Meet the Bookseller with Stella Charls
We chat with Stella Charls about beautiful book covers and her current obsession for short stories.
Why do you work in books?
I started reading books when my parents threw out our TV. I was three years old, and I think I remember them destroying it (maybe even burning it in the backyard) because I’d developed a dangerous TV obsession. Luckily, reading proved equally addictive. It’s said we’re experiencing the ‘Golden Age of Television’ at the moment, which makes getting through the stack of books on rotation next to my bed a constant challenge. However, it’s such a pleasure to come to work and be surrounded by people, both staff and customers, who truly love to read. Their enthusiasm is contagious and definitely inspires me to read more widely.
Which book would you happily spend a weekend indoors with?
At the moment I’m obsessing over short stories. I’d happily spend a weekend catching up on Alice Munro or George Saunders, and I’m finally getting around to A.S. Patric’s Las Vegas for Vegans. I’m also re-reading the new edition of The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis: the heartfelt power behind her plain, humble language constantly takes my breath away.
How would you describe your own taste in books?
I’m pretty fickle when it comes to picking what to read next; I’m definitely a sucker for an enthusiastic review. Otherwise, I have no choice but to judge a book by its cover – a technique that’s served me well so far! Generally, the books I fall in love with make me laugh and cry at the same time.
Name a book that has changed the way you think, in ways small or large.
In high school, reading Tim O’Brien’s In the Lake of the Woods absolutely blew me away. Its postmodern structure opened my eyes to a new form of novel, one in which the reader has as much control over the narrative’s conclusion as the author (like a grown-up Choose Your Own Adventure). Also, during my philosophy degree, J.M. Coetzee’s Disgrace in particular taught me more about applied ethics than Kant ever did.
Your job entails recommending good reads: how do you balance personal taste with customer nous?
I’m just enthusiastic about books that I’ve loved, and still find it an exciting surprise when anyone takes my word and buys something solely on the basis of my recommendation!
What’s the best book you’ve read lately and why?
It’s a polarising book that defies genre restriction, but I found Sheila Heti’s How Should a Person Be? a frank, disturbing and very, very funny read. The only thing that’s made me laugh harder in the past few months is Jon Klassen’s I Want My Hat Back.
Who has the best book cover?
I have a soft spot for the simplicity of Susan Cain’s Quiet. Even though I haven’t read that much travel writing, I’m also really drawn to the photo on the cover of Sarah Moss’s Names for the Sea. It’s a striking image and has definitely sparked my curiosity. I also want the whole set of Miroslav Šašek’s picture books: This Is the Way to the Moon, This Is New York etc. His covers (and each image in-between) are the greatest.