Monthly Archives: November 2007

Welcome Reminders of Why We Do What We Do

Alison Morris - November 9, 2007

Fall is always a painfully hectic time of year for we booksellers—the time when I find myself feeling the most run-down, the most frazzled, and the most in need of a vacation, though there’s generally none in sight until January! Perhaps that’s why I was so grateful to read some of my colleagues’ comments today on what booksellers love about bookselling. Their remarks appear in the current issue of "Bookselling This Week."

Here are the quotes that resonated with me the most:

"I love to see people’s faces when they talk about their favorite book."

"I love my sales reps."

"I love that part of my job is to charm people so that they really like coming here."

"I love that talking incessantly—one of my traits—is actually a job skill."

"I love being one of the places in town people know they can come for good conversation."

"I love being able to introduce people to authors that may not be new, but are new to the customer."

"I love the look of surprise when someone says ‘You wouldn’t happen to have X, would you?’ and I have it! My favorite was when a snotty Boston woman (obviously thinking a Montana bookstore wouldn’t have anything higher-brow than Spider-Man) asked if I had heard of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, and I asked whether she’d prefer the Fitzgerald translation or the Heath-Stubbs translation—I stock both. The look on her face was priceless."

"I love the compliments we get on our selection. I suppose most folks expect a small bookstore in a small town to just stock bestsellers and some local stuff—they don’t realize how indie stores show our personalities and how many hours we spend analyzing, reading, researching, exploring, and comparing notes with other booksellers to carefully hand-craft the stock in our stores."

"Probably the most unexpected thing I love about bookselling is BOOKSELLERS! The way booksellers so openly share every good idea—as well as great book recommendations!—is a joy. Booksellers as a whole are the most generous spirits and the finest citizens and friends I can imagine."

"I absolutely love when someone comes back in to thank me for a recommendation."

"A teenage girl was in the other day, buying books with her sister, and commented on how much she loves the smell of books. She said, ‘When I’m old and crippled, I’m going to come in here and just sit and breathe.’ I wanted to run around the counter and give her a giant hug!"

What do YOU love about YOUR job (as a bookseller, a publisher, a librarian, a writer, a reader…)? Give us all warm fuzzies—share your thoughts in the comments field! Booksellers, please also post your remarks on the ABA Bookseller-to-Bookseller forum thread where the above comments originally appeared.

Teenage Sidekick Says Spud No Small Potatoes

Alison Morris - November 7, 2007

I swear there’s no conspiring that takes place between we PW bloggers, but you wouldn’t know it this week! Today I discovered that The Book Maven (a.k.a. Bethanne Patrick) had beaten me to the punch when she posted a review of the same book my teenage sidekick, Katrina Van Amsterdam, is currently raving about. Serendipity! See Katrina’s remarks below.

by John van de Ruit (Razorbill, October 2007)

The year 1990: my birth, the end of apartheid, and the setting of the novel Spud by John van de Ruit. The boy Spud: actually named Johnny Milton, 13 years old, and a first-year student at a South African all-boys boarding school. The story of Spud’s first year at boarding school: brilliant, comical, and heartwarming. Van de Ruit puts a new spin on the classic tale of growing up as Spud experiences new friends, powerful ideas, and first loves. As we read Spud’s daily diary entries, we learn to love him and the wildly amusing group of teenage boys with whom he lives. Pick up this book, THEN you won’t miss out on a fantastic read, one that will both enlighten and entertain you. 

Mo’ Love for MO’s Main Street Books

Alison Morris - November 2, 2007

Greetings from Lincoln, Nebraska, where Gareth and I are paying a brief visit to my nonagenarian grandparents. Before coming here we spent a short time in Missouri, visiting my best friend, her husband and their two-and-a-half-year-old, and stumbling upon an independent bookstore in the historic city of Saint Charles, the second oldest city west of the Mississippi.

Main Street Books, formerly housed in a small school building, now occupies a cozy two-story brick space on a wonderfully preserved/restored Victorian street. I enjoyed browsing the store’s shelves, admiring their wonderful space, taking note of their unique book sections (e. g. Pioneering Women!) and talking with knowledgeable bookseller Betty Barro. But the thing that made me especially keen to feature this store was their clever use of one particular space — the kitchen in what was once an upstairs apartment. Rather than pulling out the cabinets and appliances as most stores would do, Main Street Books has left them in place and merchandised around, in or on them, creating a clever and unusual retail display space that works especially well for featuring (among other things) cookbooks! I took photos so you could see it for yourselves.

Below is a shot of the Main Street Books storefront, which faces a brick street that will soon be crawling with holiday carolers, Victorian Santas, and tourists galore. (The whole of Main Street gets into the holiday spirit during the annual "Christmas Traditions" celebration.)

As you enter the store and look toward the counter, your eye travels across two levels and up to the high, high ceilings that make the first floor seem bright and airy. I love that there’s so much to see but it doesn’t look cluttered. See the six steps on the right-hand side? You travel up those to get to the children’s section. To the left of what you see below is a steep wooden staircase that leads to the second floor.

Pictured below is the children’s section (board books, picture books, and non-fiction) on the raised level at the back of the first floor. The books’ bright colors stand out nicely against the exposed brick walls.

I love the idea of displaying books in the top lid of an old trunk, like the one in the photo below. What’s implied here is that each of these dinosaur books is a treasure!

It’s nice to see so many face-outs in the children’s non-fiction section:

The photo below gives me window envy. This is one was taken from the children’s section, looking toward the front of the store. Notice the staircase on the right.

Up the stairs we go, and head straight into the middle-grade section, where bean bag chairs offer shorter readers a place to relax:

If you turn your back on the middle-grade section and cut a bit to the left, you wind up with this view of the second floor, looking out at the street:

Turn your back to the street-facing view captured above, and voila! The store kitchen! Note the Christmas books that have been shelved (a bit haphazardly, as they’re probably coming in faster than they can be displayed!) in the kitchen cabinets. And, yes, that’s a stove on the far left. (There’s a refrigerator there too, but it didn’t fit within the frame of this photo.)

On the right, cookbooks:

In the center of the kitchen (and visible from the middle-grade section) is a nice face-out display of young adult books:

Heading back downstairs:

And here’s a nice parting shot of the front of the store, taken while peering over the stairway railing and waving goodbye to Betty, at the front counter below:

Thanks, Main Street Books, for a great visit and some creative inspiration!