Bookshops occupy a special place in the consciousness of readers everywhere because they offer something worth celebrating; a chance to discover things that you never expected and an opportunity to interact directly with books and book people. From tentative forays into new territory to repeat visits to an old favourite, a bookshop can have a transformative effect on its visitors. In this regular series, Yale University Press looks across the United Kingdom and Ireland (and maybe even further afield!), to select some of the most loved and respected bookshops and interview the people that work in them. We begin with the London Review Bookshop.
Yale’s March Bookshop of the Month is the London Review Bookshop. Based in Bloomsbury, the traditional heartland of London publishing so often associated with Virginia Woolf et al, the LRB caters for an enormous range of subjects and tastes. Established in 2003 by the London Review of Books, it’s a place for people who love to explore, talk about and browse books.
We’ve begun this series of articles very close to home, the London Review Bookshop lies just around the corner from the Yale UP London offices and is a regular haunt for staff and authors alike. Not least, we suspect, because of the excellent cafe attached to the shop. Known not only for excellent books, coffee and cakes, the London Review Bookshop also hosts regular author events which are open to the public.
As part of our Bookshop of the Month coverage, Yale sat down with David Lea, Deputy Manager of the London Review Bookshop, to hear more from the people that make the shop such a success.
YALE UNIVERSITY PRESS
Could you describe your earliest memory of reading?
I learned to read far too young by making my brother read The Beano to me while I followed the words with my finger.
Which author would you most like to appear at a LRB event? (not just Yale of course…)
Living: Thomas Pynchon in conversation with Kazuo Ishiguro
Dead: Elizabeth Bishop in conversation with Turgenev
Independent bookshops pride themselves on their ability to connect with their customers, the readers. What advice would you give to authors who want readers to find them?
Write the best book you can; be patient.
In an ideal world, what improvements would you like to see made to the bookselling industry?
Next day delivery from all suppliers; returns magically to evaporate from the shelves to be replaced by credit notes; all invoicing to be made electronic; a ban on discounting for 12 months after publication.
The LRB is famous for its café, what’s your favourite drink / cake / book combination?
Some days, tisane de tilleul, a Madeleine and Proust’s A la recherche du temps perdu, on others a cup of strong black tea, a treacle tart and an Eric Ambler.
Aside from your own, could you name your favourite bookshop anywhere in the world?
Can I name two? Strand Bookstore, 12th Street and Broadway in New York, because they always seem to have everything I want, even if it takes an age to find it; and Dom Knigi, Nevsky Prospekt – I can’t actually read Russian, but being there makes me feel intelligyent.