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Photo: Kelly Hotte

Barely Bruised Book Club is a Sandy Hill bookstore to treasure

By John McDonald on February 25, 2019

Book lovers, no doubt, had conniptions when there were reports that the host of Netflix’s Tidying Up With Marie Kondo stated that they should only have 30 books. It was clarified that her actual comment was, “I now keep my collection of books to about thirty volumes at any one time.”

Shop owner, Scott MacKillop. Photo: Kelly Hotte.

While that works for her, it’s doubtless that the figure is impossible for Scott MacKillop, the owner of Sandy Hill’s The Barely Bruised Book Club (BBBC).

“I have a nice selection here. And, I have 85,000 more titles that aren’t here.”

BBBC began as a Facebook page when Scott moved from out west. “I had a store in Edmonton. I started the [Facebook] page when I moved to Ottawa with the goal of opening a physical location within a year”.

The page proved successful. BBBC quickly acquired followers and was shipping used books worldwide. “I have online customers from everywhere, really—Australia, Iran, Nunavut. And customers that followed me from when I was in Edmonton.”

The free books bookcase out front. Photo: Kelly Hotte.

Within 14 months of starting the BBBC page, Scott opened the doors to his uniquely cozy shop which offers new and used, English and French books. “I opened here on Canada Day.”

While it may not have been a primary goal, Scott has built somewhat of a community through BBBC. This was achieved through a number of his initiatives.

He offers free children’s books with an aim of fostering reading from an early age. “Why should children read screens when they can read books? This is my way of helping.

“I also have other free books outside in a bookcase. People can come and take a book. I can’t promise the best titles out there, but there have been good ones. They go quickly, but I keep filling it up.”

“I call this a book club because of the sense of community. There is no fee. There are no forms. I just want people to be able to buy and enjoy books.”

There is an Open Mic Poetry Reading evening every second Sunday. This has become almost too popular with numbers ever growing. Those attending vote for the favourite poet of the evening with the prize being a store credit.

Chukky was the evening’s winner when Apt613 visited. “There are books that I’ve been trying to find for a couple of years. I came in and they were the first books on the shelf. There is really an eclectic, diverse collection of books here. There’s mystery and intrigue packed into this space.”

For University of Ottawa student, Katie, this was her first time attending the event. “There is such a sense of community. Everyone is very respectful and truly engaged. It was nice to hear the poets and their works. I’ll be returning.”

Nawfel participated on this evening and has done previously. “You meet so many great people. It’s a place where you can feel comfortable. You’re not judged. You can read your poems no matter how well you write. It’s a great experience, and I highly recommend it.

Dean regularly comes to the Open Mic and the shop. “It’s more than unique. You feel something when you enter. It’s not a large space but Scott, a great guy by the way, makes it work”.

Scott appreciates the smiling faces and the positive comments.

The newly introduced Mind Matters evening also has developed another community. “This is for those interested in philosophy. I’m amazed at the people who have attended. They are so interesting. We started a FaceBook group following our first meeting.”

Store manager, Milo. Photo: Kelly Hotte.

He also appreciates the support he has received from the neighbourhood.

“There’s a Sandy Hill book club that gets together, and trades their books. They donated twenty boxes of books to me. It was such a wonderful gesture. I took four boxes to my neighbour—The Happy Goat Coffee Company, and filled their free books shelves.”

While these all bring Scott pride, there is one section of books that he is most pleased with.

“I’m Indigenous, and am very proud that I have two large bookcases of Indigenous books.”

“I’m Indigenous, and am very proud that I have two large bookcases of Indigenous books. I love those books. Actually, we’ll soon be starting an Indigenous reading group. It’s open to everyone. We’ll be reading Indigenous books. It’s very exciting. And I should mention that some of the artists who display and sell their works here are Indigenous.”

Scott is pleased with what has been accomplished.

“I call this a book club because of the sense of community. There is no fee. There are no forms. I just want people to be able to buy and enjoy books. I give students a 30% discount for every $10 they spend. Non-students receive a 20% discount. I have a book finding service. I can sell special books on consignment.”

Scott stops, reaches down and pets the friendly shop cat, known by all as Milo the Manager.

“It’s all about reading. Books. Not screens.”

Scott’s 3 Favourite Books:

  1. The Brothers Karamazov – The final novel by the Russian author Fyodor Dostoevsky.
  2. Slaughterhouse Five – Kurt Vonnegut’s science fiction-infused, anti-war novel.
  3. Ariel – The second book of Sylvia Plath’s poetry published.

The Barely Bruised Book Club is at 330 Wilbrod St. See Facebook for opening hours, event listings and other information.