, full of brand new books. In the later months of the year as Christmas approached, these new release days would bring a steady flow of deliveries. These days were the busiest of the month as we unpacked, processed and labelled all the new books and then tried to find space for them on the shelves. I loved seeing all the new books and got excited when I saw new releases from favourite authors or discovered something new and interesting. I always felt sad a few months later when some of the books that arrived with such promise to the shop, ended up being returned to the publisher due to poor sales and to make room for other new books.

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15 Ways to Freshen Up Your Book Club

Do you feel like your book club has gone a bit stale? Are your members starting to drop like flies? Are you wondering why your once fun book club has turned into a chore? Here are 15 ways to freshen up your book club.

1. Match food and drink to the book you are discussing

Nothing goes better with a book discussion than nibbles and something great to drink and what better way to brighten your book club then by adding a food theme. For example, if your book club was reading a novel set in a quaint English village, you could discuss the book over cups of tea and scones with jam and cream at a café or someone’s home.

2. Read the book and then see the movie

Read a book that is just being released as a movie and then see the movie together, followed by book club. Nothing sparks a debate like a discussion about a book verses the movie adaption. It can create so many things to talk about such as the book version of a character verses the movie version–did they get the casting right? What bits of the book were done really well onscreen and what changes were made that were questionable? With so many movies these days being based on books, you can never run out of material. If you want to save some money you can always review an older book and watch the DVD instead of forking out for a cinema ticket.

3. If you were casting the movie …

Add some fun to your book club meeting by discussing who you would cast in a movie adaption of a book and why. You could even come to the meeting dressed as your favourite character!

4. Do some further reading

Whoever suggested the book might like to do some research about the author and bring this information to the next meeting. Discuss how what you know about the author’s life may have influenced their writing. Find some author interviews online or look and see if the publisher has some ‘Further reading’ material available on their website. Sometimes they may also have Q and A’s. Discuss how this extra information adds or detracts from your understanding of the book.

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How to Start a Book Club in 8 Easy Steps

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a book lover in possession of a juicy book may very well be in want of a book club.

Have you ever finished a book full of twists and turns, characters you loved or loathed, or a story full of meaty conversation hooks and wished you could share your revelations with others? Then you may be in need of a book club. Perhaps you can find your way to an already existing book club, otherwise you might have to start your own from scratch.

Here are the 8 questions to ask when starting your book club:

1. Who will you invite to join your book club?

Will it be made up of friends, family, work colleagues or complete strangers from your local community? It may depend on the purpose of your book club. Do you want it to be not only about books but a chance to catch-up with friends at the same time? Or do you want to use it as a chance to meet new people?

Once you’ve decided, aim to invite a minimum of six to eight people as not everyone will be able to make it to every book club meeting. Also consider the maximum number. If your group is too large, not everyone will have a chance to have their say.

You might also like to give your book club a name.

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13 Writing Tips from Stephen King

The stories of prolific author Stephen King are popping up everywhere at the moment as many of his books are being adapted into movies and TV series. This year alone there’s been the new IT movie, The Dark Tower movie, Gerard’s Game and 1922 on Netflix, the Mr Mercedes TV series and Castle Rock is coming soon.

On Writing by Stephen King cover
On Writing by Stephen King ISBN: 9781439156810, pp 291

My husband loves reading Stephen King and is currently working his way through The Dark Tower series and we’re enjoying all the TV and movie adaptions as they come out. While I’ve read quite a few Stephen King books over the years, my husband is definitely the biggest fan in our household. My favourite Stephen King book is not one of his fiction books, it’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. I read it many years ago and, searching for inspiration, have just read it again. Its advice remains useful, relevant and practical. Plus, it’s inspiring to read about Stephen King’s personal writing journey. His books may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but he certainly knows how to craft a story for his audience and knows who he is as a writer.

Here’s my favourite tips from On Writing by Stephen King

1. On coming up with story ideas…
“There is no Idea Dump, no Island of the Buried Bestsellers; good story ideas seem to come quite literally from nowhere, sailing at you right out of the empty sky…Your job isn’t to find these ideas but to recognize them when they show up.”
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The Dry by Jane Harper review

cover image of The Dry by Jane Harper
The Dry by Jane Harper, ISBN 9781925481372, 339pp

If you’re reading a crime novel set in a small Australian country town you can be sure of a few things: the story will take place against a harsh, unforgiving natural landscape; there will be a bevy of local characters with secrets to hide–from hard-drinking farmers to small town gossips; everyone will know everyone in town and there will be a couple of long standing feuds; and there will be something bad that happened in the past which is somehow connected to this latest crime. That’s not to say that these books aren’t a pleasure to read, I just often see this pattern.

Perhaps that’s why it took me so long to pick up The Dry by Jane Harper. It was the book on everyone’s lips in 2016, winning rave reviews from critics and racing up the bestsellers chart. Booksellers and book lovers embraced this debut and you would have had to be living under a rock to not have heard about it. It has also been optioned for the screen by Reese Witherspoon. Even now, The Dry is still picking up accolades, the recent being Jane Harper winning the British Crime Writers’ Association Gold Dagger award for the best crime novel of the year. Continue reading