Gloucester Road Books in Bristol opened its doors in April 2021. We caught up with bookseller and owner, Tom Robinson as we put plans into place for our partnership for Independent Bookshop Week, this month (keep an eye out on their socials for exciting offers)!
How did you get into bookselling?
This is a very unromantic answer. I was coming to the end of an MA in fine art and was running out of money so I took a part-time bookselling job. Part time became full time, and before I knew it I’d been working in bookselling for a decade (it’s now coming up to 14 years)!
What do you think is special about Gloucester Road Bookshop?
It’s only a small shop, but it’s packed full of interesting, strange and brilliant books. I’m very fortunate to be in an area that is very bookish and very willing to read new things, which means I can keep plenty of less obvious and challenging titles on the shelves, including the wonderful selection of books by small presses, which is really my favourite part of the shop.
If money was no object, what changes would you make to your bookshop?
I’d install a letterpress printing setup in the basement and set up a small hand-printed publishing arm to the shop!
What book published in the last year do our readers need to get their hands on?
Either A Ghost in the Throat by Doireann Ní Ghríofa or When We Cease To Understand the World by Benjamin Labatut (tr. Adrian Nathan West). Both are sensationally good.
What’s the funniest thing you ever heard anyone say in the shop?
It’s early days yet, but there’s already been a good amount of hilarity. I think my favourite moment so far was when a customer told me about their habit of using chewing gum wrappers as bookmarks, which apparently leads to minty smelling books!
What would be your desert island book?
Gah, what a diabolical question! I think it would have to be a collection of short stories, possibly A Universal History of Iniquity by Borges, which is the collection of wonderful folk tales of pirates, gauchos and ne’er-do-wells that he originally wrote for a Buenos Aires newspaper. It could also be a collection of Shirley Jackson’s stories. Being on a desert island could be the perfect scenario to remind myself just how unsettling other people can be, and no one does this better than Shirley Jackson.
What exciting things have you got coming up that our readers should look out for?
It’s tricky at the moment because what I would love to be able to say is look out for the exciting events coming up, but of course that’s still a little complicated right now. I’ve got some lovely tote bags being printed, which is quite exciting, and there are some really brilliant books being published in the next few months. There’s a lovely book called Sevastopol by Emilio Fraia (tr. Zoë Perry), published by Lolli Editions, which is coming out at the start of June. It’s a collection of three loosely themed stories, inspired by Tolstoy’s Sevastopol Sketches. They deal with intense emotional states, with obsession and failure, but do so in a very understated way. It’s definitely worth reading. And of course, most importantly, partnering with And Other Stories for Independent Bookshop Week is a huge honour, and is going to be amazing!