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!
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 naughty Dachshund, Dill.
2022 update- I have had the same hair colour all year and I spend most of my time reading 100 Dogs with my Son!
...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.
Escapism has always been appealing…
Escapism has always been appealing in my reading. I’m up for getting lost in someone else’s world, be that an expansive universe, or the claustrophobic cabin on some space faring vessel, or a medieval realm where dragons can be the least of worries or even following the path of a great river in the more remote places of the world.
When I’m not reading I’m usually found wasting my time with video games, disagreeing with Dill the dachshund or more recently planting vegetables, although we are yet to see any results!
2022 update – Successfully harvested potatos and I’m now a Dad.
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 didn't start reading properly until my mid-20s... I have spent the decade since then making up for lost time.
I didn’t start reading properly until my mid-20s… I have spent the decade since then making up for lost time. I cut my teeth on American classics – Steinbeck, McCarthy, Stegner, Kerouac et al. – and more contemporary US writers like Elizabeth Strout, Jesmyn Ward and Philipp Meyer. Then blossomed a love of crime fiction, particularly the dark and humorous corners of noir, from James Ellroy and Elmore Leonard to Jean-Claude Izzo and Pascal Garnier. I also love Irish fiction, anything set in the wilderness, satire, dystopias and exploring children’s fiction with my kids.
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. Anything Chandler-adjacent (there will never be another) will immediately get devoured, and well-crafted picture books are also known to make it onto the shelves at home.
Give me a magical world, a fluffy dog, and some cake. I'll be happy for hours!
AKA Hannah from Tennessee. I’m a USA southern transplant into Bath as of 2018. I came over to earn my Masters in Writing for Children at Bath Spa University, was set up on a blind date at a pub, and the rest is history! I’m here for the long haul, ready to pitch you magical books, timeless children’s stories, and beautiful words at a moment’s notice. When I’m not curled up in my reading chair at home, I’m baking too many sweets, greeting dogs before their humans, and watching the American Office for the 25th time. You can find me in the shop lugging around my gigantic water jug.
I love any story that focuses on the experience of learning how we fit into the world around us
What entices me the most when choosing my next read is an imperfect character on a journey of self-discovery. Whether it be a sheltered young person first exploring their independence, a parent reassessing their relationship with their children, or a child growing to understand the intricacies of life, I love any story that focuses on the experience of learning how we fit into the world around us and delves into the elaborate web of human connection. That being said, any book with an interesting and unique cast of characters is one I’m excited to read, particularly if it’s a chilling psychological horror story, a tangled and perplexing mystery, or a beautifully illustrated graphic novel.
When I’m not reading or browsing for books for my ever overflowing bookshelf, I can be found baking, writing, or trying to convince my housemates to play a new board game with me.
I like reading that allows me to be someone else
My reading tastes might best be described by the same word used for my driving: haphazard. I’m all over the place, switching genres with abandon and never indicating where I’ll go next. I like that reading allows me to be someone else, which is perhaps why I’m drawn most to contemporary fiction about who we are and how we’re living. I like sly, slippery novels: unreliable narrators, weird women making bad decisions, satire that rings a little too true – books that might ask me to read them again and again, in order to figure out what they’re trying to tell me. Oh, and anything with a hot pink cover.
When not reading, you might find me trying to figure out how to work my film camera, writing Westerns, or reviewing aperol spritzes on Instagram.
I love anything that is steeped in folklore and fairytale magic
I’m at my happiest with a book that transports me somewhere, be it to distant worlds or deep into the psyche of unforgettable characters. I love anything that is steeped in folklore and fairytale magic; think dark, misty forests and ancient curses. You’ll also find me reading a lot of contemporary poetry or delving into a treasure trove of esoteric non-fiction, searching for the next big thing I didn’t know I needed to know.
When not in the shop, I’ll whittle the hours away playing board games, painting Warhammer miniatures or watching a film at home with my partner.
anything with dragons or woodland elves still gets bonus points
Books are my kind of magic. I love the comfort of escaping to another time, the joy of making a friend within pages and seeing through another’s eyes in ways I could never have dreamed.
Lord of the Rings was my first life-changing read, and anything with dragons or woodland elves still gets bonus points. Now, I especially enjoy books with beautiful descriptions of nature and landscapes, stories of realistic relationships, parallel lives, insights into distant rural cultures and being so absorbed in new ideas that I feel like I’ve forgotten about my own life by the time I finally look up from the last page.
If you’re looking for me, there’s normally a leaf in my hair, cat fur on my jumper and a big smile on my face.
Let me lose myself in a different country, time or even world.
Reading is something I can’t go a day without. The ultimate treat has always been to find time in the day but mostly I read in bed at the beginning and end of the day, cup of tea in hand.
I usually have a couple of books on the go at any one time- different choices for differing moods. I love books that have a strong sense of place – ones to sink into and become fully absorbed in, such that I find I don’t even hear conversations around me anymore-an attribute which has frequently got me into trouble for “not listening”. Let me lose myself in a different country, time or even world. Give me a mystery to solve, relationships to unravel, or a journey to undertake. But most of all, make the language beautiful and the setting evocative so I can immerse myself.
And when I finally emerge, blinking, into the real world, I may well be found cooking world cuisine, baking cakes for friends and family or playing with my gorgeous grandchildren.
anything with magic, dragons and far-off lands...
For me, reading is simply magic. It’s a comfort, an escape, a friend; you’re never alone with a book. Storytelling for me is primal – it’s one of the oldest things we’ve ever had – and as a theatre lover and practitioner there’s nothing I love more than a good story. My vivid imagination loves getting lost in a world and getting inspired. It’s no surprise then that I love fantasy and historical fiction, anything with magic, dragons and far-off lands – but I’ll read anything and everything that you put in front of me!
When I’m not adding another book to the precariously teetering stacks in my little flat, you’ll find me watching theatre, listening to movie scores or justifying that second slice of cake (always have the second slice!)
Ultimately, if a book is teaching me something I know absolutely nothing about in an entertaining way, I’m in.
I love books, music and learning – combine any two of these and I’m very happy indeed. Whether it’s 30 pages on the biology and habits of musk oxen, Tolstoy’s reflections on the ruling class of Tsarist Russia, or how to (hypothetically…) perform various surgical procedures in Victorian Britain, colour me interested. Ultimately, if a book is teaching me something I know absolutely nothing about in an entertaining way, I’m in.
When I want a break from filling my brain with facts I’ll never need, I gravitate towards fiction full of mystery, suspense, whimsy, weirdness and a dash of surrealism – though I’m always looking for new books that take me on a journey out of my comfort zone.
When I’m not reading, making coffee or bombarding my loved ones with unsolicited facts about Jimi Hendrix, I’m likely to be found immersed in nature, or curled up with my neighbour’s cat and a guitar, in the company of other noise-making folk.
anything with indelible characters that have to something to say about the state of humanity.
My reason for reading is incongruously twofold – I read for escapism, but also to connect with the world, be that in our universe or one that’s dreamed up.
I grew up on all things fantasy – my dad read me The Hobbit to go to sleep. His Dark Materials is practically my bible and I worship Neil Gaiman. Now, I’m not tied to any genre – I love reading dystopian, contemporary and speculative fiction, but will enjoy anything with indelible characters that have something to say about the state of humanity. If it makes me cry? Even better.
In the world beyond the pages, you can find me at live music and comedy gigs or determinedly trying to achieve my New Year’s resolution of winning a pub quiz! When at home I’m attempting to serenade my cats – Albus Dumblepaw and Miaowing Myrtle – with my fledgling guitar skills.
I can often be found behind an excessively large stack of unread books...
When I’m not at Mr. B’s in my Summers and holidays or at Cardiff Uni during term time, I can often be found behind an excessively large stack of unread books or synchronised swimming. I’m an uber nerd, and love Star Wars and crochet, which often surprisingly overlap. In my free time, I can be found on adventures in deepest darkest Devon or West Wales wild swimming, going on big hikes and generally enjoying the outdoors. I read a fair amount of Science and Maths non-fic, mainly any medical or biochemical books made a bit more exciting by a funny author. I’m a big fantasy sci-fi fan, but will read any fiction as long as I can’t imagine it happening in real life… Or if it has dragons!
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.
Jessica Gaitan Johannesson Lover of translations, language play-grounds and the space between genres. Writer, activist, and podcaster extraordinaire.
Callum Churchill Our brilliant Fitzcarraldo Editions-obsessive and lover of “world cinema masterpiece” Chocolat.
Gemma Dunnell Graphic-novel-lover, Star of Mr B’s You-Tube Channel, with an impressive personal collection of swords and daggers!
Nicole Gadras Super smiley and ever calm with a wicked knowledge of international fiction and a stealthy, dark sense of humour.
Tessimo Mahuta Insanely competitive underwater hockey (yes that’s a thing) player, bookseller extraordinaire, graphic novel nut and creator of the stunning jacket for Fox, Finch & Tepper’s “Iberia”.
Kate Brown Backlisted 20th Century novel expert with a fringe that won’t quit and an unparalleled collection of Cos clothing. Editor-in-chief of Fox, Finch & Tepper’s “Iberia”.
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.