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Bookseller Q&A: Bison Books

Aimee Peake, Bison Books

Aimee Peake, owner of Bison Books

We recently caught up with Aimee Peake, owner of Bison Books in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.  Aimee told us all about her experience as a rare and collectible bookseller, from the oddest thing she’s found inside a book (you’ll never guess) to the literary treasure she covets most.

AbeBooks: How did you become a bookseller?

Aimee: Twenty years ago last fall, I was 19 and taking Philosophy at University. Out for coffee with friends one evening, I saw a “Help Wanted” sign in the window of the adjacent used bookstore, so I went in the next morning armed with my resumé and idealism. I’d happened upon one of Canada’s well-respected antiquarian bookstores, Greenfield Books. In my first year there, I vividly remember moving the shop to a new location, painting and assembling bookcases, and hauling countless loads of books. Trial by fire! I worked there on and off for years, inching along in my apprenticeship as I worked on my degree and came and went from the city. In 2001, the proprietor offered me the management position at the new shop he was about to open: Bison Books. I had my run of the place! I enjoyed the independence and responsibility and wanted more of both, so I became a partner in the business in 2007 and assumed sole proprietorship in 2010.

AbeBooks: What do you love most about selling books?

Aimee: I love the books! Also the customers, and the daily challenge of running my own business. I love the unending possibility of discovery – of anything from a book of poems I know will garner a smile from a particular customer, up to a breathtakingly-illustrated antiquarian treasure to enrich the life of its next owner. I love that every day, I feel a sense of community as customers turn into friends. I love the characters who are attracted to bookstores, and I love that I am contributing to the maintenance of history and literacy by stewarding my books through this era. I have been taking forays into Collections Development with a few clients, and I love having the opportunity to follow them into their niche, help them discover the treasures they covet, and sharing in the excitement when we peel open the packaging on their newest acquisitions!

AbeBooks: What is the most prized item in your inventory? Why?

Aimee: My “pet” book-of-the-moment from my inventory is an 1868 Hachette copy of Fables de la Fontaine: a tall, handsome leather-bound book filled with classic but whimsical stories, profusely illustrated with the engravings of the incomparable Gustav Doré. That said, I have hand-picked every single book in my inventory because I deemed it worthy of redemption, so I love them all.

Bison Books, Winnipeg, Manitoba

It’s a booklover’s paradise inside Bison Books.

AbeBooks: What’s the one book you covet most? Why?

Aimee: I am not very purpose-driven in my acquisitions. I like it when a book finds me serendipitously. But, if my hand was held to fire I would have to admit that for years I have longed to own a copy of the Nonesuch Press turquoise vellum Herodotus. I first handled and fell in love with it years ago during my apprenticeship, and again recently missed the opportunity to acquire a copy, which I regret deeply, price tag notwithstanding. One day!

AbeBooks: What’s the oddest thing you’ve found in a book?

Aimee: A furry animal tail. No kidding. From something smaller than a cat…. maybe a ferret. I find it so perplexing that I cannot consider it logically.

AbeBooks: What’s your most memorable moment as a bookseller?

Aimee: I recently exhibited at my first ILAB-affiliated book fair: the ABAC’s Toronto Antiquarian Book Fair. It was truly an honour to be in the company of so many beautiful books and esteemed colleagues, and such a joy for me to swim around a larger pond for a few days, meeting and learning from so many kindred people, and enjoying the company of more fascinating and consequential books than I had ever before found myself amongst.

AbeBooks: And of course, what’s your favourite book?

Aimee: When I was a kid, I refused to pick a favourite toy for fear of hurting the others’ feelings. I remain egalitarian in my affections, to a fault (it could also be called “scattered” ;) ). I casually collect nice editions of favourite books, unusual things that catch my eye, and beautiful editions of the classics. My favourite authors include Hemingway, David Foster Wallace, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Zadie Smith, Dostoyevsky, Roald Dahl, Cervantes, and L M Montgomery, to name a few, but I also love art/illustrated books, fine bindings, philosophy, history, biography… see? Scattered.

Bison Books, Winnipeg Manitoba

The perfect escape from Winnipeg’s cold winters!

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