Meet the Bookseller with Deborah Crabtree

We chat with Deborah Crabtree about being haunted by Murakami and her favourite book covers.

Why do you work in books?

I’m told I’m a machine when it comes to reading: working in books allows me to feed the machine. Books are my addiction, and while I’d ideally love to be spending my days writing and reading books, bookselling keeps me plugged into the literary world and allows me to talk about books ad infinitum.

Which book would you happily spend a weekend indoors with?

Frankenstein, Wuthering Heights, Anna Karenina, Nights at the Circus, Middlesex, Just Kids, The Road, A Visit from the Goon Squad …should I stop now?

Your job entails recommending good reads: how do you balance personal taste with customer nous?

I try to make suggestions based on customers’ tastes but if I’m really passionate about a book I’ve just read I’ll want to share that with everyone. I’ve bought books based on others’ enthusiasms, and even if I haven’t felt the same as they have I’ve never regretted reading a book.

How would you describe your own taste in books?

Eclectic, but with a lean towards the gothic, poetic and strange.

Name a book that has changed the way you think, in ways small or large.

I don’t know if it changed the way I think, but Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami certainly messed with my head. It entered my dreams and tugged at my subconscious in a very David Lynch-like manner. I’m not exactly sure how, but I love that it did. It still haunts me years later. That’s not happened since Alice in Wonderland turned me inside-out as a kid.


What’s something new you’ve observed in bookselling?

I started in bookselling before computers and book databases were around, so a lot has changed since then. Customers are more clued in to authors, publishing and literature news these days, although I have noticed a growing trend of people wanting Kindle assistance!

What’s the best book you’ve read lately and why?

I’ve been researching historical-based fiction lately and, despite the hype, Burial Rites by Hannah Kent deserves a mention. It’s such a grim gift of a story for a novelist to uncover, and Kent’s ten-year obsession with Agnes and Iceland has resulted in a deftly poetic, claustrophobic yet absorbing tale. While historical fiction is not for everyone, I’m intrigued with how the novelist straddles the line between history and fiction to tell a story.

Who has the best book cover?

I was drawn to Evie Wyld’s All the Birds, Singing, solely because of the classy hardcover design. The new street-art re-jacketed And the Ass Saw the Angel by Nick Cave is pleasingly grotesque and gorgeous – I’m tempted to buy it again just to have a copy with that cover on my shelf.