For this issue of The Publishing Post, we have spoken to Chrissy, the founder of a new book venue, ‘BookBar’ - “a fun, warm, welcoming space for people to discover and socialise around books.”
What inspired you to start BookBar?
The amazing thing about bookselling is being able to match a reader with their perfect book. I wanted to create a physical space that would appeal to people no matter how often or what they read, using my expertise to take away the intimidation from choosing what to read. I also wanted to create something that made reading as approachable and fun as binging the latest Netflix series and discussing it with your friends after, and so it felt important to create something that is as much about socialising as it is reading.
What are some highlights of your career in the book industry?
I started as a bookseller in an independent bookshop and caught the bookselling bug. Bookselling blends my two biggest passions: people and books, so anything that allows me to do that will always be a highlight. My first job in publishing was as the London Sales Manager at Head of Zeus, which meant working closely with some brilliant bookshops and booksellers. I also worked on some amazing campaigns and events for incredibly talented authors like Dan Jones, Michelle Paver, Ben Okri and Min Jin Lee. A huge career highlight has to be the time I spent in the Maldives as Soneva Fushi's Barefoot Bookseller, who said bookselling can't be glamorous?!
Could you tell us a bit more about your ‘Shelf Medicate’ consultation service?
With so many books being published every single month, the endless choice of what to read can be overwhelming. The Shelf Medicate service was designed to help remove that pressure so readers can just enjoy reading. People are looking to feel something when they read, so rather than it being based on genres, BookBar's Shelf Medicate Prescription bundles are based on a mood. Fancy a breezy read that's going to make you feel good? There's the Gin and Tonic for the Soul. Perhaps you'd like to be transported somewhere else entirely, the Armchair Traveller is designed for you. The consultations are an extension of this, we'll have a conversation for an hour or so, where I'll learn a bit about you and your reading habits, and we'll think about what you want to get out of the consultation. I'll then go away and put together a list of recommendations, with details on why I think each book would work for you. I do this for couples too, where we think a bit more about how reading is part of their relationship and where their reading habits overlap. I also run a monthly subscription, where you'll have a consultation with me and receive a book based on your tastes each month. The best thing about the subscriptions is how tailored they are. I encourage subscribers to stay in touch to let me know how they are getting on after each book, as it means I can make more personal selections each time. Think of it a bit like having a 'literary matchmaker' on speed dial throughout your subscription.
Do you have a go-to book recommendation (and a wine to pair it with)?
Every book recommendation is tailored to each individual so it's hard to think of one go-to recommendation, but if I had to recommend one book to anyone, it would probably be The Offing by Benjamin Myers, which is a beautiful, heart-warming story about poetry, nature and friendship set in the 1950s on the North Yorkshire coast. I'd probably recommend a crisp lager to go with that one or a very fresh Picpoul de Pinet.
What inspired you to create the social aspect of BookBar?
Reading is often thought of as a solitary activity, but the existence of book communities like Bookstagram and Booktok are uniting book lovers, regardless of whether they read one book a year or 100. The social aspect is what makes BookBar. Books are all about connecting with something - the characters, the author, ourselves, other readers - and I wanted to create a physical space that replicated that feeling of connection we get when we read. I also wanted to make books really accessible and fun, and bringing people together through books seems like a brilliant way to do that. We're a wine bar as well as a bookshop, and book clubs and events will be at the heart of what we do, so everything is about making reading social.
All answers are from Chrissy, the founder of BookBar.
We hope to see many of you flooding through the doors of BookBar once lockdown restrictions lift. In the meantime, you can click here to head over to their website to learn more and support them by ordering books, subscribing or booking a consultation!