Inside Flying Books, the travelling bookstore that finally found a permanent home

Inside Flying Books, the travelling bookstore that finally found a permanent home

How Martha Sharpe built a single-shelf operation into a literary fiefdom

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Back in 2015, Martha Sharpe’s portable bookstore started as a selection of 10 carefully curated titles migrating around town for varying amounts of time—a shelf resided in the Gladstone for four years; another spent a number of months at Peter Pan Bistro. Flying Books was a hit.

Over the next several years, it grew from a mobile bookstore-within-a-store into a publishing house and writing school. Last December, Sharpe signed a lease on College Street, finally consolidating her literary fiefdom in a Little Italy storefront and ending Flying Books’ nomadic years. She refreshed the space, formerly Paintlounge, with bright-white walls, and the rotating art selection (curated by Sagan MacIsaac) gives it a gallery feel. Although the decor is mostly minimalist, the children’s nook is enlivened with a photo mural of Amelia Earhart, a nod to the store’s logo.

For those who crave structure, the shop is organized partly by genre, including fiction and non-fiction releases. But the two largest displays are divided by publisher type: indie and big presses. “We don’t have separate, dedicated sections, so you’re not going to walk in here and find the how-to space,” says Sharpe. “But you could very well find a how-to book.”

Martha Sharpe (right) inside Flying Books, her formerly mobile indie bookstore

Bibliophiles trust Sharpe’s picks implicitly. A former House of Anansi publisher and Simon and Schuster Canada editorial director, she is known for having worked with CanLit royalty (Margaret Atwood, Michael Ondaatje) and nurtured burgeoning talents (Sheila Heti, Michael Winter).

Capitalizing on that trust, Sharpe offers custom book flights. Customers provide the shop with authors and genres that appeal to them and choose the frequency and number of books they’d like to receive. Flying Books then sends a curated selection of rave-worthy reads.

784 College St., 416-532-8552,

House-published titles include Good Girl by Anna Fitzpatrick and Happy Hour by Marlowe Granados