Summer is officially here in the UK. The weather is great, the barbecues have begun and everyone seems to have football or tennis fever. Well, we at And Other Stories are here to ease your conscience and confirm that yes, reading can count as an valid outdoor activity. This month we caught up with Olivia at Harbour Books, an independent bookshop in Whitstable, the perfect summertime location, and talked about how difficult it must be to work by the sea at this time of year.
And Other Stories: What do you think is special about Harbour Books?
Harbour Books: Harbour Books is located in the seaside town of Whitstable, Kent. We’re a two-floor shop with an ever-expanding selection of books ranging from the latest titles to a treasure trove of publications from our much-loved local authors. We sell a mixture of full-price and discounted books, and we’re special because you can find Zadie Smith’s Feel Free in our non-fiction section, but also pick up a copy of 1984 for just £3.99. We’re a small team of four, and we love nothing more than recommending our favourite reads to both local customers and holiday makers at the weekends.
AOS: If money was no object, what changes would you make to your bookshop?
HB: We bounced this question back and forth, but aside from a lift, we probably wouldn’t change much. We like the creaky floorboards and the old shop-front! But, yes, for logistical purposes, a lift would be much appreciated.
AOS: How / why did you get into bookselling?
HB: Keith, Harbour Books’ owner, had previously followed his own father’s footsteps in publishing, after starting his career in bookselling in his twenties. He then went full circle, and found himself back in bookselling with Harbour Books, which has been open for 25 years. Being voracious readers, working in a bookshop has always been a shared dream-job of all of ours, and being able to do it in a colourful independent bookshop by the sea makes it even better.
AOS: What’s the funniest thing you ever heard anyone say in the shop?
HB: We’ve all got many stories, but we’re a big fan of the little boy who came in with his mother to buy a book, who said very pointedly “mummy, one day I’m going to write a book, and it’ll be right here on this shelf.” We hear you, when it’s done we’ll be waiting for it!
AOS: What’s your favourite And Other Stories book?
HB: Not that we’re biased, but we had Deborah Levy in this month for a book-signing, and not only is she the coolest woman ever, but we were huge fans of her hat. So, we’ll say Swimming Home. Not only is it a great book, but it’s written by a truly remarkable author.
AOS: What book published in the last year do our readers need to get their hands on?
HB: We’re big fans of Fiona Mozley’s Elmet, and Sally Rooney’s Conversations with Friends. But, we also love the Rebel Girls books and Stories For Boys Who Dare to be Different.
AOS: What would be your desert island book?
HB: Ellie’s choice would be The Count of Monte Cristo, and Graeme would choose The Complete Tales of the City Chronicles by Armistead Maupin. Olivia’s pick would be Hanya Yanigahira’s A Little Life, but let’s face it, we’d probably need Bear Gryll’s latest book to survive.