Meet the Mr B’s team
We are a bunch of book obsessives who love nothing more than to chat about books with customers. Here’s what makes us tick both on the page and off.
My reading homeland is littered with dangerous motels
I love a book that involves a journey or that takes me to a faraway place. The place doesn’t have to be glamorous. In fact, as long as it’s not in Britain, the less glamorous and more remote the better. Think cut-off Scandinavian islands, arid Spanish sierra, cobwebbed Central European castles or, mainly if I’m honest, down-on-their-luck American towns.
My reading homeland is littered with dangerous motels, empty diners and one-street towns surrounded by isolated farms. Throw in a couple of unhinged inhabitants, some dark humour and maybe a stranger arriving in the community to mix things up, and I’ll be raving about the book for a long time to come.
for me, any great book has to have unforgettable characters
I have found choosing my next read much more challenging since opening Mr B’s – I am much less likely to pick up a classic than to hunt for the next random, eclectic book that I can recommend to a customer. I am drawn to dark tales and gritty family dramas but for me, any great book has to have unforgettable characters.
I absolutely love an ambiguous ending – there is nothing worse than a novel where everything is neatly tied up with a bow!
I work from home a lot and I really miss the shop floor banter so do excuse any over-excitable bookish ramblings if you catch me on my day in!
it was a chance encounter with Raymond Chandler that set me back on the path
My love of books began early as mum bombarded me with great age appropriate stuff, dad read to me from a series of wildly inappropriate texts and I filled in the gaps with 2000AD. It was a chance encounter with Raymond Chandler that set me back on the path and instilled in me a life long devotion to quality pulp writing. My touchstone for bookselling is 84 Charing Cross Road, for parenting Atticus Finch, for photography Eugene Smith, for psychosis Jim Thompson, for wisecracking Philip Marlowe, and for gravitas Borges.
When not at work, I hang out with my wife and three daughters, encouraging their burgeoning love of Squirrel Girl and other graphic novels. I am also the reluctant part-owner of a whippet called Dashiell.
I have 4 or 5 books on the go at once, just so that I know I’ve got the perfect title for every mood and eventuality
I don’t care what sort of books you read – every time you open a book you’re opening yourself up to someone else’s view of the world and that can only be a good thing. I do care very much what I read – and if that means 4 or 5 books on the go at once, so I know I’ve got something to satisfy every mood, so be it. I could be segueing from fiction to non-fiction…from South American magic realism to the real magic of science from classy noir to classics, from novella to great tome.
I know how important it is to find that perfect read so I love helping customers discover their book heaven.
...but there's something sensational about that sort of ambush
I love it when a book catches me off guard – it could be something shockingly violent or deeply moving, but there’s something sensational about that sort of ambush. I guess that comes down to good storytelling, which is what I really love about reading. (Duh!) Like a child sat on the carpet leaning in to listen closer to a story being told, I give myself over to a good book. There I await a warm embrace or else to be chewed up and spat out again. Both deeply satisfying.
Around the shop though, you’ll usually find me looking after all of our wonderful reading subscribers and when I’m not raving about my favourite short and punchy novels, I’ll probably be jabbering on about our selection of boardgames and vinyl.
....stories of people working the land, small towns on the edge of nowhere, and isolated island communities.
I’m always drawn to wide open spaces, vast landscapes, countryside and nature. I love books that take me back to a simpler time, one without mobile phones and the internet! I think this is why I’ve always had a love of books set in the American West or the English countryside, stories of people working the land, small towns on the edge of nowhere, and isolated island communities.
On the flip side of that I also have a love for speculative fiction – something that takes me out of my own world and opens my eyes to other possibilities. I love an ambiguous ending, unanswered questions, something to make me think long after I’ve put a book down. I also love anything that makes me feel unsettled!
When not at work I’m at home on my narrowboat on the Kennet and Avon Canal around Bath. I love living on the water, and spend most of my time reading, tending to our roof garden, getting cuddles from my cat (aptly named Bea), feeding swans, and trying to spot the elusive kingfisher!
In recent years my reading has focused increasingly on the climate and ecological crisis
As a wee one I read a lot in the backseat of cars – often down very curvy South-American roads – and am paying for it with a lifetime of car-sickness. Maybe that’s why I love reading on trains.
Translations, language play-grounds and the space between genres are my happy spots. The writing I really rave about makes the familiar strange, and the strange familiar, ideally with a radical dose of empathy and humour. In recent years my reading has focused increasingly on the climate and ecological crisis and how we can support each other as individuals and communities in the light of this.
When I’m not at Mr B’s I’m most often writing (my debut novel is out in Feb 2021) or trying my best to create change alongside others. I produce the Mr B’s Podcast and eat frozen peas.
When I am not raving about Dachshunds, or in fact, any dog in general you will probably find me clutching a copy of ‘The Book of Lost Things’...
When I am not raving about Dachshunds, or in fact, any dog in general you will probably find me clutching a copy of ‘The Book of Lost Things’. This book represents my reading taste perfectly, which is why I always return to it. It is all about magic for me, I find myself drawn to anything fantastical, historical, gothic or mythical. I have also been known to pick up any book which has a gold foil cover, or any coloured foil for that matter.
I can be hard to recognise on a day to day basis due to my whimsical hair dyeing (although this hasn’t happened in a while!) If you catch a glimpse of some floral clothing or follow any dog in the shop- you will have found me! Outside of work you will find me going on long runs in the countryside, upholstering old furniture and hanging out with my Dachshund puppy, Dill.
...if there’s a giant spider in there somewhere, so much the better
In my life before Mr B’s I worked various jobs, many of which I was horrendously unqualified for: tour guide (usually for cities I was seeing for the first time), zoo security guard (to keep animals in, or people out? I’m still not certain), and a gardener (with hayfever). Around books is where I’m happiest. Natural history and science fiction are my favourites, but I love to read and talk about everything and anything; if there’s a giant spider in there somewhere, so much the better.
Other hobbies include knitting, and memorising shuffled decks of cards. Also, I get outdoors a bit: I run the Mr B’s Walking Book Group, Paperback Ramblers, which goes for a stroll and a literary chat once a month.
...science fiction and fantasy authors he likes just happen to be at head height and this may be linked to how his reading tastes have evolved
Being one of the shorter members of staff Henry has trouble getting books from the higher shelves. It’s a good thing then, that most science fiction and fantasy authors he likes just happen to be at head height and this may be linked to how his reading tastes have evolved.
Henry’s other talents include making the perfect glass of squash, preventing Amy from stealing dachshunds (this is time consuming) and thinking about lunch. When he does find a quiet moment, he tends to fill them with reading, vinyl and videogames.
He’s also been known to go on the occasional run.
...I’ve still got a pile of fifteen by my bed which need to be read before my essay’s due next Thursday
Between studying English Literature and Creative Writing at the University of Birmingham, to working at Mr B’s in holidays, hardly a day goes by where I don’t interact with books at least once. And to be honest I am perfectly happy with that. That is, until I buy another couple of books and realise I’ve still got a pile of fifteen by my bed which need to be read before my essay’s due next Thursday.
I shoot myself in the foot a lot working in a book shop I think it’s fair to say, but I wouldn’t change it for the world.
In my opinion, all books should be accompanied with a cup of coffee in your hand and a dog on your lap.
To me, reading is a method of escapism. It always feels like a treat – something indulgent, something which takes me out of this world and into another.
As an ex-History student, and ex-National Trust employee, I love all things history. My favourite books are ones (fiction or non-fiction, I’m not fussy!) which completely transport me to a time before now. I am always on the hunt for a book which can completely absorb me in the atmosphere of a different time or place, and I don’t shy away from the darker side of history! I have a niche interest in medical history, and I fear it’s made my tolerance for gory novels slightly higher than normal…
I also have a soft-spot for character pieces. Books like ‘The Goldfinch’ and ‘A Fraction of the Whole’ have stayed with me years after reading them, because I feel like I know the characters I met in their pages.
In my opinion, all books should be accompanied with a cup of coffee in your hand and a dog on your lap. When I’m not reading, you’ll probably find me dancing, cycling or sewing – with varying degrees of success.
I swing between terrifyingly dark books and sweetly wholesome ones.
Nobody knows what book I’m going to pick up next, least of all me. I will read anything and everything, the weirder the better. I want to be entangled in other worlds, to be introduced to ideas and characters that cause me to re-examine the way I see our world. Usually that means I swing between terrifyingly dark books and sweetly wholesome ones, and a lot of Children’s literature, which often strikes the chord in-between. Those gripping adventures are what I grew up on but my favourites are the ones that stay with me long after I’ve closed the book.
I'm a sucker for larger than life characters - think Gus McRae, Olive Kitteridge or Ignatius J Reilly
I always had my head in a book as a kid – usually Goosebumps or Horrible Histories – but lost my way with reading before reaching my teens. But I rediscovered the love of books in my mid-20s, thanks largely to my wife’s encouragement and well-stocked bookshelves.
I am drawn to anything that transports me to a different place or time – American highways, the Hollywood underbelly, Middle Eastern bazaars, revolutionary warzones, remote Norwegian Islands. And I’m a sucker for larger than life characters – think Gus McRae, Olive Kitteridge or Ignatius J Reilly. I also gulp down noir novels for breakfast and am partial to the odd bleak dystopia.
Before becoming a bookseller I worked as a butcher and a journalist. Away from books, I can often be found enjoying the outdoors with my wife and two kids, tending my veg patch or furiously studying cricket scorecards.
a city as central as any character, snowy plains or the inside of an anthill
What hooks me is a voice that really takes me into its confidence (I’ll take a shout or a whisper) but what keeps me reading is a strong sense of place – a fishing village with just one trawler but plenty of churches, a city as central as any character, snowy plains or the inside of an anthill. Can I be the ant? Even better. Well-crafted picture books and foodie tomes also make me happy, as does ambling in search of the next best coffee to go with my next best
I've come over from Tennessee for my postgraduate to learn to write amazing books for young people.
My life revolves around books, so it’s natural that the only place I’d be happy working is a magical bookstore, and that’s why my new job at Mr B’s is an absolute dream come true. I’ve come over from Tennessee for my postgraduate to learn to write amazing books for young people at Bath Spa University. I love magical realism, atmosphere, and just plain old well written books. When I’m not writing or reading, I love going on adventures, baking new things, and binge watching The American Office. And if I had my corgi Buddy in the country with me, we’d go everywhere together.
Anything with an ironic narrator or a sideways take on the modern world will 100% have me hooked
My favourite books often involve forensic analysis of relationships and unconventional, ambiguous characters, who tend not to act in the ways you’d expect. Anything with an ironic narrator or a sideways take on the modern world will 100% have me hooked, and if there’s a sprinkling of dark existential humour in there, or the potential for a feminist interpretation, that’s even better. I also love comforting nineteenth-century classics (I’m a serial Austen re-reader), lavishly-detailed historical fiction and vivid, far-flung locations, from the pampas of Argentina to the Omani desert or modern-day Tokyo – basically anything that lets me jet across the globe or travel back in time!
I love everything that puts me in the head of a character or speaks home truths in far off lands.
I love everything that puts me in the head of a character or speaks home truths in far off lands. I’ll pick up almost anything on these grounds from biography to a heap of translation to science and history. Any time not spent at the bookshop is spent playing board games and drawing, so you’re equally like to find me in the graphic novel and board game sections!
I continue to read now in pursuit of those same two things: enjoyment and exposure.
If asked about the genesis of my love for reading it would probably begin with something like my mum’s reading and rereading to me of The Happy Prince by Oscar Wilde – a book that has grown with me, consistently lending itself to reinterpretation. As a child it was so exhilarating, to not only soar over the town with the little swallow and imagine what a flight to Egypt might be like; but also to experience the early disembodied feelings of empathy as The Happy Prince strips himself of his splendour and the swallow remains through autumn into winter to deliver the small gifts to the poorest of the town. As I grew older the bureaucratic procedures and political motives of the mayor became suspect! I continue to read now in pursuit of those same two things: enjoyment and exposure.
Forever the optimist, I am sure that honest articulation of experience and empathetic absorption of the stories people are willing to share is part of a very beautiful world.
I'm most often on the hunt for overlooked 20th century women's writings, where beautiful settings, and admirable but tragic characters can be found.
First and foremost I am a hoarder of books. I’m a sucker for a well stocked charity shop, a beautifully designed cover, an enticing blurb, or a recommendation from a trusted friend. I’m most often on the hunt for overlooked 20th century women’s writings, where beautiful settings, admirable but tragic characters, and burgeoning existential dread can nearly always be found. Since beginning my journey in the book industry last year, I have been making up for lost time: reading more contemporary works and revisiting the world of non-fiction (which I have been resolutely avoiding since finishing my history degree). I now possess a voracious appetite for quirky and surprising memoir as well as a growing fascination with translated fiction.
When I’m not reading I’m most likely to be found rambling about somewhere green, or snooping around markets for records and questionably shaped ceramics.
Mr B’s Alumni
Here are some people we miss...
We’re lucky that very few full-time team-members have left us over the years, but those that have left a firm bookish imprint at Mr B’s as we continue to sell their cherished favourite reads. Do you remember?:
Harvey Packham (co-founder!) Still emotionally involved and so not true alumnus. Juliette’s brother co-founded Mr B’s helping on every aspect from writing the business plan to figuring out how to work the till!
Caroline Allen (now Caroline Bush) Our ridiculously bubbly and efficient very first employee!
Lydia Frater Her of colourful jumpers and pumpkin outfits! Lover of the quirky book.
Becky Milford Cosy crime lover who famously put a dying bird in our fridge on her first day (don’t ask).
Libby Harris Lover of YA fiction, who liked to find dresses to match our book events.
Naomi Ishiguro Guitar-playing, bookseller-turned-writer (Escape Routes out now!). Obsessed with Dr Who.
Kate Morris-Double Heat-seeking, cat-loving, long-standing member of the B team! YA book obsessive.
Vlashka Again, not technically alumna, but our very hairy Czech shop dog is sadly no longer with us but is remembered for her loud barks at delivery men, for blending in with the carpet and tripping up customers.