Susie Stapleton initially joined the bookshop team as a volunteer, spending many hours painting the walls of our secondhand section - a real labour of love! Now an essential part of the bookshop, Susie has built our all-singing-all-dancing website and dragged us into the 21st century in many diverse ways. Her real passion is making things, and we love her automaton, Albert, who spends his days gently swinging back and forth with a book (when he's not in automata hospital, poor Albert!).
Susie now works two days (and more!) in the bookshop, and brings her many skills to bear on helping our customers find the most obscure books imaginable - and gently encouraging them into new and wonderful avenues of reading.
1) Why are high street and independent bookshops important to you?
“For me, it’s the human touch. In a good bookshop, as soon as you walk through the door you can tell that the stock has been chosen with care and guided by a genuine love of literature. That sense of place also somehow seeps into the pages of any book you buy and adds a whole new layer of meaning and memory to it for years to come. Online shopping is a very sterile process in comparison."
2) Name your three favourite independent bookshops (apart from us, of course!). What makes them special?
“The Suffolk Anthology in Cheltenham. It only opened in February this year and it’s tiny, but the owner Helene chooses the stock very carefully and has developed a really interesting events programme.
The outdoor Honesty Bookshop at Hay-on-Wye. I love rummaging through the slightly musty (and, yes, sometimes mouldy) jumble of books in search of something special. I have a secret passion for no-nonsense, early twentieth century self-help (“Pelmanism for Mental Hygiene” and that sort of thing) and I’ve found some wonderfully quirky books there.
Foyle’s flagship store in Charing Cross Road is a sight to behold. With five floors packed with books, it’s a completely different experience to buying a book somewhere like Wenlock Books, but the staff are very friendly and helpful - and there’s a great cafe where you can retreat to if it all gets a bit overwhelming!"
3) What is the best, funniest, quirkiest or most moving experience you have ever had in a bookshop?
“It’s not a specific experience as such, but author events are always special - and even more so when the author has a particular connection with the bookshop. This year, it’s been wonderful to watch James Hannah do so well with his debut novel ‘The A to Z of You and Me’. We had a very lively launch party for him in the bookshop and he’s been a real hit with our customers with his thoughtful and honest discussions. It’s not easy breaking into literary fiction, but he’s done it and hopefully we’ll be cheering him on for years to come."
QUICK FIRE ROUND!
4) What three words come to mind when you think of Wenlock Books?
“Warmth, community, Anna."
5) What has been your favourite book of 2015 so far?
“The Ecliptic by Benjamin Wood. I was blown away by his insight into the creative mind - and it’s a real page-turner, too. I'm currently catching up with his first novel, The Bellwether Revivals."
6) What books are you looking forward to reading before the end of the year?
“Most of my reading at the moment is heavy academic stuff, but I’ve also got a small pile of recommendations from customers to read for fun. Top of the list at the moment is The Fountain Overflows by Rebecca West. I’m also looking forward to winter evenings by the fire with the British Library Crime Classics series."
7) What are your top three desert island reads?
“The first two would be Under Milk Wood by Dylan Thomas and The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark - both quite slim volumes which can be read again and again just to revel in the language. I’d also take a selection of George Orwell's essays.