Nicole is the Publisher at Penguin Canada, an editor and has a great affection for the Penguin brand and history. We are thrilled to be able to share some of her insight with our Penguin fans and growing Penguin Shop family.
Q: What do you think makes Penguin so recognizable?
A: I think our flippant yet dignified little logo is easy to spot and completely irresistible (and I’m not at all biased, obviously), but more importantly, it’s what that logo stands for. Allen Lane, the founder of Penguin, launched Penguin with a commitment to making creative and intellectual excellence affordable and available so now it’s our responsibility to uphold his vision. This is something I think of almost every day. It also helps to have our books supported by an incredibly gifted design team who aren’t afraid to take risks, who share a love of Penguin Orange Pantone 1505.
Q: What do you think it is about the brand that appeals to so many people worldwide?
A: One of the many things that’s exciting about Penguin is its world view. The company isn’t structured as a single mega office supported by small outlets here and there. It’s a vibrant collective of passionate publishers around the world who are fierce champions of diverse author voices and are devoted to bringing their stories to readers everywhere. The brand is celebrated, but it’s the authors and their books that readers are drawn to and so we try to find good books that represent as many people and places as possible.
Q: Do you have a favourite series?
A: My nostalgic side adores the original Penguin Orange tri-bands but if you look at my shelves at home, you’ll see Jessica Hische’s Drop Cap series on display. Even though I own different editions of almost all of the titles contained in the series (and many are in the public domain so can be read for free), I couldn’t resist buying them again. They are so vibrant and beautiful, art for my bookshelves.
Q: Do you have a favourite thing about the Shop?
A: The books, of course! Having our very own Shop gives us the chance to celebrate our authors and their brilliant works which is something we love to do. It also gives us the ability to make a statement from time to time, like a whole wall of one book on its publication date or all of the titles that celebrate an important moment. We’re not able to do that in other bookstores even though I have tried (my apologies to those booksellers…). The Shop allows us to connect directly with readers and to tell them the stories behind how many of their soon-to-be-new-favourite books came to be.
Q: What do you think is interesting or unique about the Shop?
A: The size of the Shop is surprising and unique. Even though it has a tiny footprint, its reach is mighty. It contains so many big ideas, heaps of entertainment, and new ways of looking at the world around us. It’s compact and powerful (like books), our bookish contribution to the tiny house movement.
Q: Why do you think people should come visit the Shop?
A: Are you tired of me saying come for the books? The Shop is crammed with extraordinary books, carefully curated for every sort of reader and it is always staffed by booklovers.
Q: Staff Pick
A: I highly recommend Eliza Robertson’s daring debut novel, Demi-Gods. At the heart of the novel is a nine-year-old girl named Willa who is drawn to the son of her mom’s new boyfriend, an off-kilter young man named Patrick. Patrick challenges Willa in a lot of ways, ways that lead to minor injuries like a jellyfish sting on a leaky rowboat, but then things take a dark and disturbing turn. I don’t want to ruin it for you, but I will add that this novel contains one of the best revenge scenes I have ever read. It’s a novel about love too, but also the precarious balance between love and menace.
Rebecca Lee’s Bobcat is not only a book I’m proud to have published but it’s a book I can’t resist re-reading. And even though I’m now very familiar with it, it surprises me each and every time. The stories cover everything from a dinner party that leads to the dissolution of more than one marriage to a woman who is hired to find a wife for her true soulmate. They reveal fundamental truths about trust, deception, love, jealousy and loss and yet they’re also funny, wistful and heart-breaking.
I also read a lot of children’s books as I have two small readers-in-training at home so I can’t sign off without mentioning the giggle-inducing Narwhal and Jelly series. These two books don’t stay on the bookshelf for very long and we love taking turns reading the different voices. Sometimes I’m the fun-loving Narwhal, sometimes I’m the no-nonsense Jellyfish but my husband is always the shark. Not only are they endlessly charming, but they’re perfect for new or reluctant readers and they will make you crave waffles (what else could you ask for in a book?).