In what I hope will be a new, though granted likely to be rather sporadic, Friday feature, I want to highlight some of the many independent book shops that are out there waiting to be discovered. Whilst there are the usual online book retailers and big name high street shops there are also some wonderful independent bookshops with a treasure trove of literary delights to uncover. There is nothing quite like browsing in a book shop, seeing the books, being able to actually look at them before deciding and of course the booksellers and owners are often a mine of information, a much underused resource.
The sad thing is that unless they are used they will vanish from our towns and villages. The childhood (and to be fair, grown up) delight of visiting a book shop and being able to sit amongst so many books, deciding which new unearthed treasure to take home will be sadly lost.
So in this new feature I’ll be bringing you Q&As with a variety of book shops, in, hopefully, a variety of destinations.
The second book shop we are virtually visiting is Raven Books.
1. Tell us about Raven Books
We are a small independent bookshop in the heart of Blackrock Village, south along the coast from Dublin City. We offer a general mix of new and second hand books, with a particular love for beautiful childrens picture books. 2018 is our tenth year in business and it has been a special joy to watch kids, hardly born when we first opened our doors, grow up into independent readers.
2. We open the front door to your shop. What can we see as we cross the threshold?
First you’ll hear the chimes on the door, followed by the welcoming greeting from the owner. At the very front of the shop we have recently published fiction and a colourful display of lovely Leuchtturm journals. Hanging over them is a Black Books-inspired blackboard with a literary or seasonal quotation. Further in is recently published non-fiction and the books we have chosen to highlight – titles for our Junior Bookclubs, particular authors we are fond of, fiction by country or theme, reading projects we are engaging with such as Women In Translation Month (#WITmonth). If you make it all the way to the back, you’ll find a comfy old chair in our crime corner, perfect for mulling over which books to purchase, or for spontaneous story time with our youngest customers.
3. What’s the most unusual request you’ve had in store? – if you can tell us.
So many to choose from but one that stands out was a customer shoving a stray puppy into my arms and asking me to take her. Puppy stayed with us for a fortnight, completely charming all our customers, until she found a permanent home nearby.
4. Do you have anything that’s unique to your shop? What makes you stand out?
Our secondhand books make our stock absolutely unique and work as a lovely balance to having the lastest new releases. Though it is a general bookshop, the stock is somewhat curated to reflect the interests of the owner with a dispropotionate number of books on running and vegan cookbooks! It is a huge joy for us to carry a selection of Jon Klassen prints – we’re one of the few, if not the only European stockist. We have a couple of Junior Bookclubs and take great care with recommending books for childrens and teens. Our little reading nook is an enchanting space for kids to settle and get lost in a story. Giving back to the community is important to us and we have sponsored a book club in Blackrock library, contributed towards the amazing international work of a nearby Human Rights organisation, and support the local business network in nuturing a thriving village.
5. Do you have any tips on which books will be big this year?
Two books from Irish authors due for release this Spring: Liz Nugent’s Skin Deep, and Donal Ryan’s From A Low & Quiet Sea.
6. If you could only recommend one book for the rest of your life which book would it be?
The trick to a good recommendation is putting ego aside. Forget what books you like and listen to what it is the reader likes. The About Us page on our website says, “We celebrate individuality, understanding that books help shape and define us all, making us original and unique. What we read is an integral part of who we are and who we aspire to be” and with that as our foundation we are careful to curate our stock and choose our recommendations based on the unique reading tastes of our customers. I know many of my favourite books would not be appropriate for the majority of readers and that’s OK, it’s not elitism or snobbism to be discerning, and it does not detract from their reading taste (or mine) if different stories engage us. Having said that, if I had a gun to my head, I’d go with Willy Vlautin’s Lean on Pete.
7. Let us know how we can find you.
We’re on Blackrock Main Street, a five minute stroll from the DART station. We can also be found on twitter (@ravenbooks), and take orders and queries via email: firstname.lastname@example.org
(I don’t receive any payment or have any vested interest in any sales that may result from this post. The sole intent of the feature is to highlight the many fabulous bookshops out there. Happy shopping!)