5 questions with Erin Dalton of Huckleberry Books

Booksellers are the true heroes. No matter which emotions we're experiencing — joy, sorrow, anxiety — they know just what we need (a book). That's why we love shining the spotlight on some of Canada's favourite independent bookstores and brightest booksellers in this series.

Photo of Max the cat sleeping on a windowsill.

You may know Huckleberry Books in Cranbrook, British Columbia by another name: until recently they were Lotus Books. Well, after a move and a name change, they're back open for business and ready to supply reading materials to the East Kootenay region once again. They've been serving the area with great reads, author signings and readings, and visits with Max the bookstore cat for more than 45 years!

Owner Erin Dalton answered our bookseller questionnaire in this instalment of 5 questions with:

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

I don't know how to pick just one! Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie — her TED talk "The danger of a single story" is so simple and powerful and important. Neil Gaiman — I blame him for my owning a bookstore, and he's an engaging storyteller, both on the page and when speaking. J.R.R. Tolkien — it sounds cliché, I know, but he had such a dry sense of humour and mischief. 

2. What attracted you to bookselling?

I kind of just fell into it. It was far more satisfying than other jobs I had while putting myself through school. (And the staff discount helped!) When I decided to buy the store, we were living in Vancouver and I'd been out of the book world for a few years. I was looking more for a way to get out of the city than thinking of bookselling in particular. Buying the store was as much about moving back to the mountains as it was about the business itself. But I can't imagine doing anything else now. It's such a unique way to engage with people, there's always something creative to do in my day, and, let's be honest, hanging around books all day is just plain fun. 

Photo of Erin Dalton outside the new Huckleberry Books store.

3. What's your favourite bookselling war story?

I've been knocking this one around and can't really think of a "war" story exactly. But I can tell you about the time I was most intimidated by a customer. I think it was my second Christmas after I bought the store and my high school English teacher came in looking for a book suggestion for his wife. Now, he was a great teacher and I just happened to be in his class when Dead Poets Society came out in theatres, right when we were studying Tennyson, and I was an idealistic, impressionable lover-of-books. You can imagine how that all fused in my mind, and I quite looked up to him. So when he came in (20+ years later!) asking for recommendations, I just about froze up. Fortunately, his wife was a regular customer so I was able to come up with something appropriate, but it remains one of the most stressful customer interactions I've had to date!

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

Amazon, show-rooming, getting stock in a timely fashion ... all of these are true. Also, I think it's crucial to combat the impression that the death of the printed word is imminent. We hear something at least once a week about e-readers, or how kids these days are always on their devices. It does get a bit wearisome. No, really, I promise we're still relevant!

What does Erin Dalton of Huckleberry Books think is the most pressing issue facing bookselling today?

5. What forthcoming book are you most excited about?

No pub date yet, but there will be squealing in my outside voice when the third book in Jessica Townsend's Nevermoor series is published: Morrigan Crow is one of my favourite heroines ever. In the meantime, I'm pretty excited about Guy Gavriel Kay's A Brightness Long Ago coming out next month.

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?

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton. It's whimsical, but with substance — and simply a delightful read. I once saw someone hug this book and I can't think of a higher recommendation than that. 

Nor can we. Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions!

Find all of our bookseller responses to this questionnaire here.