Maldives Mania: Inside the Barefoot Bookshop
Escaping with a book is one of the greatest delights of a rejuvenating jaunt away. In 2018, with this firmly in mind, Ultimate Library partnered with Soneva Resorts to bring a touch of literary luxury to the Soneva Fushi guests with a made-to-measure bookshop, catering to the needs of those seeking rest and relaxation mere metres away from the crystal-blue waters of the Indian Ocean.
As experts in their respective fields Philip Blackwell, CEO of Ultimate Library and Sonu Shivdasani, founder of Soneva Resorts, both know first-hand the impact that books can have on peoples’ travel experiences and vice versa: guests are often fascinated by the history and culture of their holiday destination, and one of the best ways to experience this is through a literary adventure.
The Barefoot Bookshop is a space full of flair, with books suited to a wide variety of readers; from history buffs to budding environmental activists – sustainability is one of the core tenets of Soneva’s business ethos – there truly is something for everyone! The selection of titles is carefully curated by Ultimate Library who develop the stock based on several aspects of the resort, the most important of which is the ‘sense of place’ category, in addition to contemporary novels and illustrated titles which are chosen for colour and variation.
Combining sustainable travel with luxury is a huge priority at Soneva Resorts, so most guests are very environmentally-minded, meaning books on the environment like Lucy Siegle’s Turning the Tide on Plastic and David Wallace Well’s The Uninhabitable Earth are popular.
Sense of place is an emotional response to one’s environment; it is the fostering of human attachment, understanding and belonging. The location-relevant fiction and nonfiction hand-chosen by Ultimate Library, provide guests with new perspectives on their locale, encouraging emotional enrichment and depth of understanding through intellectual stimulation.
The bookshop will be open during the Maldives high season, for six months of the year from November to April and captained by the Barefoot Bookseller. It is the Bookseller’s job to man the shop, providing guests with recommendations tailored to their needs, as well as ensuring that the stock reflects the specific requirements of the island and the guests who stay there.
This year, the new Barefoot Bookseller, Chrissy Ryan, has already arrived to open the shop and set up the stunning shelves. The shop is nestled between the verdant, jungle trees of the island, only a short walk away from the shores of the ocean. The driftwood bookshelves bring the natural world indoors and evoke the serenity of the nearby beach, and the reading nooks are every book-lover’s dream spot to curl up with one a lovingly-recommended title.
As well as being a running bookshop during the day, the location is also perfect as a centre for other literary activities, and between selling books and immersing herself in island life, Chrissy will be organising creative writing workshops, bibliotherapy sessions and helping people switch off with digital detox sessions.
Not only does The Barefoot Bookshop relieve the guests of the added weight of books in their luggage, but it also provides a literary locus. Given the remoteness of the resort, having a centre for guests and staff alike to come together and discuss their favourite books, or take part in a workshop is the perfect way to build community and the provide the ultimate in luxury experience.
The bookshop is open now and you can find out more about Chrissy’s journey as well as receiving updates on her experience as an islander via the Instagram page for The Barefoot Bookseller. For more information about the post and to subscribe to the mailing list, please visit the Barefoot Bookseller website.