Bookshop of the month: Lutyens and Rubinstein

Notting Hill: home of the Notting Hill Carnival, Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts’ bookshop-haunting alter egos, Portobello Road Market, and Lutyens & Rubinstein bookshop – Yale’s bookshop of the month for August.

Boasting a rich literary heritage, bespoke personal shopping services, literary events  (including a recent launch for Yale author Adam Phillips) and a book club, Lutyens & Rubinstein adds a personal dimension to selecting your next book. In a market where the anonymity of online chains can seem daunting, here in the heart of the capital is a friendly reminder of the merits of going independent. The shop houses books that span a diverse range of genres, and caters for adult readers as well as children. The inclusive ethos of the shop means that the core stock reflects personal recommendations, the result of canvassing hundreds of readers. The bookshop is attached to the Lutyens & Rubinstein literary agency which represents acclaimed authors.

Interview with Tara Spinks of Lutyens & Rubinstein Bookshop

What inspired you to make a career in books?
I pretty much fell into it accidentally, when an old employer of mine asked me to set up and run a children’s bookshop for him. I did that for two years, and then moved to Waterstone’s Piccadilly and Sundays at Lutyens & Rubinstein, before finally taking on the assistant manager position at L&R in spring 2011.  But looking back, I think I’ve always secretly been a bookseller – I spent my work experience and internships at ad agencies and magazines re-arranging their bookshelves into alphabetical order, and recommending books to my colleagues.

What is special about Lutyens & Rubinstein?
Every book in the shop is there because somebody loved it – when the shop first opened, the owners (literary agents Sarah Lutyens & Felicity Rubinstein) canvassed everyone they know for a list of ten books they wanted to find in the shop, which is how most of the backlist titles were chosen.  For new books, our shop manager Claire Harris has an incredible knack for finding hidden gems that are perfect for our customers, and an almost uncanny ability to recommend the right book for the right person (which is the heart of our bespoke Year in Books Service, where she chooses a book a month for over 100 lucky recipients, each one different).  It’s a small shop, so every book has to deserve to be there!

Do you have any early memories of reading?
I was always a kid with her nose in a book, and titles like The Tiger Who Came to Tea, Each Peach Pear Plum and The Famous Five have some of my most vivid memories from childhood – in particular, the picnic in Wind in the Willows is so clear in my mind that I might as well have been there on the riverbank with Ratty and Mole eating ‘coldtonguecoldhamcoldbeefpickledgherkinssalad frenchrollscresssandwichespottedmeatgingerbeerlemonadesodawater’ and so on.  One of the best things about being the children’s buyer at L&R is that I can keep a lot of the books I loved from my own childhood in the section and pass them on to the next generation.

Aside from Lutyens & Rubinstein, what is your favourite bookshop – anywhere in the world?
I’ve always loved Foyles, and I think their new flagship shop is amazing. As a bookseller, it’s incredibly exciting and inspiring to see other brilliant booksellers doing well and innovating.

Dream customer: if you could choose anyone to walk through the door now, who would it be – celebrity/royalty/big spender?
We get some pretty amazing celebrity spots at L&R, and I’ve struggled occasionally to keep cool in the presence of some very familiar faces! I do always enjoy it when authors come in looking for recommendations, and I’d love to chat to someone like Sarah Waters about what she’s reading and what she’d like to read.

The Lutyens & Rubinstein Bookshop can be found at: 21 Kensington Park Road, London, W11 2EU.

Find them on twitter @LandRBookshop

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