Store Feature - Type Books
The storefront at Type's Queen West location, featuring a window display by Paul Dotey
Type Books is an independent bookstore with a commitment to meeting the literary needs of each of the three Toronto communities it serves.
Located in Toronto, Canada, Type Books is a beautiful independent bookstore founded by Joanne Saul and Samara Walbohm. Each of the shop’s three locations—in Queen West, the Junction and Forest Hill—carries a wide range of children’s and adults books that cater to the needs and interests of the surrounding neighbourhood. In addition to books, each store has a carefully curated selection of stationery, games, tote bags and puzzles.
We love Type Book’s commitment to their community. They’re known for their creative and dynamic window displays that draw neighbours in, as well as for their engaging book launch events and author conversations. We were so excited for the opportunity to chat with Joanne and Samara about how the store started as a dream when they were both PhD students, their most memorable events, and the new books they’re most excited about right now!
Why did you decide to start Type Books back in 2006? Prior to starting the bookstore, you both completed PhDs in Literature. How has your academic background informed your vision for the store?
We met pursuing our PhDs in Canadian Literature at UofT. We had no business background, but we loved books and reading and wanted to share that love with a wider community. We used to joke that when we opened the bookstore, we went from knowing a lot about a little to knowing a little about a lot. Suddenly we became multitaskers. We had to wear a lot of hats as small business owners. It was a big leap, but an exciting and enriching one. One of our biggest thrills is getting to meet and know so many of the writers we used to research and write about back in our student days. On a more concrete level, we chose our shelving in all three stores in honour of the metal shelves at Robarts Library where we spent countless hours in our carrels working on our theses and daydreaming about our future indie bookstore.
The interior of Type's Queen West location, with Robarts Library-inspired shelving
You have three locations in Toronto, on Queen West, in the Junction and in Forest Hill Village. Do you carry different books and products in each store to respond to each neighbourhood?
We believe that every great indie bookstore is a reflection of its immediate neighbourhood, so yes, each of our stores is a little bit different and has its own flavour. One of the most rewarding parts of having more than one location is that we get to tweak each store’s curation according to its neighbourhood and its regular customers. An indie bookstore is all about relationships. We cater to what our customers want.
You also host events in your store (and online over the past year!), where you interview authors and artists and give them a chance to share their work. Are there any events that stand out as particularly memorable?
So many! Events are such an integral part of an indie bookstore’s makeup. We hosted the launch of Ben Lerner’s The Topeka School. It was absolutely packed, but you could hear a pin drop during his reading. It was spellbinding. We once hosted a conversation between Sheila Heti and Leanne Shapton and it was so crowded we ourselves couldn’t squeeze in!
The check-out counter at Type's Queen West location
You carry an incredible selection of books, jigsaw puzzles, and stationery. How do you choose which products to carry? What do you look for when choosing books? What about puzzles?
We buy what we love and we think a lot about what our customers might enjoy. Sometimes when we’re buying we might even have a specific customer in mind. We know that our customers trust us and we are so proud of that trust. We also have an unbelievably smart and savvy staff who help us choose all of our inventory. Many of our staff are authors themselves and they know what they love to read. We like puzzles that are bright and bold and quirky and challenging. We all share the buying in a way that is collaborative and fun. We trust each other and it pays off.
Are there any books releasing this fall that you’re especially excited about carrying at Type?
This is going to be an amazing fall for new books. It’s hard to choose amongst them. We’re excited about Maggie Nelson’s essay collection On Freedom; perennial Type bestseller Sally Rooney has a new novel coming out, as does the wonderful Miriam Toews. On the kids’ front we can’t wait for Andrea Beatty’s latest, Aaron Slater, Illustrator.
Do you do puzzles yourself? If so, do you have a recent favourite?
We know we’re not supposed to pick a Four Points Puzzle, but we can’t not. We love the collaboration with Micah Lexier, Several Found Things. Micah is such a brilliant artist and a great friend of the store’s and we were so thrilled that he teamed up with you to produce his gorgeous puzzle consisting of various found objects from his studio. We launched it on Instagram Live and it was a great event.
Our Several Found Things (Numbers, Letters, Shapes) puzzle
You always have such beautiful and creative displays in your window! Who designs them? How do you decide what to feature?
We’re lucky to have a few wonderful window designers on staff. Kalpna Patel first put our windows on the map with her beautifully imaginative and inspiring creations on Queen West. More recently, the brilliant Paul Dotey has taken over the Queen’s windows. Nick Rubi does a fabulous job in Forest Hill Village. For the most part, we leave it up to our designers to choose what to feature. Occasionally we’ll have guest authors take over our windows, including Claudia Dey and Andrea Curtis. The holiday window is often more of a collaborative process. We start planning up to a year in advance. We’ll all brainstorm ideas together and then let our talented designers run with it.
Some beautiful window displays by Kalpna Patel