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Ask a Bookseller: Katharine from Ullapool Bookshop

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

Katharine from Ullapool Bookshop in Scotland has joined us to answer your questions and share her favourite picks.

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Ullapool Bookshop

What makes Ullapool Bookshop a great place to visit?

"Ullapool Bookshop is one of the most northerly independent bookshops in mainland UK. We opened 20 years ago on 3rd June 2003 and recently celebrated with a 20th birthday party. We are open all year round, seven days a week, including in the evenings until 9pm, May to September. Ullapool Bookshop prides itself on clearly laid out shelves, providing something for everyone, from cards to books, from postcards to art materials, and from geology to books set in the Highlands and Islands, too. We also sell online at" Katharine

I enjoy reading relationship stories, not just romance but all kinds of relationships, because they never run smooth. Are you able to point some recent books in this genre? – Malcolm

I can think of one very special book which describes just that issue and torment, of possible new and confused relationships. The book is The Faultline by debut novelist John McLellan. In it the main character Peter spends the summer in Kinlochewe in north west Scotland, in the summer of 1977, as a young geology student. Peter has a girlfriend, but also finds himself attracted to both a young woman working at the campsite, and to another male geologist, for whom his feelings develop and increase. John McLellan deals with the torment, confusion and dilemmas of love in a very moving yet real way. Life is confusing for a young man in the 1970s and, all that this period brought in terms of judgements and worries. However, John tells the story, set amongst the wild landscape of the north west in a beautifully evocative way, leaving you wanting to know what happens next.

The Fautline by John McLellan

What do you think are the most important aspects of bookselling? What are the biggest challengers that booksellers face today, in your opinion? – Toby, age 17

What an interesting question. To me there are various important issues, from the books one chooses, to the relationships with your customers. Ullapool Bookshop is open all year round, but our busiest months are May to September, so we have many visitors to the north west area, which is a different relationship to local customers, who are here all year. Increasingly, we also find social media helps us communicate to customers, authors, agents and publishers, but also keeping the shop looking fresh and interesting for all. It's a full time job!

Ask a Bookseller

I'm currently trying to branch out and read books that are a little different to what I usually read. My three favourite books are East of Eden, Crime and Punishment, and Gone with the Wind. I'd like to read something set in a historical period or maybe a fantasy novel. Any recommendations? – Orla

Three books I would thoroughly recommend, all written by women, are:

The Fair Botanists by Sara Sheridan, set in 1856 Edinburgh and involves intrigue, the establishment of the new Botanical Gardens in Edinburgh and also the discovery of scent and perfumes.

The Bookseller of Inverness by S.G. MacLean, a historical thriller set in 1752, just after the Battle of Culloden, when the main character has been left for dead on the battlefield at Culloden. He eventually finds solace in running a bookshop in Inverness, but the past catches up with him, in this gripping historical thriller.

Hear No Evil by Sarah Smith, set in 18th century Edinburgh and based on a true tale of the first deaf woman who was tried for murder.

All three are gripping, meaningful novels, and are packed full of great characters, but also give us a sense of place in each historical period.

The Fair Botanists by Sara Sheridan

Can you recommend some gripping un-put-downable books for a 7-year-old who has just loved reading the first three Harry Potter books? She turned into a bookworm reading them and I'd love to find something else that will continue to encourage her enthusiasm for reading. – Elizabeth

How wonderful. Seven is such a wonderful age, especially for reading. How about the M.G. Leonard & Sam Sedgman's Adventures on Trains series, beginning with The Highland Falcon? Or I really still find a lot of fun in The Chronicles of Narnia novels by C.S. Lewis or the Percy Jackson books by Rick Riordan.

The Highland Falcoln by M.G. Leonard & Sam Sedgman

I need a new travel fix. Can you recommend a recent travelogue, either UK or international in scope?! Thanks. – Justin

New travel writing, one of my favourite non-fiction areas. I can't recommend highly enough The Lost Pianos of Siberia by FT journalist Sophy Roberts, or Frayed Atlantic Edge by David Gange, tracking this historian's journey right down the coast of the UK by kayak. An idea he came up with whilst in The Seaforth Hostelry in Ullapool! Finally, I'm reading Sea Bean by Sally Huband right now, which is part travel in Shetland and part memoir. Very poignant but fascinating about tides, beaches and what we find on the shores.

The Lost Pianos of Sibera by Sophy Roberts


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