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 third book shop we are virtually visiting is Kenny’s Bookshop.
1. Tell us about Kenny’s Bookshop.
Kenny’s Bookshop is an independent bookshop located in Galway city, Ireland. It was set up in 1940 by Des and Maureen Kenny. Five of their six children and three of their grandchildren now work there, along with a great team of local staff.
Kennys stocks thousands of books in the bookshop – new, secondhand and rare – and we also sell online, and have been since 1994. While the bookshop predominantly sells material of Irish interest, we stock all the latest new books and bestsellers, plus books in every genre – from cookbooks to children’s books, from fiction to graphic novels, from biographies to history. We believe in promoting the joy of books and reading, and that there is a book for everyone. Our website, http://www.kennys.ie, was set up in 1994 and is the oldest bookshop in the world online. We compete with Amazon, Book Depository and the other online giants, and what makes us different is that we are booksellers selling from a bookshop, plus we offer brilliant value and choice, customer service, and free worldwide delivery! So if you can’t make it to your local bookstore, look at Kennys.ie as an online option.
2. We open the front door to your shop. What can we see as we cross the threshold?
On opening the door, there are bookshelves from one end of the wall to the other on both sides! You can see far back to the back of the shop and the several bays of bookshelves. There is also an art gallery in Kennys, so there are paintings and sculpture hanging all over the place – around the books and above the shelves! You always see Desi sitting at his desk when you come through the front door, or the top of his head at least as he is usually buried in piles of books! You’ll also see our front counter which is built of books, our armchair (which we still refer to as Mrs. Kenny’s chair as she always sat in it) and a few book stools and piles of books dotted around the place.
3. What’s the most unusual request you’ve had in store – if you can tell us.
Tomás: There was a book called ‘Banana’ that a woman was looking for. She couldn’t remember what was on the cover and when I said it was an apple (which it was) she thought I was making fun of her and ran out of the shop shouting at me.
Desi: I was asked once, “Have you got a book that describes how domestic plumbing worked on in Dublin on the 16th of June 1904?”
4. Do you have anything that’s unique to your shop? What makes you stand out?
We have an art gallery in our shop which sells both paintings and sculpture by Irish artists, so you can come to see books and art together! We have been fostering and promoting Irish art for over 50 years and we host several exhibitions every year of individual artists, many who have been with us for years and others who are emerging.
Authors visit us in the bookshop regularly for book signings and readings – we’ve had hundreds visit us over the years and it is always a great event to welcome a writer to talk about their books and engage with the customers. We are constantly supporting and promoting Irish writers, including self-published and emerging writers (and while most of our stock in the shop is Irish material, we have a huge range of international material). We have a You Tube channel with lots of videos of writers who have visited us over the years that people can see.
We also have a Book Club which Des Kenny has run for many years. Customers sign up and tell us their interests and how often they would like a package sent – then Desi selects the books for them and they get a parcel in the post every few months! Members always give us great feedback on this – Desi has a great knack at picking out books for people and getting it right!
5. Do you have any tips on which books will be big this year?
Louise O’Neill is a young Irish writer who has just released her third book ‘Almost Love’ which is fantastic and will be a big hit – she is very deserving of all the praise she is getting. Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls was a huge hit last year and the second book has just been released and should be very popular. Also, the new Donal Ryan and Pat McCabe’s this year will be very popular with our customers.
6. If you could only recommend one book for the rest of your life which book would it be?
Tomás Kenny says “The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler. The plot is almost unimportant next to the writing, which is terrific. It’s so funny, smart and you get something new out of it with every reading.”
Desi Kenny says: that’s an impossible question.
7. Let us know how we can find you.
You can find and follow us on social media:
You can always contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone on +353 (0)91 709350 during work hours with any queries.
Or visit the bookshop in Liosbán Estate, Tuam Road, Galway, Ireland.
(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!)