The Literary Ladies
Long live the independent bookstore! Toronto-based booksellers Samara Walbohm and Joanne Saul are the founders and co-owners of Type, one of the city’s hottest spots for printed matter. With two locations on Queen St. West and in Forest Hill, Walbohm and Saul have created warm community spaces and destinations for bookworms—or anyone who enjoys a good window display.
The shop hosts book clubs, launches, special events, conversations, and afterschool programs. Type posts reading lists of favorite tomes, though their friendly booksellers are always available for recommendations as well.
Walbohm and Saul told us about the shop’s origin and offered some great suggestions for summer reading.
What are your own backgrounds, and how did you decide to start the store?
We met working on our Doctorates in Canadian Literature at the University of Toronto. It was at a time when a lot of Toronto’s indies were closing. We realized how much we missed the experience of a neighborhood bookstore and we felt there was a real gap in the city that we could fill.
How would you describe Toronto’s literary / independent bookstore community?
It’s healthy. It’s varied. It’s reviving (tentatively). It feels like it’s beginning to bounce back. There were a lot of closures a decade ago. We’ve lost some amazing stores, but it means the ones that are still here have had to get stronger, more resilient. It’s exciting.
What are you reading and recommending this summer?
I love My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout. She is such a brilliant writer. I loved Maggie Nelson’s The Argonauts. I’m recommending The Nest and Homegoing and Emma Cline’s The Girls as necessary summer reads. I’m about to start The Vegetarian for my book club.
The store looks beautiful! How have you set it up, from the way you arrange the books, to the window displays, to the interior design?
We have two stores. Each is in a different neighborhood so is styled accordingly. Our Queen Street store was our firstborn. We painted the floors ourselves. The look and feel of the store is so important to us. We wanted it beautiful and welcoming and quirky and delightful. We chose the same bookshelves from the stacks of our university library as a nod to our countless hours there. We had the walls handpainted with a Farrow & Ball design that we oversized. We bought a neon chandelier for the window. Our windows are famous! Our window dresser is a Toronto phenomenon named Kalpna Patel who works for us part-time.
Any favorite moments from events in the store?
So many. Christmastime at the store is the best. Our witty and brilliant and tireless staff shine brightest under pressure. We often have lineups at the register and we serve cookies and bubbly while singing along to Destiny’s Child’s Christmas album. It’s a little bananas. We’ve had so many great events here. Margaret Atwood signed books. Michael Ondaatje read poetry. Countless others have gathered here for events and story time and reading and writing groups. It’s a community hub. We’re so proud that TYPE has come to feel like such a vital part of the city.