“My Sant Jordi starts in February!”

Ever wondered what Sant Jordi means for a bookshop in central Barcelona? We did too, so we dropped in to Come In English bookshop on Carrer Balmes for a chat with those responsible for filling the stands and shelves on the big day

The shop doesn’t see an increase in customers until the start of April, when people start thinking about which books to giveA tricky part of the job is that it’s only a week or two before Sant Jordi that the favourites emerge, and it’s not easy to get the purchasing order right

In order to gauge what Sant Jordi entails for booksellers in Barcelona, I popped by Come In English bookshop for a charming and informative chat with Jennifer Camacho, who’s in charge of the non-fiction English literature section and purchasing, and Jordi Cuadrado, the store’s general manager, before it got too hectic. Jordi is also in charge of the Spanish and Catalan books on the Come In stand the store has each year for Sant Jordi’s Day on Rambla Catalunya.

As its an English bookshop, Sant Jordi is the only time they sell books in the local languages, and Jordi tells me the stand tends to sell an equal amount in each language every year. The Come In stand is usually located around the intersection of Provença with Rambla Catalunya, but the City Council has advised stand holders that for security reasons there will be changes to the usual location. At the time of our interview, Jordi was yet to find out where they will be for this year’s event, which also extends to Les Rambles and Passeig de Gràcia.

Jennifer says that for her, Sant Jordi starts in February each year, as she needs to plan and organise which and how many books to import for the occasion. However, the shop doesn’t notice an increase in customers until the start of April, which will be straight after Easter this year, when people start thinking about which books to give to their nearest and dearest for this special day.

If people want specific books or have a more personalised list, they will always head for the bookshop rather than the stand, which will obviously have a much more limited range of books on display aimed at the general market. The decision regarding which and how many books to have on display at the stand is not an easy one, though, and is guided as much by favourites from previous years as by this year’s anticipated bestsellers.

Popular for Sant Jordi 2018

The first of this year’s bestsellers Jennifer mentions is André Aciman’s Call Me By Your Name, which both of my interviewees acknowledge has benefited from the great success of the recently released film version. In fact, having your novel made into a successful cinematic production is one sure way of increasing sales for authors and publishers. “It’s the best advertising you can get,” Jordi points out. Police thrillers are always popular gifts for Sant Jordi, and this year will be no different, according to Jennifer, who believes the enduring success of Paula Hawkins’ 2015 novel The Girl On The Train will see it competing with Clare Mackintosh’s latest novel Let Me Lie, a follow-up to 2016’s I See You.

Trevor Noah’s Born A Crime is also expected to sell well, as is Joel Dicker’s The Baltimore Boys, especially because Spanish versions of Dicker’s work have been well received. However, Jennifer says that one of the trickier parts of her job is that it’s only a week or two before Sant Jordi that the favourites actually emerge, and it’s not always easy to get the purchasing order right. In addition, it’s sometimes also difficult to get hold of books that people want due to their being out of stock or discontinued, as was the case with the English version of You Are Not Like Other Mothers by German author Angelika Schrobsdorff, which Jennifer points out was quite hard to get English copies of here.

In other genres, Steven Pinker’s lengthy and much discussed Humanist manifesto Enlightenment Now is expected to fly off the bookshelves for Sant Jordi, as are contemporary classics, such as The Handmaid’s Tale by award-winning Canadian author Margaret Atwood, which has also benefited from being made into a popular TV series. The other genre that sees a significant increase in sales around Sant Jordi is children and teenagers’ literature, a market Jennifer says goes in trends. This year’s favourite would appear to be Jennifer Niven’s Holding Up The Universe, which has also been published in Catalan and Spanish. John Green has a new novel out, Turtles All The Way Down, and Jennifer thinks Rupi Kaur’s poetry collections Milk and Honey and The Sun and Her Flowers will also do well this year. Finally, Jordi tells me series such as Jeff Kinney’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid remain eternally popular, as do classics such as the 1962 science fantasy novel A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L’Engle.

sant jordi’s day

Picks for Sant Jordi 2018

Expected bestsellers this year:

-Call Me By Your Name. André Aciman

-Let Me Lie. Clare Mackintosh

-Enlightenment Now. Steven Pinker

-Holding Up the Universe. Jennifer Niven.

-Born a Crime. Trevor Noah

-The Handmaid’s Tale. Margaret Atwood

-Milk and Honey and The Sun and Her Flowers. Rupi Kaur

-Homo Deus and Sapiens. Yuval Noah Harari

And Jennifer’s selection:

-The Only Story. Julian Barnes

-Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda. Becky Albertalli

-Women & Power. Mary Beard

-Baltimore Boys. Joel Dicker

-The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F**ck. Mark Manson

-12 Rules for Life. Jordan Peterson

-Stay With Me. Ayobami Adebayo

-Ready Player One. Ernest Cline

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