Computer-generated algorithms that suggest "if you liked book x, you'll love book y" or "people who bought this title also bought this other one" never quite get to the best, nuanced recommendations. But you know who does? Booksellers. Have you ever chatted with your local bookseller? Give them an author you love, the last book that made you happier for having read it, and the last book that made you cry and they'll come up with the perfect backlist recommendation that you never would have heard of otherwise.
Megan Byers is one of those fantastic booksellers you should be talking to. She can be found at Livres Babar Books in Pointe-Claire, Quebec.
Livres Babar Books
Opened in 1986 in Pointe-Claire, Quebec on the shores of Lac Saint-Louis, this family-run bookstore carries mostly English-language books for the child and teen market. They're a major sponsor of MTL YA! Fest, Montreal's first young adult literary festival. In 2015, co-owner Maya Munro Byers won the Quebec Writers’ Federation Judy Mappin Community Award: "Byers was honoured for her contributions to the industry and for 'instilling a love of literature' in readers as a bookseller of more than 30 years." It's safe to say Livres Babar Books is a fixture in and a great resource for their community.
In our fourth instalment of 5 questions with, Megan answers our bookseller questionnaire:
1. Which author would you most like to have for an event in your store (living or dead)?
Neal Shusterman. I’ve been a fan since The Schwa Was Here and he just keeps getting better and better. Unwind, Bruiser, Challenger Deep — amazing! The Arc of the Scythe series is incredible; I can’t wait for book three.
2. What attracted you to bookselling?
It’s in my blood. My mother started the store 32 years ago. I’ve spent my whole life surrounded by the wonder and magic of stories. When I was younger I never imagined taking over but, like a good book, the store drew me in and now I can’t imagine doing anything else.
3. What's your favourite bookselling war story?
We had Jeff Kinney at the store last November. It was a huge event. We had about 900 people through the store in just over three hours. It was exciting but stressful. There was a ton of prep work to make sure everything went well. To accommodate all the people, we had to move 15 double-sided bookcases. All of them were full and none of them had wheels. I’m pretty sure every staff member had a nightmare before or after the event.
4. What is the most pressing issue facing bookselling today?
Developing and catering to our niche, while not excluding the larger audience. It’s especially true with the under-18 crowd; we want to grow with them, encourage them, but still challenge them. Fostering a love of reading that will continue with their children. We have to be a constant for our customers and yet change with them.
5. What forthcoming book are you most excited about?
Odd One Out by Nic Stone. She was the keynote speaker at the MTL YA! Fest (Montreal’s first young adult literary festival) and she was so engaging. Her writing is just like her: bold and honest, full of humour, strength, hope, and love.
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?
A Stone for Sascha by Aaron Becker. Sure, it’s a wordless picture book but it’s the perfect choice. It’s about a girl whose dog has died. (Schnauzer, check.) Being wordless, it can be shared with anyone, no matter what language they speak. (Job on a cruise, check.) It also allows the reader to fill in the story with their own words, much like a famous questionnaire. (Proust, check.) And finally, the beautiful illustrations will speak to her love of details and artistry. (Embroidery, check.) I’m a strong believer that picture books aren't just for children.
That's a lot of checks. You nailed it!
Find all of our bookseller responses to this questionnaire here.