So, this past week, I realized a life-long dream. After years of working the amateur circuit, I have become a professional bookseller. What's an amateur bookseller, you may be asking? Well, I've had a pretty fierce case of bookseller-envy going, and it wasn't at all uncommon for me to loiter in a bookstore for hours, hand-selling favorite titles to random customers, answering questions... possibly moving friends' books to more advantageous shelf positions.
I am delighted to announce that I've been hired by Bookshop West Portal, one of San Francisco's
It was kind of fun to announce this new job to friends and the world. There was a widespread cry of "You're perfect for it!" And I was tickled by the number of best-selling authors who took the time to congratulate me. I spend so much time with writers; I can't wait to see a friend show up in the shop to sign stock. And I've already started hand-selling my favorite books. Please don't tell my new bosses, but this feels a bit like being paid (albeit modestly) to do what I normally do:
- Follow the publishing industry
- Read a bunch of books
- Talk to people about them
So, yes, it's business as usual around here, but now when I read the PW Daily, I can feel noble. "This is for work," I say. Peruse reviews in the New York Times--for work. Earlier tonight I was schmoozing with a Pulitzer Prize winner and a National Book Award winner--for work. And I'm reading more than ever, which, as you know, is saying something.
Oh, can we talk gifts? I wrapped a lot of gifts this week! (This is actually pathetic. My family will attest that my gift-wrapping skills are remedial at best. So much to learn.) But the subject of gifts reminds me of the best thing I saw this week, and it happened on my very first day. It was the best omen imaginable.
Bookshop West Portal is tremendously valued by the local community. It's so incredibly obvious. Any number of customers mentioned how important it was to support their local independent bookstore as I rang them up. And there's a terrific core of super-friendly regulars. They're greeted by name, as I am in so many bookstores across the city. I was warmly welcomed by all that I met. That first day I met a customer that I'll simply refer to as "the Hungarian Gentleman." He came by to pick up a special order that included hardback copies of Wildwood and Under Wildwood by Colin Meloy (which are already out in paperback). "How many copies of these books do you think I buy?" he asked my colleague. His guess of "a dozen" was a little low. Apparently, it was more like 30 copies of each book. This lovely man, this Hungarian Gentleman, buys these beautiful books to hand out to random young people that he meets as he goes through his daily life. He'll stop and gift them to a kid on the street and go on his way.
The Hungarian Gentleman had to feed his meter. He dropped off the books in his car and came back. While he was browsing, a teenage girl came in looking for a copy of Veronica Roth's latest, Allegiant. I didn't witness this interaction, but he must have approached her. He wound up buying her copies of both Meloy books, as well as her copy of Allegiant. It was a not inconsiderable total, and he was so clearly happy to do it. This Hungarian Gentleman is a literary Santa Claus! (I'm not kidding; I've heard he sometimes takes poor booksellers out for meals. Amazing.) This man is doing everything possible to foster a love of reading in these young people, no strings attached. I didn't know people like this existed. I mean, I've been a Bookcrosser for years, but this is taking the Random Act of Literary Kindness (RALK) to a whole new level. And I get to work in a store where such people congregate.
I've only been on the job for a week. I haven't had to schlep boxes of books until my back aches. I haven't had a customer give me grief over a bad recommendation. I haven't had the slightest negative experience. I'm not an idiot. Shiny, new jobs fade, and bad days are a part of life. But, you know what? Everyone who knows me knows that I was born to be a bookseller. I already have been a bookseller. I think that this is going to be a good fit.