Todays Aritice is focussed on Annie Wester owner of Moonlit Pathways Bookshop. Annie is a fascinating person. For example, few would know she a Literary Academic. This article was the first of our ‘LizianEvent Community’ profiles which included an edited audio version of the interview.
Ian interviewed Annie during a break at the 2018 Lincoln WellBeing Show. During the interview, Annie talks about her early book encounters. Her business Moonlit Pathways is a thriving specialist bookshop. Annie talks about the many aspects of reading from how to choose a book to where spiritual authors may find new directions. There is an insight into where her bookshop is now and the direction she will take it over the next few years.
Annie Webster – Moonlit Pathways Bookshop
Q. Annie tell me about your first encounters with reading?
Annie: “My parents were not overly wealthy, and very popular, these two observations will guide you to their character and personality. We were careful with money, although this was not uncommon in those days. No matter what the situation I was allowed to buy a book each week from the book club. Enid Blyton’s Famous Five, 101 Dalmatians, The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, etc. were some of the first titles.”
Q. What genre of books did you read?
Annie: “Always fiction.”
Q. Are there significant markers in your reading evolution?
Annie: “Yes, I used to babysit for a family who had a huge bookcase. I discovered a book called Kane and Abel. It took me sixteen hours non-stop to read it, I could not put it down. I did not stay with one genre, and then I did my degree. So, for three years I read academic books and nothing else. While at University, a friend gave me the small book by Richard Bach titled Illusions, and this is my first spiritual book encounter. Another significant book is The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield.”
Q. How would you guide someone to buy a book?
Annie: “I choose many books from recommendation. Although this can be hit and miss. As a bookseller, I have a responsibility to my customers to have a sound knowledge of the content of my stock. The advantage is I can talk to the client about their needs. From this information, I will get a feel for what book might suit them. There is a lot of pressure involved in recommending a book, as the reader can be disappointed. However, my specialised bookshop has many faithful and long-term customers. As the years go by, I have an excellent knowledge of the content of a book, and I get to know the types of books each customer prefers. This personal information is the strength of my business: A close knowledge of book and customer.”
Q. How do you read a book?
Annie: “I have discarded books after only a few chapters. For example, I found ‘The Book Thief” a somewhat disjointed read. Although after putting a book to one side, I will return to them at another time. (By the way, Annie loved the film) I like to dissect a book, think about the words, construction and sentiment. To get the best from a book, most people believe it needs to be well written. There are exceptions to every rule, for example, a book recommended by a respected reviewer may be worth persevering with for a few chapters.”
“Allow me to expand: My degree is in English Literature, and therefore I cannot help but have a critical eye. The Celestine Prophecy leaves much to be desired in the way it was written. The message is excellent, so the sentiment and story overwhelmed the shortcomings. How do I read a book? I take possession of it; I will write comments and notes and highlight important sentences and paragraphs – I will read Kindle books – they have a place – But the paper, card, and ink make a book!”
Q. What type of books do you stock?
Annie: “I take lots of care with my stock. I cannot compete with the likes of Amazon, so I have to: 1) Understand my clients and customers. 2) Have in-depth knowledge of the marketplace, the latest books, and authors. 3) Actively seek feedback and reviews from readers. If I am to thrive, I must give more than a computer screen list! I have discovered most book enthusiasts do not resent paying a few extra pounds to buy from me. You see, it is ok buying online if you are prepared to take the risk of not liking the book, agreed you can return it. However, most do not. With titles costing upward of ten pounds, non-returned books are an expensive and ignored aspect of online shopping. The advantages of purchasing from a specialist bookseller are the specialist has an excellent and readable stock, focusing on a specific requirement.
I have to look at the ‘bigger picture.’ If I were to limit my stock because of the opinions of a few readers, it is evident people would be deprived of some incredible titles. So in fairness, if I only stocked books for ‘a restrictive audience of customers’ I wouldn’t have a business. Therefore I have to have stocked an eclectic mix of titles, authors, and genre. Remember, I am a specialist retailer of ‘Cards’ – Tarot – Angel – Oracle – etc. Cards can be used traditionally, as insightful symbols of self-discovery or for meditation. I could not claim to have every book or deck available of a spiritual genre. The intention is to hold a first class inventory of excellent and rewarding titles.”
Q. If you were able to guide an author looking for new subjects. And bearing in mind the interests of both new and old readers, where would you steer them?
Annie: “Certainly not ‘self-help’! (laughs) – In my opinion, good quality spiritual fiction, which is accurate and valid answers to your question. It must be quality, I have learned about religions and spiritual beliefs from spiritual fiction. On the other hand, I have become disillusioned by poorly researched and ‘for profit’ spiritual textbooks. I hope you realise the implications of my statement. Spiritual fiction can hold more knowledge and importance, than 100 thousand words of nonsense written under a smoke-screen of ‘spiritual knowledge.’ A spiritual fiction story should be compelling and empowering. There is a calling for feminist books, and comparisons of differing religions.”
Q. What do you feel is the right direction for Moonlit Pathways Bookshop?
Annie: “I would prefer to focus on the 100 top sellers, perhaps the same number in core and established spiritual books and, as already mentioned spiritual fiction. The listener or reader may think this is a small inventory; however, it is surprising just how few books most people have on their bookshelves. Not only this, how many of the books we keep do we revisit?
– I haven’t put much thought into trading in used books, although this is something worth considering. I know there are people who wish to dispose of their libraries and books, and there are people who would purchase a pre-read book. One must realise, storing and collecting secondhand books is an expensive proposition, so the whole idea requires careful consideration.
– Of course, we are also known as a specialist in spiritual cards. As already mentioned the cards are development and guidance tools. One of my most reoccurring ideas is to review books and cards. And later putting together a website with reviews or even a forum. The answer is to combine quality and knowledge which can serve faithful and new readers alike.”
Q. I know you are dedicated to your family. However, not many people realise you have worked tirelessly helping individuals who are experiencing legal injustice.
Annie: “Yes, family and animals are very much part of my life. My legal work is significant to me, although I do not represent clients as much as in the past. I would possibly advise people who have limited resources, and would possibly represent those who are in real need. For the moment my advocacy is on the back burner, and I am enjoying the freedom of working with my friend at her shop, and building Moonlit Pathways BookShop.”