Independent Bookseller of the Month - March 2011
Mr B's Emporium of Reading Delights
14/15 John Street
(behind Jolly's, opposite the "Salamander" pub)
Bath, BA1 2JL
Escaping the hustle and bustle of London to set up a new life elsewhere is, for many, little more than a pipedream. Not for successful city lawyers Nic and Juliette however who, in 2005, left the capital and settled on Bath for the location of their dream enterprise – an independent bookshop.
Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights opened its doors the following year in 2006 and has since become an unrivalled success attracting booklovers from all over the South West and beyond as well as winning a multitude of industry awards.
And it isn’t hard to see why. Mr B’s has a passion for books which is evident in everything they do. The shop itself is a monument to contemporary fiction with a sumptuous bibliotherapy room for those who prefer to do their reading in the lap of luxury. An eye-popping array of extra-curricular literary activities makes sure that regular frequenters of the shop are never short of literary inspiration. Not sure what to read next? Then why not sign up to a (quite brilliant) Reading Spa Treatment? Stuck for what to do one evening? Then why not visit an off-the-wall themed literary evening?
As with all of our Bookseller of the Month winners we spoke to Mr B’s about what makes them tick...
1) What genres does Mr B’s specialise in? Are there any genres you don’t stock?
Literary and translated fiction are really strong areas for us. Amongst our favourite authors are Jose Saramago, Andrey Kurkov, Olga Grushin and Siri Hustvedt, to name just a few. We also have a particularly packed travel and travel writing section. We specialise in reading for pleasure so we don’t stock many technical books and textbooks, although we can order them for our customers and school clients when needed. The Mr B’s team has really diverse reading tastes, which makes for a great variety of customer recommendations. Whilst we all tend to veer towards fiction for the most part, we have a photography/art expert, cycling enthusiast, history buff, travel enthusiast and a psychology graduate amongst the ranks. In order to broaden our horizons even further this year most of the team have taken on reading challenges to encourage us to read outside our comfort zones.
2) Do you organise events and readings with (local) authors? What events have you coming up in the next month?
We’ve recently completely changed the way that we run our author events and have introduced themed literary evenings that differ from the standard author talk. We call these new style of events “Book Lovers Unite!” evenings and they are made up of a talk from a special guest (usually an author), music from our band of local musicians “The Bookshop Band”, drinks, canapés and a tasty buffet from some of our favourite local foodies and a whistle stop tour of literature linked to the guest’s book by a common theme. Our spring season of “Book Lovers Unite!” events is titled “Books Behaving Badly” and celebrates misbehaviour in literature and kicks off with Adultery Night on April 7 with special guest Paula McLain, whose evocative fictional biography of Ernest Hemingway ‘The Paris Wife’ has really impressed us. Full details of the rest of the season are detailed on our website.
Generally we don’t discount our books. We do run a loyalty card scheme though, where we reward our customers with stamps for their purchases, which ultimately amount to £5 off in our shop. We also offer discounts for students.
4) Which book are you currently recommending and why?
‘The Concert Ticket’ by Olga Grushin – it’s a fantastic novel written in English by a Russian author, which centres around a queue that forms at a mysterious booth. At first the members of the queue have no idea what exactly they are waiting for, but when it is announced that tickets for a one-off concert by an exiled composer will soon go on sale, each member of Anna’s small family has their own motives for wanting the sole ticket, the question is, who will be in the queue when the booth finally opens? Really cleverly plotted with gorgeous evocative description throughout, we’re completely smitten with this novel.
5) What does the future hold for Mr B’s Emporium?
We’re currently in the process of creating a brand new shiny website, with an online shop to promote all of our favourite books to customers from further afield, so watch this space… And of course we’ll continue the search for great titles to recommend to the book-lovers of Bath and beyond.
6) And finally, why should people visit Mr B’s Emporium?
If you love books but want some advice on what to read, we’re always on hand with recommendations. Or if you just want to browse, Mr B’s is bright and well-laid out, with free tea and coffee and comfy armchairs on hand to make the book-buying experience even more relaxing. Or for the ultimate book lover we offer our Reading Spa Treatments – one-on-one sessions with one of trained bibliotherapists talking about books, eating cake and with a book token thrown in to buy all of the great reads that we’ll introduce you to.