‘Buy books. Do Good.’ So goes the motto of The Bookery in Crediton, a sentiment we wholeheartedly subscribe to here at Slightly Foxed. Not only does this independent bookshop provide good reading to happy customers, it pours these sales into funding a programme of events and activities, working with schools, care homes, food banks and more. The Bookery supports literacy in the community and counts Michael Morpurgo, Ann Cleeves and Patrick Gale among its patrons. We spoke to bookseller Dee Lalljee and fellow Bookery colleagues to discover more about what they do – and, of course, what they read.
Please tell us about your bookshop. What makes it special?
Our not-for-profit independent bookshop is in a Grade II listed building in the centre of Crediton, a market town just outside Exeter. Owned by 300 community shareholders, we strive to run a brilliant bookshop with a variety of titles to suit a wide range of tastes, and to make a positive impact in our community.
Alongside the events and activities at the bookshop, our volunteer-led schools team takes books (and the authors who write them) into schools across the county. We also work with secondary school students reading at the local dementia-friendly memory café, and run a Sharing Stories project to help reduce social isolation.
What inspired you to become a bookseller?
A series of serendipitous opportunities led me to this position which has definitely been inspired by countless hours in Blackwell’s on Broad Street, Oxford when I was growing up.
We have a fabulous team of staff and volunteers, who have all contributed answers to the rest of these questions . . .
What are your all-time favourite reads and why?
I will always remember reading A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce for A level because it completely changed my understanding of what a magical experience a novel can be.
I love Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead novels, in which there’s a profound understanding of people expressed with elegance and clarity. And when I need pictures rather than words, a collection of Thomas Bewick engravings – he was such an innovator in technique but there’s also humour and humanity in his work.
My go to comfort reads are Don Quixote by Cervantes and The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas. In their own ways they both tell exciting and captivating adventures, with pathos and a decent splash of humour. For a book to be both entertaining and full of heart is a difficult trick to pull off, and both manage it effortlessly.
Who would be your dream bookshop party guests?
Given the number of people on our team the list is long!
It includes Geoffrey Chaucer, the Gawain poet, Stella Gibbons, Edna O’Brien, Anthony Trollope, Deborah Levy, Olivia Laing, Polly Toynbee, Gyles Brandreth, Stephen Fry, Bernadine Evaristo, Ted Hughes and Charles Causley. And Unbound author Tom Cox as DJ for the evening with his excellent vinyl collection.
Who has been your favourite customer?
Making a meaningful difference to people’s lives is at the heart of what we do and we love working in a profession that touches people so immediately and directly. A customer returning for more recommendations for their grandson; supporting a teacher to nurture enthusiasm in reluctant readers; the joy of taking a pop-up bookshop to a school for children who have disabilities that mean they are unable to visit a bookshop or library; and outreach reading projects that improve the lives of care home residents are just a few of the reasons we love what we do.
What are your top picks for winter 2021 and the new year?
The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles, A Year Unfolding by Angela Harding, Burntcoat by Sarah Hall, Case Study by Graeme Macrae Burnet, and for 2022 Hanya Yanagihara’s In Paradise, and Patrick Gale’s Mother’s Boy are two of our top picks!
What is your favourite Slightly Foxed publication and why?
We couldn’t all agree on individual titles, but we all love the Slightly Foxed quarterly because of the wonderful way it introduces readers to an eclectic range of reading matter. It usually includes a piece about at least one old friend and always introduces you to many new titles to put on your reading list. The recent Spring issue (No. 69) contained George Orwell, Dr Benjamin Spock and Stephen Graham – where else would you find such a diverse mix between two covers?
21 High Street
Crediton, EX17 3AH
Tel.: 01363 774740