Kevin doesn’t know a lot about books, but he does like biscuits, and where there are booksellers there are almost certain to be biscuits…
Kevin decided to begin his tour at The Celtic House bookshop on the isle of Islay. It was quite a long fly, over shining silvery sea and mountainous islands, but he was soon circling above the little town of Bowmore. The air was filled with the cry of gulls and the smell of peat from the whisky distillery, and he could see the famous round church and the long main street running down to the harbour. The Celtic House was on a corner not far from the sea. Kevin landed outside, and was welcomed in by Colin, the owner, and Charlène, the manager. Kevin had some Very Interesting Questions for them, but first he needed biscuits. So he clip-clopped up the stairs to the tea shop, where he where he began his interview.
Kevin: What is the best thing about being a bookseller?
Charlène: Having a customer come back to tell you how much they loved a book, and that they might have never discovered it if it hadn't been for you.
Kevin: What’s one way you’ve tackled a problem that your bookshop has faced during the pandemic?
Charlèee: We've been very active online, posting our book recommendations on social media and promoting our online bookshop so that people would still be able to buy from us even though they couldn't be physically on Islay. Joining Bookshop.org has also greatly helped us during this difficult time.
Kevin: What are three books you absolutely love hand-selling to customers?
Charlène: The Sunlight Pilgrims by Jenni Fagan (Cornerstone): a very topical novel, but full of hope!; Boudica by Manda Scott (Transworld): an epic read about the greatest of Celtic figures; Salt on Your Tongue, Women and the Sea by Charlotte Runcie (Canongate): a breathtaking non-fiction essay about our connection with the sea and about motherhood.
Kevin: Who is your favourite children’s book illustrator? (Other than Reeve & McIntyre…)
Charlène: I definitely have a soft spot for Jackie Morris' gorgeous wildlife drawings
Kevin: What is your favourite biscuit?
Kevin: Would you happen to have any about? Oooh. (Eating noises.) Do you have a shop pet?
Charène: Not a shop pet but my wee Airmid (named after a character in Manda Scott's Boudica) is often curled-up on my lap and purring contentedly while I read the books I recommend in the bookshop!
Kevin: What is the best way for people to buy books from you if they can’t visit the shop in person?
Charlène: The best way is to visit our website www.theceltichouse.co.uk
Kevin: Can I have another digestive biscuit please?
Colin: Aww, go on then.
Kevin: Thank you!
You can follow Kevin's virtual tour on the #ReeveAndMcIntyreBigUpBookshops hashtag, and follow The Celtic House on Twitter - @TheCelticHouse and Instagram - @theceltichouseislay - and buy books and gifts via their website - theceltichouse.co.uk.