Booksellers are our friends. Friends who always have great book recommendations. They've got encyclopedic knowledge of frontlist and backlist and can tell you the best books for you and to give as gifts to your loved ones. Lisa Doucet, co-manager of Woozles bookstore, is one of those friendly booksellers.
Woozles is located in Halifax, NS and has been there since 1978. It's Canada's oldest children's bookstore—it turned 40 this year! The vision for Woozles was to be a place for and about children and they're still committed to that ethos. On their About Us page on the Woozles website, they write about "the delight and pride felt when customers come into the store with young children and tell us that they came to Woozles when they were babies themselves and that it has always been a special place for them."
Lisa answered our bookseller questionnaire for the fifth instalment of 5 questions with:
1. Which author would you most like to have for an event in your store (living or dead)?
My instinctive reaction to this question was Lucy Maud Montgomery! L.M.M. is my greatest passion in all of life, so everyone who knows me would assume that she would be my automatic choice. But, in actuality, I would like to have one-on-one time with L.M.M. not connected to an in-store event. But there are many contemporary authors who I would LOVE to host in the store: Laini Taylor, Megan Whalen Turner, Sarah Dessen, Markus Zusak, Libba Bray. Also, Lilliam Rivera who was a panelist at last year's Brooklyn Book Festival and who was so delightful and earnest and enthusiastic that I absolutely loved her! Oh, and Kate DiCamillo. But if I were thinking about which authors would be most enthusiastically received by our customers and would likely draw the biggest crowds (and who I love!), I think I would say Julia Donaldson and Mo Willems. How's that for overthinking the question?
2. What attracted you to bookselling?
I actually fell into it very serendipitously! Prior to working at Woozles, I managed a gift/toy shop at our local science centre. In my early days there, I had met with then-manager of Woozles, Trudy Carey, to get some tips and advice. When I left the science centre, I ended up volunteering at a number of local organizations, including a dance studio where Trudy attended daily fitness classes. One day, after her class, Trudy approached me out of the blue and said "I just had one of my staff give notice this morning. How would you like to come work full-time at Woozles?" And so began my career in bookselling! I will add, however, that it didn't take very long for me to be 100% sure that I had found my true calling in life. In my first year at Woozles, I was asked to judge two different children's book awards, I started writing book reviews for the Canadian Children's Book News, I took over running the Woozles book clubs for children, and I started serving on several different boards and committees relating to children's books. I loved every bit of it, and knew with every fibre of my being that I was meant to be doing this. I still feel that way today.
3. What's your favourite bookselling war story?
Hmm...well, I know that there have been "war stories" but to be perfectly honest, when I think about my years of bookselling, it's not the war stories that stand out in my mind, it's all the touching and joy-filled and inspirational moments, big and small, that are flashing through my mind. So — very sheepishly — I have to just say "I can't really think of any." Sorry!
4. What is the most pressing issue facing bookselling today?
I think that ultimately it's the changing landscape of retail, i.e., the allure of online shopping. It's definitely a pressing issue but it's also a challenge, and I believe indie bookstores, collectively and individually, are rising to this challenge in wonderful ways. I think a big part of this challenge is finding ways to communicate what we offer to those who prefer the "convenience" of online shopping. We need to ensure that people know that shopping in our stores is an experience, and that we are more than just "a place to buy books." We offer expertise and carefully curated collections for sure, but we also offer community, creativity, and opportunities to connect and feel connected. And I think that there are many outstanding examples of how bookstores are not so much reinventing themselves as they are reintroducing themselves to the segments of society who haven't discovered the wonderful world of indie bookstores yet.
5. What forthcoming book are you most excited about?
Oh gosh: there is simply no way I can just choose one, you know that, right?! So for this season, the books that I have been most eagerly anticipating are and have been: The Dress and the Girl by Camille Andros & illustrated by Julie Morstad; Inkling by Kenneth Oppel & illustrated by Sydney Smith; Muse of Nightmares by Laini Taylor; Pages & Co: Tilly and the Book Wanderers by Anna James; Bridge of Clay by Markus Zusak (as well as the two books about Oliver Jeffers and his art that are coming out this fall: The Boy: His Stories and How They Came To Be, and Oliver Jeffers: The Working Mind and Drawing Hand).
BONUS: An aunt comes in looking for a gift for her niece, who likes embroidery and Proust, just got a new job on a cruise line, and whose beloved schnauzer just passed away. What do you recommend?
Well, ok. I'm going to recommend two books: Going Bovine by Libba Bray and I Have a Bed Made of Buttermilk Pancakes by Jaclyn Moriarty. Both are quirky and unusual, whimsical and oddly profound. They are weird and wonderful enough to take her mind off the loss of her beloved canine companion. Going Bovine involves a madcap road trip that eventually leads the protagonist to Florida on spring break with a bunch of frat boys on a game show (so this would surely appeal to someone who just started a job on a cruise line, no?). It's also incredibly funny and irreverent but weirdly philosophical. Moriarty's book was aptly described as "a fairytale for grown-ups" and somehow makes me think of the niece's interest in embroidery (I can't explain why!). So yes. Going Bovine and I Have a Bed Made of Buttermilk Pancakes.
Great book recommendations! Thanks so much for answering all of our questions.
Find all of our bookseller responses to this questionnaire here.