Indie View: The Bookish Type

Ray Larman
Opinion - Bookselling Wednesday, 23rd June 2021

Bookshop owner Ray says the store is 'a friendly, welcoming, multigenerational space for the LGBTIQA+ community'

The Bookish Type is a queer independent bookshop in Leeds that opened its doors in September 2020 (yes, during the pandemic). I run the shop with my partner Nicola, and we were inspired to open it by our visits to other queer and radical bookshops in the UK. Leeds has got a vibrant queer scene and it felt like the only thing missing was a queer bookshop, so we thought 'Why not go for it?' We started off doing bookstalls in 2019, which were vital for building up community support and understanding the needs of our customers. By early 2020, we had found a venue for our shop in the Merrion Centre, a shopping centre in Leeds, but then Covid hit. We quickly set up a website and started to trade online before deciding to take a risk and open our shop. The risk paid off and, although we've had to close the shop twice because of lockdowns, we're doing well and have a lot of support from the local (and national) LGBTIQA+ community. 

The Bookish Type is a friendly, welcoming, multigenerational space for the LGBTIQA+ community who can see themselves represented in the books on display. We champion queer literature and sell children's books, graphic novels, poetry, YA, fiction, short stories, colouring books, zines and a range of non-fiction - anything with a queer theme or by a LGBTIQA+ author. Bestsellers at the moment include Detransition Baby by Torrey Peters, the first book by a trans woman to be on the Women's Prize longlist; Stone Butch Blues by Leslie Feinberg, which is a queer classic; the wonderfully titled My Ex-Girlfriend of My Ex-Girlfriend is My Girlfriend by Maddy Court; LGSM t-shirts (Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners) and badges - it turns out that everyone loves a badge!

It's been odd setting up and running a shop during the pandemic because we have no real experience of running The Bookish Type in 'normal' times. However, the lockdowns offered us opportunities to do home deliveries around Leeds which were really appreciated by our customers and helped to keep our own spirits up. We set ourselves a lockdown goal of creating two zines to sell in the shop so we produced Glimpses: a bookish look at queer history and AIDS: reflections on a crisis. We also ran successful online events such as a book launch for author Meg-John Barker. 

Our customers have been amazing right from the start and during the lockdowns. We see ourselves as a community bookshop, so apart from the LGBTIQA+ focus we also have a focus on Leeds and the surrounding area. The Bookish Type is upstairs in the Merrion Centre which is away from the busy ground floor where most of the other shops are based. This might sound like an odd choice, but we have set ourselves up as a destination venue - most of our customers know exactly what they are coming to and will spend in the shop. Sales were great over Christmas, but they are also very good at the moment which is a surprise. The community support is evident in our 'Pay It Forward' scheme which has really taken off. Customers donate money which can then be used by anyone who can't afford a book. Generally it's older members of the LGBTIQA+ community donating, and younger members using the donations which feels really positive.

Pride month is a funny old time - suddenly everyone is best friends with the LGBTIQA+ community! We're celebrating with queer history walks around Leeds to ensure that local queer history is remembered and passed on.  

The Bookish Type is based at 58 Merrion Centre, Leeds, LS2 8NG, and its website can be found here