Diary of a Bookseller

What a Bookseller *Really* Does

Diary of a Bookseller, Day 1

When people find out I work at a bookstore, invariably one of their first reactions is “I wish I could read at work!” They are often shocked to find that I do not have any spare time at work for reading. I’m working. My friend Amanda who works at a call center has way more time to read than I do. So below, I thought it would be fun to share my bookstore life with you!

My Role: Manager of a Local Independent Bookstore

As the manager of an indie bookstore, the Towne Book Center & Wine Bar in Collegeville, Pennsylvania, about a 45 minute drive northwest out of Philadelphia, I wear many different hats and am first and foremost a bookseller and that will be my focus this week!

Bookselling

I am the sort of reader who really doesn’t like asking for or taking other people’s recommendations. I read off the wall sort of stuff and, not to be arrogant or anything, but typically have read the big series before they blew up, especially when it comes to young adult works. So when I took my job, I was shocked to discover that I’m in the minority – most people like recommendations and they come into our store because they like ours in particular. As someone who has never had a problem dolling out recommendations (just ask my sister!), I enjoy curating our staff pick selection, writing blurbs (mini-reviews) of them, and sharing them with other people. I tend to read across a lot of genres, so I usually have a pretty good repertoire in my head to recommend.

Shelving

All booksellers must know the alphabet backwards and forwards and we are expected to know at the drop of the hat if we have a book on the shelf at any given time – shelving (or receiving) is the best way to become familiar with the store’s inventory. However, there are over 10,000 titles on our shelves, and yet it never fails to surprise me when people are surprised that I don’t know exactly where an obscure title is or when they find out that I haven’t read every book on the shelf.

Displays

Being an independent bookstore means we get to create all of our own displays! Yay! We have 35 different displays in the store and we change them. Monthly. That means we have to come up with 420 unique displays every year. Sure some are recycled from year to year, but we usually brainstorm all new displays every month, every year. It’s fun, but sometimes you get burnt out and wish you had someone else telling you what to put out. Please consider this an open invite – if you have an idea, let me know! We come up with them all together as a staff each month and the publishers will occasionally offer ideas, but we can always use more!

Social Media

It’s the 21st century – bookstores that don’t have active social media accounts are losing out. The woman who runs our social media account relies on all of us to help come up with ideas for it and it’s so much fun. Last week I did my first “bookface” post on our store Instagram, the same picture used for my review of Girl Logic by Iliza Shlesinger and it’s now our top post, as well as my top post on my Celebration of Books account.

Next Week: Author Events!

 

Bookish Tuesday

Books to Finally Finish This Year

Now that I am finally in the mood to read fiction again there are a few books that I’ve made decent progress with in the last two years that I will hopefully now finally finish! 

1. Beartown by Fredrik Backman

Reason #1 for wanting to read it: It is a story about ice hockey! No one has written a decent fictional ice hockey story that is still in print – I spent years searching. #2, the world has been raving about Backman for a few years now and I’ve very much wanted to give him a read.
Book format: Advanced Reader Copy
Length of time since started book: 2 years.

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2. Nevernight by Jay Kristoff

I bought the hardcover for this book right when it came out as I was hoping for a good book to break my Sarah J. Maas hangover.
Book format: 1st Edition Hardcover
Length of time since started book: 2.5 years

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3. The Half-Drowned King by Linnea Hartsuyker

A tale of Viking adventure? That came out right as I was really starting to hit my stride with my own Viking adventure that I’ve been working on now for 6 years? Sign me up!
Book Format: Advanced Reader Copy
Length of Time Since Started Book: 1.75 years

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4. Jackaby by William Ritter

Touted as a combination of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Sherlock Holmes, I was enthralled immediately – a case of I put it down on day and couldn’t remember where when I was ready to pick it back up.
Book Format: Paperback
Length of Time Since Started Book: 3 years

jackaby

5. And After the Fire by Lauren Belfer

On of my first ARCs, a mix of historical fiction and contemporary, And After the Fire is the dual narrative of two Jewish women tied together by a piece of music by J. S. Bach. The author is local to the area and the writing is beautiful – I took it on a trip and misplaced it upon my return and upon it’s rediscovery, I didn’t feel like reading fiction anymore.
Book Format: Advanced Reader Copy
Length of Time Since Started Book: 3 years

and after the fire

Essays, Non-Fiction, Psychology

Girl Logic by Iliza Shlesinger

Self-Help January continues! This book originally came out in November 2017 and I still have an advance reader copy… I’ve been sitting on it for almost 2 years and decided now was finally the time to read it. I love Iliza, so much so that I decided to use her book for my first “bookface” picture!

Synopsis

From the Back Cover:
Have you ever been pissed because you’re not pretty enough, and then gotten even more pissed that someone didn’t find you as pretty as you think you are? Have you ever obsessed over the size of your thighs while eating dessert, all the while saying you’ll work out extra tomorrow? Or spent endless hours wondering why you have to bear the brunt of other people’s insecurities? I mean, after all, I’m pretty great. Why cope with insecurities I don’t already have?

That last one’s just me? All right, then.

But if the rest sounds familiar, you are experiencing girl Logic: a characteristically female way of thinking that appears contradictory and circuitous but is actually a complicated and highly evolved way of looking at the world. You end up considering every repercussion of every choice (about dating, career, clothes, lunch) before making a move toward what you really want. And why do we attempt these mental hurdles? Well, that’s what this book is all about.

The fact is, whether you’re obsessing over his last text or the most important meeting of your career, your Girl Logic serves a purpose: It helps push you, question what you want, and clarify what will make you a happier, better person. Girl Logic can be every confident woman’s secret weapon, and this book shows you how to wield it.

Review

Last week I wrote about what I call “Self-Help January” and my doubts about how helpful self-help books written by middle class female white millennials can be. And I came away without a clear answer to my question. And now I’m back with another white female middle class (elder) millennial written self-help book. As this is my primary demographic, it is the subset I am most drawn to for self-help, but I also want to find books to review and recommend that are applicable to those outside this narrow subset as well. And Iliza, how I love you, seems a bit more helpful than last week’s Adulting.

If you haven’t seen or heard of Iliza, allow me to introduce her to you. She is a stand-up comic (but so much more!) and she won Last Comic Standing – the youngest and first woman to ever do so. She has a handful of Netflix specials, two (short-lived) television shows, Forever 31 on ABC and Truth and Iliza on Freeform. Her most recent Netflix special, Elder Millennial, is her best thus far.

Her honest and confident approach to life make her a role model for all young women, as well as her peers. And she freely admits that she doesn’t have everything sorted out – that her life is still a work in progress and her success is not a measuring stick for others’. The topics she covers in Girl Logic stem from the female-centered topics of her stand-up and focuses on three primary relationships: the relationship with have with ourselves, with other women, and with men.

The relationship with men section entertained me, but as someone who’s been in a relationship for the entirety of my twenties, I didn’t find much to relate to there but I know a lot of my friends who have also read Girl Logic found her advice here to be most helpful. For me, I have had a crappy on-off relationship with my body it feels like. I hate it, I love it, I’ve starved it, coddled it, over-fed it, under-exercised it, etc. It is always helpful to hear about other women’s similar struggles, if only for a reminder that it’s something we all do and our inner-monologue (aka Girl Logic) is both helpful and harmful in this relationship.

Iliza’s last point starts with a bit of an apology in regards to her previous acts – acts where she hasn’t always been as kind to other women as she would like. And that particular section is tremendously helpful. Women should support other women, but not blindly follow them just because they are women. But lead with kindness and respect – that’s really all that matters. You don’t have to be friends, but with mutual kindness and respect, life will be a lot happier all around.

Rating: 7 out of 10 stars

Edition: Paperback • $15.99 • 9781602863347 • 256 pages • first published November 2017, this edition published November 2018 by Hachette Books • average Goodreads rating 3.90 out of 5 • read January 2019

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Non-Fiction, Psychology

Adulting (Updated Edition) by Kelly Williams Brown

I’ve started referring to January as Self-Help Month. I know it’s really in the summer, or something like that, but if working in a books store for the last 4 Januarys has taught me only one thing, it’s that the best selling section of the store this month is Psychology/Self-Help.

Synopsis

From the back cover:
“Adult” isn’t a noun; it’s a verb. Just because you don’t feel like an adult doesn’t mean you can’t fake it ’til you make it. ADULTING, based on the blog that started a movement, makes the scary, confusing “real world” approachable, manageable – and even conquerable. This guide will help you to navigate the stormy Sea of Adulthood so that you may find safe harbor in Not Running Out of Toilet Paper Bay. Along the way you will learn:

  • How to be a better person in today’s often-crummy world – It involves the intersection of NPR and hair-straightening.
  • What to check when renting a new apartment – Not just the nearby bars, but the faucets and stove, among other things.
  • How to avoid hooking up with anyone in your office – Imagine your coworkers having plastic, featureless doll crotches. It helps.

From breaking up with frenemies to fixing your toilet, this comprehensive handbook is the answer for aspiring grown-ups of all ages.

Review

First me, then the book. I’m a millennial. A stereotypical, I suck at adulting, type of millennial. On my next birthday I’ll be the big 3-0 and while my goals for the 25 year mark pretty much went ignored, there are some aspects of my life I hope to have sorted out by 30. Some aspects of my life may make me seem like more of an adult in most people’s eyes (full time job, married, self-sufficient, school loans paid off, etc), I still feel like a hopeless failure when it comes to most measures of adulthood success.

I have a great job, but it’s not what I went to college for, it’s not even what I went back to college for. I should be a lawyer or teacher if I were putting my degrees to use. I’m now frequently mistaken as an English major and that bothers me for some reason. I struggle to appropriately handle awkwardness, I can be a right terrible friend at times because I fail to communicate effectively, and, while my coworkers (and mom) tell me I’ve matured a great deal in the last few years, I just don’t feel like an adult.

I was reading an article a few days ago, I wish I remembered where, but it mentioned that the new threshold for finally “feeling like an adult” for millennials has been set at “having your own kids.” Once you are a parent, you are officially an adult. It isn’t a steadfast threshold, but one gleaned from conversations and interviews with members of my generation. And I would say, I agree. Whether or not I’ll be having kids is still in the air, but if I don’t, will I ever feel like an adult?

Now the book. I’m here seeking advice from one of my peers about adulthood. Which is fair. I probably wouldn’t listen to an old rich white dude mansplain being an adult, which, he probably wouldn’t actually do, but instead tell me to stop whining and suck it up. But Kelly I can relate to. Her unique white female millennial problems are my white female millennial problems. Which is problematic.

This book is great for me. And other suburban-middle-class-raised millennial women. While there is a tremendous amount of helpful (and some less than helpful) general information in Adulting, ranging from relationships with other people to relationships with your houseplants, there’s an inherent bias that I’ve come to find exists in most of the self-help books that I’ve read. I pick up the ones that I do because either a, they’re funny, or b, the girl on the cover looks a bit like me.

Which leads me to my biggest theoretical question, is the pop-psychology style of self-improvement a luxury of the privileged? I’ve taken stock of the customers at the bookstore this past holiday season who have been asking for Girl Wash Your Face, the bestseller from Rachel Hollis, and I have discovered that they are mostly middle-aged, white, stay-at-home moms.

I’m not entirely sure of the answer to my question, but if you are really seeking to make a great change in your life, one that will require actual effort and perseverance and will have an outstandingly positive impact on your life, skip this book. If you’re a middle-class millennial woman who really just needs someone to tell her how to clean her kitchen like me, go for it. Knock yourself out. There’s some helpful bits.

Rating: 7 out of 10 stars

Edition: Paperback • $15.99 • 9781538729137 • 352 pages • originally published May 2013, updated and published March 2018 by Grand Central Life & Style • average Goodreads rating 3.74 out of 5 • read January 2019

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Essays, Non-Fiction, Sociology

All the Single Ladies by Rebecca Traister

Continuing on my feminist/sociology book kick, I finally read (well listened to) a book by Rebecca Traister.

Synopsis

From the back cover:
Today, only around 20 percent of Americans between the ages of eighteen and twenty-nine are wed, compared to the nearly 60 percent in 1960. Traister set out to investigate this trend at the intersection of class, race, and sexual orientation, supplementing facts with vivid anecdotes from fascinating contemporary and historical figures. This exhaustively researched and brilliantly balanced account traces the history of unmarried women in America who, through social, political, and economic means, have radically shaped our nation into the twenty-first century – and beyond.

Review

I was, admittedly, afraid of this book a little bit. As a twentysomething woman somewhat recently married, I fretted for a few months if I would find the subject matter discussed relatable. So I did what I should have done in the first place and Google Rebecca and found out she’s married so I could be reasonably well assured than All the Single Ladies wouldn’t be marriage-shaming. Which I realize is a weird thing to fear, but after a conversation I had with a few customers, seemed like a viable fear.

Two customers at the bookstore, one a new mother, the other the mother of a high school senior, told me they had been shamed by working moms for being highly educated women who chose to fulfill the traditional maternal role to stay home with their kids. And I realized that is something I fear from the feminist movement – being shamed for partaking in traditions such as marriage and motherhood.

All the Single Ladies is, I found, at its heart, all about choice. Choice in determining your own path and your own future as a women. For what seems like eons, women had no agency, and now we do. We have choices and opportunities. And that is the basis for Rebecca’s book – how the modern 21st century woman utilizes her decision making and choices to change and influence society and the world around her. For that, it is a spectacular read and a masterful blend of history, interviews, research, and social commentary.

Rating: 8 out of 10

Edition: Paperback • $17.00 • 9781476716572 • 368 pages • originally published March 2016, this edition published October 2016 by Simon & Schuster • average Goodreads rating 4.05 out of 5 • read November 2018

Essays, Non-Fiction, Psychology

The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff

I have long been intrigued by The Tao of Pooh and decided the holiday season was a good time to read it to try to keep myself settled and focused.

Synopsis

The how of Pooh? The Tao of who? The Tao of Pooh! … in which it is revealed that one of the world’s great Taoist masters isn’t Chinese… or a venerable philosopher… but is in fact none other than that effortlessly calm, still, reflective bear, A. A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh! While Eeyore frets, and Piglet hesitates, and Rabbit calculates, and Owl pontificates, Pooh just is. And that’s a clue to the secret wisdom of the Taoists.

Review

I was a Winnie the Pooh kid. I grew up having the stories read to me, had stuffed animals of all the characters, and developed a particular fondness for Eeyore (the Eeyore pictures is my winter ice skating Eeyore and I have many more!). I was thrilled that all of my favorite friends from the Hundred-Acre Wood make and appearance in The Tao of Pooh.

Told in a series of short vignettes, written as though the author, Benjamin Hoff, has walked into the Wood to have a conversation with our beloved friends, The Tao of Pooh offers a glimpse not into mindfulness, as many popular books today do, but simply the art and way of just being. Living and thinking without over thinking or dwelling on how the world works. While it is important to understand the world around us, sometimes we need to let the minutiae of everyday life go and be more like Pooh.

A beautiful little gift book, it is worth a read for anyone who is feeling stressed about the little things in life and could use a bit of peace and sound mind. I would recommend The Tao of Pooh over Peace is Every Step.

Rating: 7 out of 10 stars

Edition: Paperback • $15.00 • 9780140067477 • 176 pages • first published April 1982, this edition published July 1983 by Penguin Books • average Goodreads rating 4.02 out of 5 • read in December 2018

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