Reader Profile: Todd Babiak

For every day of our Indiegogo campaign, we’ll be sharing profiles from readers and supporters of Glass Bookshop both local to the city and from across Canada. Visit our campaign page now to claim cool perks and support us in building a beautiful brick-and-mortar space in downtown Edmonton. And read on to discover why today’s featured reader is excited to one day visit Glass Bookshop!

Todd Babiak wakes up ridiculously early to work on novels or screenplays or journalism or essays, when his wife and children are still sleeping. Then he puts on a suit and works for Story Engine, a consulting company he co-founded. He’s the author of the forthcoming and highly anticipated The Empress of Idaho (Penguin Random House, 2019), and his most recent novels are Son of France and Come, Barbarians, which was a Globe and Mail book of the year and a number one bestseller. His earlier work includes The Garneau Block, which was a national bestseller, a longlisted title for the Scotiabank Giller Prize, the winner of the City of Edmonton Book Prize, and inspired the name of local literary magazine Glass BuffaloThe Book of Stanley; and Toby: A Man, which was shortlisted for the Stephen Leacock Medal and won the Alberta Book Award for Best Novel. Read his profile to learn more about his intimate relationship to reading and why he thinks Edmonton is fortunate to soon be getting a new bookshop.

How did books and the act of reading come to be meaningful to you?
I didn’t grow up in a literary household, but my mom did read Stephen King and other horror writers. I began reading it, too young, and after a while it led me in other directions. Reading helped me escape Leduc, frankly, which was a smaller and tougher, monocultural town when I was a kid. My heroes were literary heroes.

What is your relationship now to books and reading?
I am a reader, first. Then a writer. The novel is my favourite art form, and storytelling is the basis of my career and my approach to learning about people and the world. So it’s rather an intimate relationship.

Is there a book that has had significant impact on you?
When I first read The Studhorse Man by Robert Kroetsch, with the strange hero galloping on a horse over the High Level Bridge and down Jasper Avenue, having sex with a librarian in the Legislative Building, I thought: “You can do that? Write about Edmonton?”

How does literature influence your sense of community?
People who read are my people, wherever they are: curious, thoughtful, empathetic, adventurous, difficult people.

How do you find new books or writers?
Oh, from everywhere. Booksellers, friends, and media interviews. I like to browse and take chances too, just buy a book I know nothing about based on the cover and the description, the author photo.

Can you share a memorable experience you’ve had in a bookstore? What makes it stand out for you?
I used to have mad crushes on booksellers. I think I bought novels that were beyond me, intellectually or artistically, novels I knew I would not like, because someone I longed for had pulled it off the shelf and handed it to me. I felt it was bad luck to hand it back or say no.

What do you think Glass Bookshop could offer Edmonton’s community of readers and writers?
A place to be among books is always a good place, and we have too few of them. We do lack the European idea of a “writer’s house” where readers and writers can just gather and talk and argue through concerns that don’t matter to non-readers. I’m really excited about what you’re making here, and the city will be better for it. Lucky us!

Want to help make this reader’s dream for Glass Bookshop a reality? Support Glass Bookshop’s Indiegogo campaign by buying some cool perks today here:

Todd Babiak
Matthew Stepanic