Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Booksellers are Holiday Heroes: Ian Donker, Book City

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I looked up and into the depths of my calendar to discover that Christmas is a week away. Luckily, I have the likes of extremely helpful and patient booksellers all across the city to help me when I fly through the doors in a panic. Today's answers on holiday bookselling come from Ian Donker of Book City. I visited Ian in The Beach store (1950 Queen Street East), which had a completely different feel from the Book City in the Annex that I usually frequent.

Ian told me that every location is different, because every neighbourhood is different: every store manager is responsible for buying, and caters to the reading needs of the neighbourhood. Readers in the Beach readers seem to like everything, Ian thinks, and bestsellers and history especially. The best part of being a bookseller? The books, and the customers. Being a neighbourhood bookseller means that you develop relationships with book-loving residents. And with twenty years of bookselling experience, Ian is the one to go to with your questions.


I asked Ian the standard booksellin’ questions I had about holiday shopping, and he was kind enough to answer.

SM: Describe a typical holiday shopper in November.

ID: Usually the holiday sales pick up right after Halloween. We don't sell very much in the way of Christmas titles but we get people looking for the seasons award winners. It is the time for organized shoppers wanting to avoid crowds. Its always great to see the sales increase but most people are still shopping off lists so we are helping people find the books they are looking for.

SM: Describe a typical holiday shopper in December.

ID: December is when things really get fun. We still get those organized people who are looking for books on wish lists but now you get the customer who really wants some help with their shopping. The highlight for most of us at Book City is being able to spend some time with a customer suggesting books that would be perfect for the people on their lists.

SM: Describe your ideal holiday shopper.

ID: I would say a variety of customers during a day is ideal. I love finding everything on a shoppers list but I also love to help find that perfect book for someone to give as a gift. Most of all, being busy in December is the best feeling. I don't want to be still for a minute and the more customers asking questions the better.

SM: What is your most memorable holiday bookselling experience?

ID: I don't have just one that stands out. But it is always great to hand sell your favorite books and it is even better when a customer comes up and tells you "You have suggested a book for my husband for the last three years and he has loved each one. What do you suggest this year?"

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

ID: Other than the obvious prize winners of the season movies have played a big role. Cloud Atlas, Midnight’s Children, Life of Pi, and The Perks of being a Wallflower have all been selling very well.

SM: What books should people be buying this season?

ID: I never think there are books someone should read. Reading is so personal that the only thing I ask before I suggest a book is "what have you read recently that you have liked?" Sometimes the books a customer tells me they have liked leads me to suggest a book that has been out for fifteen years or more. If someone has not read it, its a new book.

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


ID: I love everything about working in December. I find it the least stressful time of year. The days fly by so fast that they are over before you know it.

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

ID: Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan, Into the Silence by Wade Davis, and Neil Young's Waging Heavy Peace.


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