We continue our series of interviews with the five winners of this year's London Book Fair Trailblazer Awards with Olivia Rosenthall, owner of Maldon Books
Maldon Books is an award-winning independent bookshop in Essex. Having worked as a bookseller for over four years, in 2019, Olivia decided to take the leap and open an independent bookshop of her own. This year, Maldon Books received the National Book Tokens Newcomer of the Year Award, with Darling Reads in Wakefield. More recently, the bookshop shared the Best Business Contribution to the Community Award with Silo Zero Waste as part of the Pride of Maldon Awards. Olivia’s fiction has also appeared in The Stinging Fly and Granta.
What did winning an LBF Trailblazer Award mean to you?
It was truly wonderful to be one of this year’s winners, especially to be in such amazing company too. I still can’t quite believe it!
As a Trailblazer, what impact has the recent changing world had on you, and how are you coping under the current climate?
Opening an independent bookshop just three months before a national lockdown has definitely had its trials and tribulations! We’ve been very lucky to have the support of our customers and the local community throughout such an uncertain year – I don’t think we’ll ever forget it. We’re now back open for browsing after an incredibly long period of closure – Essex was put into Tier 4 the week before Christmas, so our shop was closed to the public for a very long time! We reopened on the 12th of April, and it’s been so good to see our customers again, we haven’t stopped smiling!
In your opinion, what impact has the recent changing world had on bookshops/the publishing industry, and what are your predictions for their/its future?
I think the pandemic has made us all a little more conscious of our independent businesses in the book world and further afield. Our local community made a huge effort to support their independent shops throughout the national lockdowns, especially at Christmas time. Despite the implications of the lockdowns, we’ve seen an increase in new customers wanting to do what they can to help their high street. I truly hope this momentum continues, both for books and for all independent sellers and businesses.
What was the last book you read, and where did you buy it from?
I recently read Megan Nolan’s Acts of Desperation and absolutely loved it. I found it quite difficult to read in lockdown, but Acts of Desperation really got me out of the slump. I did buy it from my own bookshop, but it’s incredibly hard to restrain myself when unpacking the boxes of new stock!
What’s next on your reading list?
I’m just about to start reading Torrey Peters’ Detransition, Baby, and I honestly can’t wait. I’m also really looking forward to reading Sophie Mackintosh’s Blue Ticket, Brit Bennett’s The Vanishing Half and Mariana Enriquez’s The Dangers of Smoking in Bed.
Which writer would you have loved to have met and why?
Judith Kerr – The Tiger Who Came to Tea was one of my favourite books when I was young!
You’re stranded on a desert island. What three books would you want with you?
This took me far too long to whittle down, but I think I would have to have My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh with me to ease myself into a life of isolation! I would also have to take Luster by Raven Leilani with me, too, as it’s quite possibly one of the greatest books I’ve ever read. Finally, something hefty like War and Peace – I’ve never read it, but I imagine I’d have more than enough time to get through it!
Which is your favourite bookshop or e-bookstore and why?
This is an even harder question as there are so many wonderful bookshops, and it’s almost impossible to choose just one! To name a few: The Margate Bookshop, Golden Hare Books, the Shakespeare & Company bookshop and Mr B’s Emporium. I’m really looking forward to visiting the new bookshops that have opened in the last year or so too, especially BookBar in London and The Hastings Bookshop – they look incredible!
Has a book ever changed your life?
There are far too many. I truly feel as though most of the books we enjoy change us in one way or another. One of the best parts of bookselling is being able to talk to different people about the books they love. I’m continually struck by the lasting impression books leave and how words have the power to move us so significantly.
Who has been your greatest inspiration and why?
A little embarrassing to admit, but I would have to pick my mum! She’s a wonderful woman with the biggest heart, a true inspiration. We also work together now at the bookshop too!
London Book Fair's Trailblazer Awards recognise talented people under the age of 30 in the book industry, and take place in partnership with the Publishers Association, with support from the Society of Young Publishers and BookBrunch.