5 questions with Type Books' Rebecca Andoff

Welcome to the third installment of 5 questions with, our Q&A series where we highlight Canadian booksellers and their bookselling methods.

Each and every day, booksellers are tasked with matching books to readers, either directly or indirectly. And unlike owners and their pets, readers don't always look like their ideal book cover. So we wanted to know more about the people who make this happen, from their humble beginnings all the way to the biggest issues booksellers must face today.

Bookselling is a unique profession that cultivates an understanding of human behaviour, as well as a knack for being able to find something to talk about with almost anyone who sets foot in a bookshop. In a way, bookselling has become its own field of cultural anthropology. 

Rebecca Andoff of Toronto's Type Books is just one of those booksellers/anthropologists. A booksthropologist, if you will.

  Rebecca Andoff of Type Books

Rebecca Andoff of Type Books

Type Books

Type Books opened its first location in Toronto in 2006 on Queen Street West, near Trinity Bellwoods Park. Since then, Type Books has established itself as an internationally recognized independent bookshop, stocking an eclectic mix of contemporary fiction, small press, art, design, and children's titles. Founded by Samara Walbohm and Joanne Saul – neither of which had any prior bookstore or publishing experience – Type Books is known for their community-oriented outlook, hosting a variety of events including everything from book launches to preschool storytime programs. 

They opened amidst all of the brouhaha over reports predicting the decline of independents and the rise of big box stores. It was an idea they considered for more than 10 years before actually taking the plunge and leasing a space. They opened a second location in Forest Hill in 2008, which was moved to an even larger space in 2010 to accommodate an entire room devoted to kids' books.

A third location is now set to open this summer in Toronto's Junction neighbourhood! Rebecca Andoff has been hard at work preparing for the grand opening and we had a few questions for her.

1) Which author would you most like to have for an event in your store (living or dead)?

Dorothy Parker, easily. She would do a reading with a lit cigarette in hand, and then we would lurk in a corner with martinis and gossip.

2) What attracted you to bookselling?

There was no thought to it – bookselling just always made sense. A kid who spends entire summers at the library grows pretty directly into an adult who wants to be immersed in book talk for a living.

3) What's your favourite bookselling war story?

After organizing the final midnight Harry Potter launch at a large bookstore when I was 19, nothing can ever seem that scary. I could mention any number of paper cut scars, or lost special orders, or December 23rds over the years, but what are those compared to wrangling the phenomenon that was Harry Potter? I mean, there were literal chains on the skids of books!

4) What is the most pressing issue facing bookselling today?

Finding the ethical balance of supplying customers with what they're looking for without actively supporting writers whom you find abhorrent can be a delicate dance. Bookstores are a workplace that can never really be apolitical, which is a part of their importance.

5) What forthcoming book are you most excited about?

Split Tooth by Tanya Tagaq, easily. And "excited" might be the wrong tone, but Tanya Talaga's Massey Lectures is going to be a must-read.

Pop quiz! 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?

This niece sounds like she has been waiting for Muriel Barbery her whole life. Maybe Gourmet Rhapsody, for both the Proustian obsession with food and memory and the reflections on mortality and a life lived wholly. And if her cruise line goes through parts of the West Indies, she could even read it in the original French to practice!

Bon choix.

Previously in this series, we introduced you to Lunenburg Bound's Michael Higgins and Another Story Bookshop's Sarah Ramsey.