Topping & Company Booksellers of Edinburgh
This year, more than ever, has shown how important it is to support and champion local and independent bookshops. Although a grand tour of bookshops might not be possible right now, we look forward to the day when we can rummage through bookshelves and buy recommended reading from convivial booksellers around the country.
In the meantime, it is our great pleasure to head north to Edinburgh and pay a virtual visit to the latest bookshop in the Topping & Co family. Tilly from the shop has kindly provided us with a good dose of bookish sustenance. The shop is open for browsing to local readers, and we hope to explore the handcrafted bookcases in person when we can.
Please tell us about your bookshop. What makes it special?
Opening in Autumn last year, we are the largest independent bookshop to open in Scotland for thirty years and the newest addition to our family-run bookshops in Bath, Ely and St Andrews. We sit just below the historic Calton Hill in a beautiful Grade A-listed William Playfair building, of which Pevsner wrote, ‘it is so curious and extravagant that the wonder is it was built at all’.
Our handcrafted bookcases hold over 70,000 titles, including a wonderful array of signed first editions from some of the world’s best loved authors. With rolling library ladders, knowledgeable and friendly booksellers, and complimentary pots of tea and coffee while you browse, it is a paradise for the true bibliophile.
What inspired you to become a bookseller?
The consensus here is that all our bookselling endeavours have been driven by a fierce love of literature. Being able to share our passion for books on a daily basis with people from all walks of life truly is the best part of bookselling. There is something unique about the power of books to expand the imagination, foster empathy and spark curiosity – to be surrounded by these miraculous objects every day is a joy.
What are your all-time favourite reads and why?
A recent addition to this list would have to be Shuggie Bain, Douglas Stuart’s Booker Prize-winning (!!) novel. This moving and evocative debut breathes life into an oft-forgotten part of ’80s Glasgow and is hugely loved by many of our booksellers. We are beyond thrilled for Douglas – the second ever Scottish winner of the Booker Prize. Other all-time favourites would include The Living Mountain by Nan Shepherd, The Histories by Herodotus, A Far Cry from Kensington by Muriel Spark, What I Loved by Siri Hustvedt, Sapiens by Noah Yuval Harari and Holes by Louis Sachar.
Who would be your dream bookshop party guests?
An eclectic mix of names from a round up at the bookshop: Virginia Woolf, Noam Chomsky, Shirley Jackson, Irvine Welsh, Malorie Blackman, Ken Kesey, Rebecca Solnit, George Orwell, Barack Obama, Olga Tokarczuk and Terry Pratchett. Quite the invitation list!
Who has been your favourite customer?
We couldn’t possibly pick! We don’t see visitors to the bookshop as our ‘customers’ anyway – they are readers, supporters and friends. It would be remiss, though, not to mention some of our wonderful four-legged visitors. You can even see some of our Top Dogs – and the very occasional Top Cat – on our dedicated Instagram account @dogsoftopping.
What are your top picks for winter 2020?
Our top picks for winter 2020 have to include Maggie O’Farrell’s Hamnet, Susanna Clarke’s Piranesi, Merlin Sheldrake’s Entangled Life, Ed Caesar’s The Moth and the Mountain, and Seb Falk’s The Light Ages. Looking ahead to next year, we’re really excited about the new series Black Britain: Writing Back coming next year. It features lost or hard to find books by Black authors about Black Britain and the diaspora, written across the last century. The series is being curated by Bernadine Evaristo for Hamish Hamilton and these editions will be brought to life by new covers designed by Black British artists.
2 Blenheim Place
Edinburgh EH7 5JH
Tel.: 0131 5464202
For more on our love of bookshops, and to hear from Kathleen Smith of Topping & Co. Bath, tune in to Episode 7 of the Slightly Foxed podcast. Click here to listen to the episode.