We are heading east for our bookshop of the month for June, to Jarrold's department store in Norwich. The store is part of the Jarrold Group which was formed in Woodbridge, Suffolk back in 1770. The group's main store is situated in Norwich's historic London Street and has gained landmark status for being the region's most popular independent department store. We recently spoke to Chris Rushby, from the book department at Jarrold's, about the host of literary events they hold, some of his favourite books coming up this summer and what's special about Norwich's best book haven!
Jarrold’s book department holds numerous events such as author signings and your monthly book club. What are your favourite bookish events and why?
The easy answer would be the events where we sell the most books: there were 800 people in the queue at a Tanya Burr signing session here a few weeks ago. If you don’t know who Tanya Burr is, neither did I until about six months ago – but she sells a lot of books. Beyond that, authors talking to authors can be particularly fascinating. A couple of months ago we sold books at an event with Helen Macdonald (of H Is For Hawk fame) and Jeanette Winterson (of rabbit pie fame) in conversation. They were both warm, revealing and insightful and clearly sparked off each other.
From your local bestsellers list, it looks like your readers love reading about Norwich. How are you able to meet the demand for local interest titles?
By having the best East Anglian book range in the world. That might sound slightly big-headed (and to be frank there probably aren’t a lot of bookshops trying to compete with us in that endeavor) but Jarrolds is known for local books and customers come to us for them. Authors of local interest books also come to us, often the self-published, no ISBN, stock in the garage kind of authors whose titles wouldn’t make it to the shelves of the big chains. If they’ve written the right kind of book we welcome them with open arms.
Can you recommend three favourite books to add to a summer reading list?
The Shepherd’s Life by James Rebanks – a memoir of sheep farming in the Lake District so gritty, honest and alien to the way most of us live and work it reads like something from another country, or another century.
The Honours by Tim Clare – a fine, strange novel that’s hard to describe, but probably somewhere between Mervyn Peake and Dennis Wheatley. It also happens to be set in north Norfolk.
Edward Thomas: From Adelstrop to Arras, a Biography by Jean Moorcroft Wilson. The first full biography of Thomas for a number of years sheds some fascinating new light on this strange, brooding poet and countryman. The author has already written books on Sassoon and Rosenberg, so WWI poets are clearly her thing.
What are the benefits of being located within a large department store?
Where do I start? A brand that’s known and trusted throughout the region; cafes and restaurants providing perfect event venues; a marketing department that dresses windows, creates point-of-sale material, promotes events and does a dozen other things better than we could do them ourselves; finance, HR and all the other back office functions to take the strain of their specialisms and allow the bookselling team to focus on customers and books.