- 1.Tell us about Unity Books.
Unity Books is a proudly independent and award-winning bookshop in the heart of Auckland city, New Zealand. We also have a sister shop in Wellington. We stock literary fiction, thoughtfully selected quality non-fiction, oddities and take immense pleasure in the art of handselling - putting the perfect book into the customer's hands, the book they didn't even know they were looking for. We are committed to supporting local publishing and small press.
- This is your first time in the States. Any surprises?
Yes! This is my first visit to the States. One of the first impressions I had is how warm, friendly, polite and welcoming the people I met in Denver (when I was there for the ABA Winter Institute) and Los Angeles have been. Los Angeles has a pretty similar aesthetic, atmosphere and geographic sprawl to Auckland, though on a much larger scale, of course.
- Your scholarship was to work at the bookstore of your choosing right? Why Book Soup?
The amazing scholarship I was awarded by Booksellers NZ and Kobo meant the opportunity to attend the Winter Institute booksellers conference followed by work experience at an American independent bookstore. We don't actually get to to choose the bookstore where we are placed, but when I heard the placements were in Los Angeles, I crossed my fingers for Book Soup and quietly suggested it as an amazing bookshop to Booksellers NZ. Why Book Soup? Jo, my manager at Unity is a fan of Book Soup and once described it to me as being like "Unity Books x 3." So naturally I was curious. After looking it up, I knew it would be my sort of bookshop from the high standard of literary fiction and non fiction kept in stock, the location and the description "Book Soup has been serving readers, writers, artists, rock & rollers..." I felt at home as soon as I walked in the door.
- What books are you recommending while you are here?
I've managed to recommend a few books to customers on the shop floor at Book Soup! One is Lucia Berlin's startlingly superb 'A Manual for Cleaning Women: Selected Stories' - such cleanly written observational pieces. I also recommended Clarice Lispector's short stories. I don't usually tend to gravitate to short stories, but these writers are harsh mistresses of the form! I also recommended Hanya Yanagihara's brilliant 'A Little Life', which was my book of 2015. It turned me inside out and is one of the most immersive literary experiences I have ever had. (I think we need to form a support group for those of us who have read it, though!)
- How much of L.A. have you seen? What was your favorite?
I have managed to see a tiny bit of LA. Vroman's at Pasadena was great. I managed to get to Disneyland which was absolutely bonkers and exhausting, and a real highlight for me was the extraordinarily esoteric and brilliant Museum of Jurassic Technology.
- Are you taking any books back in your suitcase?
I haven't started, yet! But I did buy a book about Duran Duran from Book Soup and hope to pick up more special books during the rest of my travels to New York and San Francisco. If I have to get another suitcase, so be it.
- What bookstores do you hope to visit in New York? San Francisco?
I plan to visit The Strand, Three Lives & Company, Word and Community in New York And, Green Apple Books and of course, City Lights in San Francisco. And as many other independent bookstores I can find along the way.