Obviously, this is meant for YouTubers, but I want to do it. (What I actually wanted to do was go to my local independent bookshop, Five Leaves in Nottingham city centre, and write about it and do a bit of a haul, but I don’t plan ahead so I haven’t been and it’s only open when I’m at work on weekdays so I won’t have the chance.)
1. What book(s) are currently in your bag?
Currently in there is Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, which I started on the train to work a couple of days ago and haven’t really got going with yet. I think most of what I’ve read so far is kind of set up, so I don’t have an awful lot to say yet.
2. What’s the last great book you read?
When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi, which I will never stop talking about. It’s beautiful and lyrical and moving and important. I may buy a copy for everyone I know.
3. What book have you gifted the most?
I don’t think there’s one book that I’ve gifted a lot, because I tend to tailor my book giving to the people I’m giving to. I think the book I would give to the most different people in my life, although I don’t think I’ve ever actually given to anyone, other than maybe lending it to a couple of people, is Patti Smith’s Just Kids, which I deeply love and I think is incredibly beautiful. I think it has a pretty wide appeal, because it’s very literary in style, and is fascinating for anyone who’s into the work of any of the people who feature, or New York of that era.
4. What’s your favourite independent bookshop?
Sadly we only have the one independent bookshop in Nottingham, Five Leaves, but it’s fantastic. It’s down an alley off Market Square, a little bit hidden away, and it specialises in poetry and left wing politics and counterculture. There’s a pretty wide range to suit anyone though, somewhat chaotically arranged, as in any good indie bookshop. I particularly love the beat section and the theatre section, those being two of my great literary loves. It’s a bookshop that totally makes sense for Nottingham. Also, Shakespeare and Company in Paris, the actual greatest bookshop in the world, which I miss desperately. It’s a wonderland of books, beautifully curated and a haven for any reader or writer. A particular mention goes to the glorious cave of a poetry section, and to the second hand shelves outside. If you’re in Paris, go. It’s better than you think.
5. What’s been your favourite book recommended by a bookseller?
I don’t get a lot of bookseller recommendations because I generally avoid talking to people, but the one that comes to mind is the book currently sitting on my bedside table is Dart by Alice Oswald, which is a long form poem about the river Dart, featuring a lot of different voices of the people who live and work on the Dart, all presented kind of as the murmurings of the river. I’m really liking it so far, and it was recommended by a bookseller in the Nottingham Waterstones.
6. What’s your favourite bookshop memory?
There’s not one specific memory, but over the last couple of years book shopping has become a kind of social activity with a couple of friends. In particular, one friend and I like to go to the Oxfam Bookshop in Beeston, for its great foreign language section, and then get Bubble Tea down the road.
7. What do bookshops mean to you? What do you love about them?
Bookshops are the most comforting thing in the world to me. When I was homesick in Paris, I went to Shakespeare and Co. When final year threatened to overwhelm me, I went to Five Leaves, or even just the campus Blackwells. They’re my constant safe space, and I very rarely buy books online because there’s nothing like a bookshop.
8. What are the books that made you? Which books have most affected or influenced you?
Well that’s a fucking massive question. Harry Potter, first and foremost. My entire childhood, and still a huge part of my life. The Awakening, by Kate Chopin, my favourite book ever. How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran. Waiting for Godot, among other Samuel Beckett plays. A Clockwork Orange. I could go on forever and ever about books that have influenced me, but those are the first that come to mind.
9. What book do you recommend readers gift for Father’s Day?
So Father’s Day has been and gone, but I find the best gifts for my dad to be beautifully designed coffee table books on the music and culture that he loves. But as I said, I try to buy books for specific people, so I’d struggle to give a generic dad recommendation.
10. What book is currently at the top of your TBR pile?
Kate Tempest’s The Bricks That Built The Houses, which is trying to distract me from everything I’m reading at the moment. More on that here.