Jan Smedh is co-founder and owner of The English Bookshop in Uppsala and Stockholm, Sweden. He has been quixotically pushing the strengths of the physical bookshop in the community since 1995, slowly making progress until the shop won the 2018 Bookstore of the Year Award – sponsored by Gardners – at The London Book Fair’s 2018 International Excellence Awards. Fiction has always influenced his life to the point where he feels nothing, really, is impossible.
What was the last book you read?
Just finished A Bad Day for Sorry by Sophie Littlefield. Feminist feel-good noir, no less.
What did you read it on?
I don’t understand the question – it’s a book! I read it on a Wednesday. On a sun lounger. On holidays. On the spur of the moment. On a hunch.
What’s next on your reading list?
Really excited about The Binding by Bridget Collins which I have a beautiful proof copy of. Published in January.
Which writer would you have loved to have met and why?
I really enjoying meeting writers whose work I like, preferably over dinner with a smattering of friends about. And wine. We’ve had many writers visit us over the years, and hope to welcome many more. Neil Gaiman, Donna Tartt, Ken Bruen would be fun.
You are stranded on a desert island. What three books would you want with you?
That’s not going to work – I just went on a 48 hour mini break and brought 6 books. I will never ever be stranded anywhere with only three books.
Which is your favourite bookshop or e-bookstore and why?
Wherever I go I visit bookshops first thing I do. Favourite ones? Well maybe the Midnight Special Bookstore in Santa Monica back in the 80s. And John Sandoe’s in Chelsea. But really, any well curated bookshop with intelligent conversation will do.
Go on, let us know your musical guilty pleasure.
It turns out I’m a bit of a folkie! I’ve visited the Celtic Connections festival in Glasgow every year since 2008! Who knew! (But there’s really no guilt involved…)
And your one from the world of fiction?
Again no guilt, it’s all good. Fiction is an adventure in empathy.
What was your first job?
I … liberated some old books from my grandmother’s attic, put them in a box and walked around the neighbourhood selling them door to door.
Tell us about a passion you have outside the business.
I’m a history buff – wherever I go I immediately start digging. I know everything about SW14 from a year of living there!
If you could tell your younger self one piece of advice, what would it be?
Write more poetry! No, seriously!
What was your favourite childhood book?
The first one I can recall was Peter Dickinson’s Changes trilogy. And perhaps Joyce Stranger’s book Jason, Nobody’s Dog… Oh, and Enid Blyton’s The Secret Island!
Nominations for The London Book Fair’s 2019 International Excellence Awards will open shortly.