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Ask a Bookseller: Paul from Bow Books

Bookshops are the very best places to go for book recommendations – and booksellers are the friendliest, most knowledgeable of readers!

Paul from Bow Books in Royston, Hertfordshire has joined us to answer your questions and share his favourite picks this Independent Bookshop Week (Saturday 15th June – Saturday 22nd June).

Want a recommendation of your own? Submit a question for our guest booksellers and if it's answered, we'll send you a £15/€20 National Book Token to spend in your local bookshop.

Bow Books

What makes Bow Books, new and secondhand, a great place to visit?

"Bow Books is sited along a pedestrianised cut-through in the middle of a traditional market town and offers its community the best of both worlds. A quirky, intelligently-chosen range of recent books, combined with an even more eclectic new and secondhand mix of every non-fiction genre across two floors. A colourful children's den tempts youngsters into the habit of building their own collection, all at 3 for 2.

Encounter books not just in conventional formats. Browse Folio editions and other beautifully bound titles which demonstrate that a book is more than its content. Shape, size, colour, texture, even smell – all make the physical item so much more appealing than its online equivalent.

So, something for everyone, from that inexpensive pre-loved paperback to a book to treasure forever." Paul

What is the most unusual title you have stocked? – Alison

Over the years, I have been both staggered and privileged to handle some extraordinarily niche books that customers have asked me to order – many of which would have seemed bizarre to 99% of other people. However, of those currently in my stock and very unusual in appearance particularly, I often peruse one special book of 16 large-format landscape coaching era prints. Based on Old English Coaching Inns by J. C. Maggs, it was reproduced for John Dewar and Sons and is beautifully bound with gold lettering and marbled endpapers for the collection of the late Lord Dewar. For much of my life, I have lived in houses on roads which were busy coaching routes in that one golden era. Secretly, I hope no one ever buys it from me!

Ask a Bookseller

Which 2024 debut author excites you the most? – Helen

Without wishing to denigrate the many highly literary debut authors who are gaining attention and reviews, I would recommend a couple of books that perhaps appeal to the wider market that my bookshop serves. The List of Suspicious Things by Jennie Godfrey is an amalgam of crime novel, set in and prompted by the time when the Yorkshire Ripper was at large, along with the benefits of community and hope, seen through the fresh eyes of young protagonists. The Antique Hunter’s Guide to Murder by C. L. Miller (daughter of celebrity mother Judith) starts a projected series, based in a sleepy Suffolk village with its unexpected intrigues and suspicions.

 The List of Suspicious Things by Jennie Godfrey

Often, very young children seem to take pleasure in returning to the same book or small set of books repeatedly. What sorts of children's books have you encountered which act as a good bridge between picture books and engaging stories that don't rely so heavily on illustration? – Chris

Coming back into bookselling after a gap has entailed adjusting to various changes in the market. One of the most obvious being children’s fixation with comic-style books at the expense of text. A couple of authors I would recommend as a bridge are Linda Chapman with various series such as Magic Keepers and My Secret Unicorn, along with Tom Fletcher with his funny Christmasaurus series and others. And experienced author in this area Sufiya Ahmed has just started a promising Time Travellers adventure range. By the way, why ever are Michael Lawrence's hilarious Jiggy McCue books out of print? Seek out any lurking stock. And don’t forget Dorothy Edwards’ classic My Naughty Little Sister books.

Ask a Bookseller

My son (who previously NEVER read anything) has suddenly got into reading rather than watching sci-fi, mostly because of the Dune films. Can you recommend other similar series, 'Game of Thrones in space'-type epic, for him to try? – Cat

My favourite hard science fiction author is Alastair Reynolds whose books feel incredibly authentic. Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time sequence is classic, along with Robin Hobbs’ Farseer trilogy and others. Cassandra Clare's Chronicles of Castellane are out of this world, in every sense.

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Please can you suggest a book gift for someone who loves to read but seems to have read everything? – Erica

Nothing can appeal to everyone but…a suggestion. George Orwell feels quite 'in' at present, so Wifedom by Anna Funder is timely, shedding fascinating light on his marriage through the eyes of his forgotten but hugely influential other half. But for someone who just appreciates books per se, how about The Book Lover's Almanac by Alex Johnson, a beautifully illustrated tour through a year of literary events, scandals etc. Or The Secret Library by Oliver Tearle, blending curiosities of literature with the history of the Western world.

Ask a Bookseller

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