This month’s bookworm is Nikki Ford, bookseller at Grove Bookshop in Ilkley, West Yorkshire. A part-time copywriter, Niki joined the Grove bookshop team after providing extra manpower at the Ilkley Literature Festival in October 2017. She’s chuffed to now be a permanent fixture at one of the north of England’s best-known independent bookshops. Opened in 1978 and located on a beautiful tree-lined road, Grove’s specialism is a pleasant, relaxing shopping experience. The shop stock caters for all tastes, but does offer Yorkshire-focussed books (ranging from the history of Bradford’s textile mills to the stunning photographic landscapes of the Dales). Staff are also very proud of their extensive travel section – perfect not just for walkers looking for local guides and maps, but also adventurers seeking to strike out across the globe. And if books aren’t enough for you (what?!), then you can always check out Grove Music on the lower floor, packed full of classical, jazz and classic rock CDs. To keep abreast of events and shop news, give Nikki and her fellow booksellers a follow on Facebook.
Her three ‘big books’
‘The Lord of the Rings Trilogy’ by J.R.R. Tolkien: My dad read these to me at bedtime when I was a kid. It took him a year to get through them (though I now suspect he may have skipped some of the finer detail) and it had a massive impact on my love of books. The thrill of adventure in a world like ours but full of magic, dark and light was wholly immersive to me. I learnt so much about friendship and morality and we had early editions with the pull-out maps that we plotted our progress on each time.
‘The Heretics’ by Will Storr: I’m generally a big fiction-head, but this book blew my mind; it made me look at the world through new eyes and I loved being challenged. Basically, the premise is an investigation into why people think the way they do. So, for example, why do people believe things despite the evidence stacking up against those beliefs? Storr interviews many intelligent, baffling, eccentric, scary and charismatic people across the world with some incredible opinions but his own personality and experiences are what make the book so compelling.
‘The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay’ by Michael Chabon: A friend lent me this fairly recently but it’s rocketed to the top of my favourite fiction list. I can’t think of a more perfect novel. It tells the story of teenager Sam Clay in New York in 1939 and his cousin, Josef Kavalier, who has just escaped from dangerous Prague but left his family behind. They create a massively popular comic, The Escapist, about a superhero saving people from the Nazis. But behind the success, both boys face the trial of becoming men in a turbulent, changing world. Stunning.
Her two contemporary titles
‘The Silent Companions’ by Laura Purcell: I love gothic fiction and you don’t get much more gothic than this terrifying Victorian ghost story. A pregnant young wife’s new husband dies in his decaying country manor, and she is sent to live there alone with his dull cousin, resentful servants and suspicious locals. Bored and trapped, Elsie discovers a very old, creepy painted figure in the locked attic that looks just like her, and she swears she can feel its eyes following her. This novel is a lesson in suspense and supressing atmosphere – I couldn’t sleep for weeks after reading it.
‘Manhatten Beach’ by Jennifer Egan: The writing in this book is gorgeous – I often had to read sentences aloud to really wallow in them. The book is set in New York, when young Anna Kerrigan (a wonderful, determined and capable heroine) goes with her father to the seaside home of charismatic gangster Dexter Styles and falls in love with the water. Years later, her father vanishes and Anna becomes the first female diver, fixing ships to help with the war effort, since all the men are off fighting. Her path crosses with Styles once more and she resolves to find her father.
The one on her ‘to read’ list
‘Swan Song’ by Kelleigh Greenberg-Jephcott: This is a fictional account of Truman Capote’s life told through the eyes of the several glamorous women he kept close to him. In 1975 he famously published a barely disguised account of the secrets, gossip and heart-break that these wealthy, high society women, his friends, had disclosed – and tore his own social life and glittering career to shreds in the process. What was behind this destructive act? Capote is such an interesting figure and I’m fascinated by historical novels so I can’t wait to start on this one.