Ask the Expert: The Barefoot Bookseller
Our expert this month is Chrissy Ryan, 25, who left a successful career at an independent publisher to head off to the Maldives and become The Barefoot Bookseller. Armed with a wealth of books supplied by Ultimate Library to entertain, inspire and enlighten, she will spend the next six months at Soneva Fushi helping guests find the literary delights of their dreams. This month, we’ve asked her a few questions about what it really means to become The Barefoot Bookseller and leave the busy streets of London for the secluded Baa Atoll.
1. Would you mind explaining a little about what The Barefoot Bookseller is/does?
The Barefoot Bookseller is the bookseller-in-residence at Soneva Fushi, a luxury island resort in the Maldives. My job is to run the bookshop, recommending books to guests on the island, as well as organising literary events, creative experiences, and integrating books and culture into life throughout the island. My duties extend from giving bibliotheraphy sessions and creative writing classes, to hosting sunset dolphin tours and introducing films at the island’s cinema-under-the-stars, Cinema Paradiso. It’s a hard life!
2. What made you want to apply for the position of The Barefoot Bookseller?
I’d always wanted to live and work abroad, but I wanted to stay in the book industry as it’s such a joy to work amongst people who share my passion. I’d certainly never imagined that my passion for literature would take me to a luxury island in the Maldives!
3. How do you plan to bring your own flair to the position?
Books and people are my two favourite things, and being a bookseller blends both those in a really unique way. I’m always up for trying new experiences and love throwing myself into everything I do, especially when it comes to dreaming up creative ways to sell books, and connecting people with the perfect book for them. I think my energy will be something that may be new to the laidback atmosphere on the island, but I hope to channel this into the bookshop!
4. Why do you think this role is important for guests?
What other resort in the world has a Barefoot Bookshop?! It’s such a unique aspect of everyone’s stay and people comment on what a beautiful space it is, with such an interesting collection of books to buy and browse. It also ties in so well with Soneva’s values, which prioritise mindfulness, physical, and mental well-being. Books are a huge part of that mission, and having a bookshop, as well as a dedicated and experienced bookseller to recommend guests the perfect book, ensures that books, and the value they bring, are integrated across the entire island culture.
5. Is there a book/books that have helped you in your move to the Maldives?
For all the excitement and adventure of moving to the Maldives, it actually felt like quite a scary thing to do! I was completely immersed in the Elena Ferrante novels over the summer but when I found out I got the job, I saved the last two books in the quartet to read for when I need a bit of comfort on the island. The warmth and vibrancy of Ferrante’s characters, and the addictive quality of her writing bring the social workings of her small Italian community to life and I love spending time with Lenu and Lila. The series is Italy’s answer to Edna O’Brien’s The Country Girls – and just as much of a masterpiece.