Litro Magazine puts its energies behind authors, books, editors, and artists who help keep the reading and writing life vital, and we know how important indie booksellers and bookshops are to this mission. Please support independent booskellers!

For the inaugural “Interview with an Indy Bookseller,” we talk to Claire Grint of Cogito Books in Hexham, Northumberland.

What makes your bookshop unique? The relationships we build with customers are absolutely central to what we do – from discovering their reading tastes to knowing the details of their lives. We’re lucky to be at the centre of a thriving community, running three monthly book groups in addition to author events and weekly storytelling sessions for children. Customers often comment on the sheer range and breadth of books we stock; being independent, we’re lucky to be able to get behind books we love and to provide a curated, personalised experience.

Which newly released books would you like to recommend to Litro readers, and why? I’ve just finished reading The Book Collectors of Daraya by Delphine Minoui. It’s an incredible account of how, amidst the devastation of shelling, bombs, and gas attacks in Daraya, Damascus, a group of Syrian revolutionaries set about salvaging any books they could from ruined homes to create a secret library. This became a safe space, a school, a university – and above all, a place of hope where ideas and future plans could take shape and flourish. This book filled me with admiration and renewed my faith in the human spirit – and of course, in the restorative power of books even in the most extreme circumstances.

Is there a book from the last decade or so would you like to see recommended more widely? So many! A recent discovery which stands out is Ann Patchett’s This is the Story of a Happy Marriage. I first came across Ann Patchett through her fiction, but this collection of personal essays and meditations on life is just brilliant. A real life-enhancing read, full of warmth, wit and humour. We have also always been huge fans of Sarah Moss here at Cogito – if I had to choose just one of her novels, I would probably recommend Bodies of Light. Beautifully written and set in Victorian Manchester, it follows Ally Moberley’s quest to become one of the first female doctors.

What’s the best part about being a bookseller? Without a doubt, that moment when a customer pops in to tell you how much they enjoyed a book you recommended, or that a gift idea was just right. It’s also always fascinating to see the breadth of new titles being published; I’m constantly being drawn into new avenues of discovery.

What’s your favourite quotation about reading, writing or bookshops? I think we need look no further than Dr Seuss! We have this on the wall in the bookshop:

“The more that you read,/The more you will know,/The more that you learn,/The more places you’ll go.”

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