When a bookshop makes a magazine

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by Steve Watson in May 2024
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Last week I travelled down to Balham in South London to meet up with Tom Rowley, who runs the Backstory bookshop. He was a journalist for The Telegraph and The Economist, which he describes as his dream job, but when the pandemic knocked everything sideways he decided it was time to reassess and follow his other dream of running a bookshop. As he puts it, though, he felt the pull of ink in his veins, and started publishing Backstory magazine, which allows him to dig into the stories behind the stories in the books that he loves, reflecting on the experience of reading and writing.

He’s very open about the fact that the magazine exists as a way for him to scratch a creative itch, but these days Backstory has travelled far beyond Balham, with distribution in Waterstones and Barnes & Noble, as well as in other small, independent bookshops. It was lovely meeting him and hearing his abundant enthusiasm for what he does, so I hope you’ll enjoy this conversation with Tom. (Also, listen carefully and you’ll hear Northern Line trains rumbling away in the background every now and then – we spoke in the basement office below the shop, which I suppose must be fairly close to the Underground lines, and it made for a lovely, cosy accompaniment to our chat.)

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