Hidden Bookshelf 10: Interview with Pages of Hackney and Getting Out of a Reading Slump

Hidden Bookshelf 10: Interview with Pages of Hackney and Getting Out of a Reading Slump

Pages of Hackney is a little blue shop located on Lower Clapton Road, it’s cosy and friendly, and stocks an eclectic selection of books. Their basement level is full of carefully curated second handbooks, which are always a great option if you’re looking for a new read on a budget. They also host a variety of interesting book clubs and author events, alongside being the official bookseller for public events at the London School of Economics (LSE), you can keep up to date with these events by following their Instagram @pagesofhackney. For this month, I interviewed Jo, the extremely kind and welcoming bookshop manager.

1) How has the pandemic affected your bookstore and how have you adapted?

The pandemic meant that we had to turn our business into a mail-order operation overnight. We set up an e-commerce site and now we sell online which has been great for our business. We also gained new customers as those people who would normally go into central London for work stayed in the neighbourhood and shopped with us, instead of the bigger bookshops in the centre.

2) What’s been the most popular genre during the pandemic? Why do you think that is?

Fiction, particularly fiction set in other countries, was popular possibly because people just wanted to escape! The brutal murder of George Floyd in May 2020 also meant that anti-racism books were an extremely popular genre for months afterwards.

3) What are your personal favourite reads this month?

I just finished Burntcoat by Sarah Hall which is a really beautiful dark and haunting novel about a pandemic but also sex, death, love. It’s brilliant.

 4) Is there a book that you think is underrated? Tell us why we should read it!

The Seas by Samantha Hunt felt like it went under the radar when it was re-released in the UK. My review is here!

5) What books have been best-sellers recently?

The Transgender Issue is by far one of our bestsellers at the moment. It’s a really accessible book that tackles the transphobic media discourse that reduces trans people to an issue and instead sets out clearly what the reality is for trans people living in Britain and how a radical system change would benefit everyone.

6) In an era of giant online retailers, what are your top tips for supporting Pages of Hackney and other local independent bookshops?  

Most bookshops now have e-commerce sites and you can buy directly from them. If they don’t, just send them an email and they can easily take payment and post your book within a matter of days. Websites like Bookshop.org and Hive still take a percentage of our sales, so it’s always best to just buy directly from us! Also, it would be great if more authors linked to indie bookshops rather than Amazon when promoting their own books.

If you find yourself in the East London area Pages of Hackney is definitely worth visiting!

I always find that once the academic year starts again, I get into big reading slumps. There’s a lot of advice out there already on how to defeat slumps, like changing your reading environment or re-reading an old favourite. What I’ve found to be the most effective is reading something super short, I get the satisfaction of finishing a book, which subsequently gives me the motivation to keep reading. I’ve recently picked up lots of Penguin Modern Classics for a couple of pounds each, and roughly only 20 pages each. It’s a great way to get back into the habit of reading. It’s also a good way to have a very brief introduction to a new author and try something with little commitment, my next one to get through is The Custard Heart by Dorothy Parker. They’re available to buy individually or in a set from all major bookstores and online stores.

It’s always helpful to know where to start when trying to get out of a reading slump, hopefully, this has given you some guidance on how to break out of it. As always, try and support local bookshops when looking for your new reads, like Pages of Hackney!

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