Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

An Introduction and Disclaimer

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An Introduction and Disclaimer

Outside of a brief stint at Simon Fraser University’s The Writers’ Studio program, I have no post-secondary education. My experience with books has been primarily shaped as a bookseller, a job I’ve had for over a decade now. First as a volunteer at an anarchist bookstore in Vancouver that burned down; then at the now closed Book City in the Annex; and, most recently, at Type Books on Queen Street, which I hope nothing bad happens to.

My literary education comes not just from independent reading, but also through osmosis: by handling books, and by talking to customers and co-workers. I’ve been fortunate enough to work alongside some very talented writers and artists who have acted as informal mentors to me over the years. I’ve hand-sold hundreds of books to customers, spent thousands of hours talking to them about what they mean when they ask for a “juicy read” or “something for the beach,” and the important thing that I’ve learned is that the book-buying public (for the most part intelligent people, hungry for books and willing to spend their money on them) have wildly subjective tastes.

I have my own tastes, but I’ve come to not think of them as fixed positions. When I find something I like I tend to spend a lot of time with it, but when it’s done I want the next thing I read to be as different as possible. I want a contrarian perspective. I want to be convinced to like something I didn’t think I would. This is the privilege of working at a bookstore: anytime during a shift I can pick up a book and give it a skim. If it sticks, I go on with it, if not, back it goes for someone else.

So I want my time as Writer in Residence to reflect what I do as a bookseller: discussing books in a way that makes people want to dig deeper, while also exploring different views. I’ll mostly be posting a series of interviews with a broad swatch of readers and writers. There will be a focus on poets and poetry, April being poetry month, but I’ve also spoken with novelists, editors and musicians about their personal connections to books and how it has influenced their work.
Thanks to Grace and Holly for giving me this opportunity.

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.

Related item from our archives

James Lindsay

James Lindsay has been a bookseller for more than a decade. He is also co-owner of Pleasence Records in Toronto, a record label specializing in post-punk, odd-pop and avant-garde sound pieces.He is the author of the poetry collection Our Inland Sea (Wolsak & Wynn).

You can write to James throughout April at

Go to James Lindsay’s Author Page