Meet the bookseller with Sam Kelly

Sam Kelly is a bookseller at Readings Doncaster and the spark that drives the Doncaster middle fiction book club. Here, she chats about the favourite parts of her job, books that have changed the way she thinks, and what’s on her reading pile right now.

Sam also runs the website Retrieve-a-Book, where she posts young adult and middle-fiction book news, reviews and recommendations.


What is your favourite part of your job?

Definitely the people, both customers and colleagues. You find a certain type of person in a bookstore and they are my favourite type. Whether its frantic parents trying to find the next book for their advanced-reading child, older gentlemen looking for a good history book and giving you their life story while they’re at it, teens willing to listen to me rant about the best new YA books. Customers keep the day interesting, as do my colleagues. All the people I’ve worked with in bookshops have taught me something. Fitting into the Doncaster team has been incredibly easy due to the wonderful people who work there. The best thing about working in a team of talented booksellers is that help is never far away.

What kind of trends do you see in books right now? Do you have any predictions for the future?

I’ve seen an increase in representation in kids' books that is wonderful. Seeing more stories about children of different backgrounds and abilities and all these human differences is great, but I particularly like seeing representation in books where the focus isn’t just on that difference. For example, a story about a kid in a wheelchair going on an adventure or an interracial family just having a picnic. When you don’t limit stories featuring representation to stories solely *about *representation, that’s when you’re onto a good thing. I think we are seeing more of this now and I believe and hope that will continue to grow in the book industry.

Tell us about an Australian book that made a significant impact on you.

Mr Huff by Anna Walker. I remember when I first saw it come out of the box, the foreboding creature on the front cover immediately caught my attention. Mr Huff was like a personification of my own anxiety, and I knew that before I had even read it. I recommend it to any parents of kids with anxiety as well as to adults as an introduction to mindfulness. It shows that Mr Huff can be your friend if you stop ignoring and trying to be rid of him.

I feel like the kids' issues section is getting more and more expansive and more beautiful – kids' writers are teaming up with therapists and specialists to create accessible and enjoyable stories to convey important messages across all different issues. Makes it easier to find things to recommend, for sure!

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Tell us about a book that changed the way you think.

When I was younger I wasn’t a very strong reader; I was quite slow, and that frustrated me so I would give up. At 12, I had decided that I just wasn’t a ‘reader’. Everything changed when the Twilight phenomenon hit. I watched the movie and loved it (as most 13-year-old girls did) so I got the first book and just fell into the world of sparkly vampires, forbidden love and teen heartache. I devoured the next three books in a matter of weeks, still slowly but consistently. I realised then that being a slow reader wasn’t a bad thing – if anything, it meant I could submerge myself thoroughly in the worlds that I read about. In hindsight, I don’t think Twilight was a great series, but it was exactly what I needed to fall in love with reading. If I had never read Twilight I definitely would not be a book nerd now, so I am eternally grateful.

If you were cursed to be trapped inside the world of a book, which one would you pick – and why?

At the moment the worlds of Sara J. Maas are my favourites. In both her series, Throne of Glass and A Court Of Thorns and Roses, she creates rich and complex worlds and lore. I feel like you could drop me in either Aurelia or Prythian and I could find my way around pretty easily. Her character development is so incredible, and I feel I could step into the Night Court or the Queen’s Court of Terrasen and greet them as old friends.

What books are sitting on your bedside table right now?

I have a mountain of books in my to-read pile at the moment because I’ve been reading books for the new Middle Fiction Book Club at Doncaster that I run – my beloved YA books have taken a back seat. At the moment I have in (order of priority): The Princess and The Fangirl by Ashley Poston, The Red Scrolls of Magic by Cassandra Clare, Aurora Rising by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff, and I am listening to the audio books of the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series by Laini Taylor. I like to think reading all the new YA is just preparation for when they let me start a YA book club too!

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Mr Huff

Mr Huff

Anna Walker

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