This article was originally published on October 11, 2009.
My brother-in-law Ben is a quiet genius. He has a strong moral compass and a gentle soul. Ben is deep yet calm, he is wise and thoughtful, with a sense of timing and humour that can be brutally funny.
Ben is, without doubt, one of the top booksellers in North America. He listens and finds out what people like to read, and what they are interested in, before suggesting an author. He’s a great resource for those wanting to dig further into a subject or author. It’s important for Ben to know his customers by name, to know what they like to read and to be a source of tailored information to them.
I’ve watched Ben fill a summer weekend reading five or six books in sequence; his belief is that he must know a book before he can recommend it. Ben has an uncanny way of knowing what his clients will enjoy.
Ben’s store is located in downtown Toronto on the west side of Bay Street just south of Richmond. The entrance is subtle and as the door shuts behind you, the noise and bustle of Bay Street disappears and the quiet thoughtfulness of Ben McNally Books takes hold. The reclaimed wooden floors, the large but warm space with hidden nooks and cosy chairs, all add to the sense of learning and discovery offered up on his shelves.
Ben McNally Books has a broad focus. As Ben would say, they like to carry “good books” and they have a lot of beautiful hardcovers; the kind people treasure and pass along. The store is well stocked in history, biographies, and fiction and has a number of signed editions from authors Ben has worked with over the years.
Ben McNally Books also has numerous evening events with authors from around the world. Ben has made the store into a hub of culture in Toronto. It is a place where intelligent discussion and amazing intellect thrive, and you might run into Rick Mercer, David Adams Richards, Margaret Atwood, or Lisa Moore. But be warned: Once you walk in to Ben McNally Books, it is very hard to leave.