Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Booksellers are Holiday Heroes: Alex Denike, Another Story Bookshop

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As part of my work here at OBT, I've been scooting around the city talking to booksellers at Toronto's independent bookstores to get the lowdown on the good, the bad, and the frantic, jingly excitement of the holidays. Chances are that you will have to go out into the retail wild this month. Wouldn't you rather step in a bookstore?

The first bookseller I spoke for this series is Alex Denike of Another Story Bookshop!

Alex Denike has worked at Another Story Bookshop (315 Roncesvalles Avenue) for five years. In this time, he’s helped countless people find the perfect book for the holidays, and he  was kind enough to share his highs and lows, the thrills and excitement, and a few favourite books with me.

SM: Describe a typical holiday shopper in November.

AD: November holiday shoppers generally seem to know exactly what they are looking for. Typically, these are exceptionally organized people who have title(s) and author(s) already picked out.  The November holiday shopper doesn’t mess around.

SM: Describe a typical holiday shopper in December.

AD: I feel that there are two types of December Holiday shopper. You get people (usually towards the beginning of the month) that have a good sense as to what they are looking for. While they may not be quite as prepared as the November, they usually have some idea as to what the book’s intended recipient is interested in. 

Late December shoppers are the exact opposite of the November Holiday Shopper. These people usually have no idea what they are looking for. I also find that because books are a common last-resort gift, we get more than our fair share of last-minute holiday shoppers. Needless to say, the week leading up to Christmas is typically quite busy for us.

SM: Describe your ideal holiday shopper.

AD: Please see "Typical holiday shopper in November".

SM: What is your most memorable holiday bookselling experience?

We had a customer stand in our doorway. They began yelling at me to get my attention, while still standing in the doorway. The customer wanted to know if we had Chanukah cards. Before I could respond, they yelled "You know?  Chanukah. For the Jews!"  I’m not sure whether it was the fact that they felt the need to explain to me which group of people celebrated Chanukah, or that this very one-sided "conversation" was held while yelling at me from the door.  Either way, it’s still the most memorable.

SM: What are the most requested books you've had this holiday season?

We haven’t started getting many requests yet, but I suspect that Will Ferguson’s 419 will be popular, as will Michael Chabon and Barbara Kingsolver’s new books. David Byrne’s How Music Works has been in demand, so I expect it to be another popular title. 

SM: What books should people be buying this season?

Any of the above would be great, but that’s the best part of giving books as gifts. You can get really personal and intimate with a book. It doesn’t necessarily have to be brand new or that season’s must-read for it to be a great gift.

SM: Retail can be a stressful environment during the holidays. How are you coping?

AD: Lots of coffee, and hot apple cider, which is a bit of a tradition at Another Story.

SM: What books are on your wish list this year?

AD: How Music Works is something I’m looking forward to reading.


Another Story’s success story? Developing strong relationships with teachers and librarians. "Sheila Koffman, Another Story's owner, was always way ahead of the curve on book trends for school-age kids," says Alex. It’s no wonder that educators trust Another Story for expert advice on books for their kids. I asked Alex for some YA recommendations, and he was quick to respond with recommendations:

For teen girls? Deborah Ellis’ True Blue, in which a death at camp tests the boundaries of friendship between two girls.

For a picture book that kids and adults will both get into? German Zullo’s Sky High, illustrated by Albertine, is a tale of overbearing consumerism and the futility of chasing wealth, in which two men build their mansions higher and higher... until the inevitable collapse. Kids and adults will love the cool, intricate illustrations.

For a reluctant boy reader? Walter Dean Myers’ Monster, a well-researched novel of a boy on trial for murder, or Jack Gantos’ A Hole in My Life, the autobiography of an imprisoned drug smuggler-turned-award-winning children’s author.


Watch this space for more interviews with Toronto's booksellers in the coming weeks!

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

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Sachiko Murakami

Sachiko Murakami is the author of the poetry collections The Invisibility Exhibit (Talonbooks, 2008), a finalist for the Governor General’s Literary Award and the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award, and Rebuild (Talonbooks, 2011). She lives in Toronto.

Go to Sachiko Murakami’s Author Page