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The Barefoot Bookseller


In 2018, Ultimate Library teamed up with luxury resort, Soneva Fushi to bring the first-ever pop-up bookshop to the Maldives. Four years and eight Barefoot Booksellers later, there is now a second bookshop at Soneva Jani and a duo team of Barefoot Booksellers are out there for a yearlong placement.

Our search for the Barefoot Booksellers has sparked the imagination of the world over the last four years and still proves that in uncertain times, the dream of a residency among the books, sea, and sand is still universally appealing.

For the project's first year, we received hundreds of applications from all corners of the world and finally chose two lucky candidates to leave their lives behind for three months and help run our desert island bookshop. Our first Barefoot Bookseller, Hugo Wilson, started the journey in October 2018 and passed the baton on to Aimee Johnson from Penguin Random House, Ireland in January 2019. In Winter 2019, publishing, marketing and publicity expert Chrissy Ryan landed in the beach-side bookshop for a five-month stint of book-selling in paradise.


Heading into 2020 we gained two Barefoot Booksellers for the first time, Aislinn Ahivakumar and Alice Spencer dove headfirst into the joys of Maldives life despite the troubled world around them. And then, in 2021, Aislinn was joined by Bianca Harland, a geography teacher, bringing a brand-new perspective to the bookshop.


In late 2021, Malsa Maaz, who was awarded a Masters in Engaged Anthropology, was the first-ever Maldivian Barefoot Bookseller, at Soneva Jani. At Soneva Fushi, Georgie Polhill, an experienced bookseller who previously worked in the editorial department of a London publisher took up the mantle. Together they helped host the first annual Jaipur Literary Festival in the Maldives. In 2022, former Waterstones bookseller Melissa Kelly arrived on the island to share her bookselling expertise and passion for reading with guests of Soneva Fushi.

Turning the page to 2024...

After a new search and an even greater response from applicants from all over the world, we are delighted to announce Jen Harlow as the new Soneva Fushi Barefoot Bookseller, check out her profile to find out more about her! The shops are open and bursting with new books and fresh ideas to entertain, inspire and enlighten. This year they are looking forward to new projects and further integrating the joys of reading into island life and culture.

Keep up to date with Malsa's and Jen's blog posts, Instagram page, or subscribe, to live vicariously through them and follow their amazing adventures in paradise.

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About the Barefoot Bookseller

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General Enquiries

Please contact: The Barefoot Booksellers

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