Sir Tim Waterstone on Building a Bookselling Empire

Sir Tim Waterstone revolutionized bookselling in Britain and changed the country’s cultural landscape. He also wrote a memoir, called The Face Pressed Against a Window (Atlantic, 2019). We met at The Garrick Club in London to talk about the book, and about how he accomplished what he accomplished.  Topics covered in our conversation include Tim’s troubled relationship with his father, his eight children, the creative strategy behind growing the Waterstones empire (starting in 1982); an epiphany in Cambridge’s Heffers Bookshop; Waterstones’ “happy” family; W.H. Smith, James Daunt, author support, a combative attitude; offering a huge range of titles for sale and staying open longer hours; Miss Santoro’s bookshop in Crowborough; seeing a market and making accessible an unprecedented selection of literature; the brilliance of the John Sandoe Bookshop in Chelsea; the “perfect stock, perfect staff, perfect control” mantra, bookstores as literary festivals, and the importance of book sales per square foot. 

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