I’ve been really excited for this one for ages now. My friend Bex (who also organises the London Bookshop Crawl and the Ninja Book Swap) has started up a UK based book box subscription and it’s so exciting to have a book and gift subscription box that isn’t subject to ridiculous shipping from the US and isn’t exclusively one theme.
Ninja Book Box is a new quarterly box shipping worldwide from the UK and featuring books published by independent publishers. We aim to introduce excellent books (both backlist and new releases) particularly those which our team & the publishers we work with feel haven’t received the recognition they deserve, and help you find favourites in genres you wouldn’t necessarily pick up for yourselves. Supporting primarily UK based small businesses, each box will contain a book (often signed by the author & with additional material) plus at least two gift items and lots of other fun extras and will take its theme from the book. We want to support excellence and promote exploration and discovery in all aspects of the box. Subscribers will also gain access to lots of additional community perks. For more information sign up to our newsletter, or check out our website for details of how to get the first box!
Now that the Kickstarter has finished there is a mini box available to get the first book so check out the website for more information!
As part of the Ninja Book Box Blog Tour I was asked to get into the spirit of independent publishing and talk about my favourite indie titles. I’ve gone one step further to also talk about my favourite independent bookshops from around the world too!
My Top 5 Indie Titles
Humans by Matt Haig
One of my all time favourites. An alien takes the form of a disgruntled university mathematics professor in Cambridge and eventually writes a love letter to all humanity. It’s a wonderfully uplifting book that makes me glad to be human.
[Canongate Books Ltd, London]
On the Shores of Darkness There is Light by Cordelia Strube
I reviewed this one some time ago but I feel like it’s still worth coming back to. Harriet and her brother Irwin’s story is heartbreaking and raw, reflective of the kind of family that doesn’t make for happy endings but still deserve to have their story told.
[ECW Press, Toronto]
Johnny Got His Gun by Dalton Trumbo
A horrifying anti-war novel about a soldier left with no limbs or face after a mine explodes on the last day of WW1, Dalton Trumbo’s raging novel was one of my absolute favourites as a teenager. It’s almost stream of consciousness in parts, a righteous rant on the hypocrisy of war in others.
[Kensington Books, New York]
The Natural Way of Things by Charlotte Wood
I can’t stop thinking about this one since I read it recently. It’s a stunning imagining of a horrific logical extreme and a very important feminist novel. To me, it’s an instant classic and I want it to be in people’s minds.
[Allen & Unwin, New South Wales]
The Storied Life of AJ Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin
Another novel that I loved because it was an uplifting love story about humanity. And not a romantic love story: AJ Fikry’s life is forever changed when a baby girl is left in his bookshop. Overnight he learns to love life again and his book recommendations to see his daughter through life both make and break my heart.
[Algonquin Books, New York]
My Top 5 Independent Bookshops
Baggins Bookshop, Rochester, England
The largest second hand bookshop in England is actually a five minuted walk from my flat. It reminds me of a setting in a Discworld novel in that I’m pretty sure it is bigger on the inside and that the layout changes with the power of books. They have thousands of second hand books ranging from fiction to military history, local music to philosophy. Their catalogue is probably the most extensive I’ve ever seen and they also have search service for out-of-print titles on their website.
BMV Books, Toronto, Canada
Technically a set of I think three or four shops in Toronto, but I’m still counting them as they’re still independent of the big names. I visited BMV Books over summer and loved their mix of second hand books, new titles and more obscure cheap books. I picked up a few in excellent condition for a fraction of the price but the range was unbelievable; I lost track of how many sections they had available. The staff were also very friendly!
The Book People, Austin, Texas
I spent a lot of time here during my brief stint in Texas; partly because my friend worked here, partly because the cafe was excellent, partly because the air conditioning was saving my life but overall because it was just a pleasant place to be. It’s huge, and like Baggins and BMV the sheer range of books is fantastic. Not just the obvious sections, there was also a cubby hole between bookcases of books based on television and film trivia, gifts, beautiful local publications and an extensive and well-thought-out young people’s section. It’s an absolute joy right in the heart of the city.
Persephone Books, London, England
One of our London Bookshop Crawl finds, Persephone books is both a bookshop and a publisher. They specialise in mainly out-of-print, mainly female-written books with their signature grey cover. It’s a beautiful store because every book features an endpaper based on a fabric created the year the book was first published. So the whole place is both quaint, simple and colourful all at once. Again the staff were wonderful but this time, being such a small shop, they treated us a full tour and talk about how they work so it really felt like joining a new book family.
The Bookmark, Rainham, England
This one is a deeply personal one for me because it’s mine and my Grandma’s favourite second hand bookshop. It used to be owned and run by a lovely old man who would play jazz all day and could tell you that he last sold the book you were looking for on a Tuesday (incidentally, Johnny Got His Gun). Sadly, he passed away many years ago but the bookshop and his spirit in it still remain. It doesn’t so much have shelves, more like tower of books and I think I bought probably 80% of my books here as a teenager. I have many, many second hand books dating back to the sixties or forties that have been lovingly passed on to me through The Bookmark.
So, join us in celebrating more things independently published by checking out the rest of the blog tour!