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  • Writer's pictureAlice Spencer

The Chapters Along the Way

Updated: Dec 12, 2020

The launch of the shop on Soneva Jani is within touching distance now, so as the finishing flourishes are being put in place, I thought I’d share some books that are important to me. I think that we can really pinpoint books that have been present through the formative moments in our lives so here are the ones that have informed, entertained and inspired me in my 27 years on this planet so far.

Young adult books are so crucial in encouraging life-long reading habits and Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman is a book that got me excited about reading. The powerful series had me hooked and I ripped through each of the books cover-to-cover numerous times, crying my little 15-year-old heart out. The battered paperbacks still take pride of place on my bookcase in my parent’s house to this day. The relics of the teenage me who first grew into the world of reading.

When I was 20, I realised that I hadn’t picked up a book to read for pleasure for a long time. I was having a tough year at university and I needed to make a change, so I headed for my local bookshop where I bought a bunch of books including The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton. I became completely engulfed in the world and it reignited the fire that is experienced when reading simply to escape the reality of the everyday.

A couple of years later, I cultivated a love for literary fiction which was prompted when I read the lyrical Spill Simmer Falter Wither, the debut novel by Sara Baume. I’m bowled over by prose that is so beautiful you have to go back and read it again and again. I’ve gone on to read more in this area and love The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy and anything by Zadie or Ali Smith.

As part of my job in London, I work as one of the core team of the #Merky Books imprint which was set up as a partnership between Penguin and Stormzy in 2018 with an aim to publish authors and stories from underrepresented backgrounds and communities. One of the first books on the list was Taking Up Space by Chelsea Kwakye and Ore Ogunbiyi and I was the publicist tasked with getting it out in to the world.

The book details Chelsea and Ore’s experiences of being black women at Cambridge

University. It expresses how suffocating life can be for people of colour within white institutions as well as examining what needs to change and offering advice to young black women going through the same experiences. I am overwhelmingly inspired by Chelsea and Ore’s strength for activism in an institution that was often trying to keep them quiet, and their courage to write a book about some of the hardest moments in their lives was truly admirable. They are two of the most impressive authors I’ve worked with and I’m definitely their biggest cheerleader. I really feel that this is the book that has helped shaped the publicist I’ve become.

As the plans for the bookshop launch party get underway, I’ll be on the lookout for the next book that makes an impact like these and am so excited to be able to help other people find their favourite stories and words.


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