Meet a Bookseller

Not a Bookseller

by Pam, The Bookloft's owner

I am not a bookseller. Or, at least, not exactly. I do own a bookstore, and I do sometimes work downstairs selling books, talking to customers about what they’re looking for, what they’ve read, whether they are interested in trying something new that I could recommend. All of these things are the actions and behaviors of a bookseller, but still, I am not really a bookseller. My staff at The Bookloft: they are all booksellers. A bookseller at an independent bookstore is not a sales clerk. They all have at least bachelor’s degrees; they are all extremely well read in various genres; they all can talk about books glibly and with enthusiasm and ease. My staff receives books, shelves books, pulls books, dusts books, rearranges books, and talks about books day in and day out, with each other, with customers, with other booksellers at other stores, on Goodreads, on Edelweiss, with vendors, with publisher reps. For the up to forty hours each week that they are at work, their world is books. That is what a bookseller is. I am but a dilettante who dips her toes into bookselling with admiration for those who do it every day.

I am both a bookkeeper and a keeper of books. I do all the accounting for the store. My background before I came to the Bookloft four years ago was in law and bookkeeping, business and agriculture. I have at various times bought and sold antiquarian books, because I do love books and reading, keeping some and circulating others. I’ve been known to leave books on a public bench somewhere with a note, “Read me.” Setting them free into the world rather than having my home become overwhelmed with books leaving little room for people or pets. I seem to be more strict about book accumulation than some book lovers.

I love old bindings and new cover designs; I admire the design skill and craft that goes into a well made book. I am thrilled when I find a book that is whole: its story, typography, illustrations, design all coming together to represent a unified piece of perfection in the world. That is a rarity, but so wonderful when it occurs. One example of that is the first edition of Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell (2004 Bloomsbury) with its stark white jacket and black lettering, the Baskerville font, the illustrations by Portia Rosenberg, all enhancing the wonderful story. Another example, much older, was an 1893 edition of Le Morte d’Arthur by Thomas Malory illustrated by Aubrey Beardsley. If you ever get a chance to flip through it, do. It is indeed a unified whole, illustration, type, binding, and design all enhancing the story to perfection.

So while I love books and am deeply involved now in the world of books in ways that I never was before, I am still not worthy of the title Bookseller. The Bookseller gives wholeheartedly of their passion to others and then refills their cup of enthusiasm with each new book they read. Appreciate your local booksellers! They are a rare and precious breed.

Find out more about Pam and what she likes to read over at her Staff Picks page.

Grab a Pencil & Take Note

by Linda, a Bookloft bookseller

I'm trying to focus on the positive. It's been a very strange year -- AND because you never know, BE PREPARED!

You are just one of billions of humans who are all different. We can be unkind to each other and yet we can accomplish great things together.

Treat others as you would like to be treated. Keep smiling since THAT kind of face can bring a smile to another & brighten their day. Remember to take care of yourself!

And now, get outside (where I'd rather be) to meet & greet NATURE. Our EARTH is billions of years old & has survived many challenges. Humans are one of those...

So learn about your outdoor space -- yard, park, forest, shore-- and if you really LOOK, you'll be amazed with the life around you!

Books can teach & inspire us to do more, learn more and share more with others. This can start a reaction to become a better human and lighten our stress mode as well.

There is so much to make you smile out there where nature can help us adjust to our struggles. ENJOY IT and PASS IT ON!

(Guess what books Linda likes to read?)

Find out more about Linda and what she likes to read over at her Staff Picks page.

When Social Media Killed My Soul

by Tim, a Bookloft bookseller

First a virus came for us all, from every direction. Next, the Tiger King came into my living room, from the TV. Then, my social feeds snaked out from my phone and choked my soul.

For most of the past six months, I’ve been pretty active on Instagram and other similar digital places. It was a pandemic, during lockdowns, and you could only connect with others virtually. I was laughing at jokes, participating in important social discussions, watching golden retriever puppies learn to bark, and following along with cooking videos.

But then my brain broke. The infinite scroll wouldn’t stop, even when my phone was down and I was trying to go to sleep. I would have arguments formatted in blue comment bubbles in my dreams. I would wake up in a sour mood, anxious and angry that the real human people (presumably) whom I had said something to (digitally) had replied to me (virtually) in a way that only led to further arguments (annoyingly).

For me 2020 has been a year of deep personal realization. And one of the things I realized was: I am a person whose peaceful equilibrium is inversely proportional to the amount of time I spend on social media. Even though I actually enjoy the world of social media. No, I don’t believe the digital world is a complete evil, full stop. I’m not about to side with Ned Ludd and smash a bunch of 18th century machinery. I am, however, prepared now to take drastic measures to regulate my involvement with the magical vibrating computer-phone in my pocket. (And now that I’ve seen the excellent documentary “The Social Dilemma” I have learned a bit about the actual psychology behind this phenomenon.)

Here are some of the things I’ve been spending my time on rather than the scroll of doom: making pie crusts by the dozen, to freeze for whenever I want to make a pie; picking apples from our ancient tree - before Gilly, the local bear, gets to them - to turn into cider (and pie!); making homemade butterfinger candy bars for Halloween; making homemade ice cream...OK, so I’ve mostly been practicing at being an amateur pastry chef. But I’ve also enjoyed discovering new music, rediscovering old movies, and reading anything - old or new.

Here’s to a balanced life of reclaiming social media screen time!

Review this reading list related to my recent revelations:

(And some I've simply enjoyed lately)

You Look Like a Thing and I Love You: How Artificial Intelligence Works
and Why It's Making the World a Weirder Place
 by Janelle Shane
Everything Sad Is Untrue: (a true story) by Daniel Nayeri
Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now 
by Jaron Lanier
The Sentinel: A Jack Reacher Novel by Lee Child, Andrew Child
The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance
During the Blitz
 by Erik Larson
I See Faces by Irene Schampaert

Find out more about Tim and what he likes to read over at his Staff Picks page.

Bookselling in the Time of COVID

by Julia, a Bookloft bookseller

In the past year we’ve started selling vinyl stickers. Who doesn’t love a fun sticker on their phone or coffee mug. In July I ordered these hilarious stickers of a dumpster on fire with 2020 sprawled across it. Needless to say it sold out pretty quickly, I myself bought one. (Now I need to decide whether I want it on my coffee mug or my truck) And yes, I ordered more. But that is just what 2020 feels like. Our lives have been turned upside down due to Covid. It’s an election year (please vote!) and so many current issues have had our undivided interest because we’ve been at home and paying attention. 2020 is a dumpster fire, a bad prank that has bloomed out of control. At least that’s how it feels. The only upside is I had no choice but to stay home for two months and not work (honestly it was awesome).

As awesome as two months forced “vacation” was, it also made for a big old reality check when we were allowed to re-open The Bookloft and return to work. There are so many safety guidelines we need to follow! Also, retail is a Very stressful job. Most of us already know this, but it is even more so now. We have so many wonderful customers that are so excited to be able to come in and browse for a new book. People were in need of their reading escapism and online shopping doesn’t compare. People come in excited, smiling, practically dancing, they are so happy to visit a bookstore. We are happy for them, we of all people know how good it feels to be here. We went months not able to recommend a pile of books for customers i n need of help.
We need these interactions as much as you, they are why we are here (also, bills, but we choose this over an office job).

As excited as we all are to return to even the tiniest bit of our life prior to quarantine, it is still pretty stressful. Who out there has started having bad dreams involving masks? I do. I have three people in my life that are compromised because of age or health and I’m constantly thinking about them. I have to go to work. I do not have a “work from home” job and need the income. Because I have to go to work I have to wear a mask. I do not want to, I hate it actually. In the beginning I resisted as long as my conscience let me. But I had those three people to think about, I owed it to them to be safe, so I wasn’t putting them at risk. Just like we need to give that kind of consideration to those around us wherever we go. If I had the luxury of staying home in order to avoid the inconvenience of masks and social distancing, I would. I am 100% there for that. Right now though, we need to do this. 

Things are stressful right now for everyone. I’m in a good mood on most days, but even in my good mood there is tension and it is totally due to the heightened levels of stress due to Covid-19. Even well intentioned people can walk into the store and explode over something that we ask of everyone, particularly ourselves. It’s inconvenient that we need to wear a mask and disinfect our hands for the 20 minutes we are in a store, but we also need to keep in mind that the people in those stores are also doing that all day. They are stressed too. We need to give ourselves a minute to breathe and also others. There is an end to all this, (hopefully) but only if we help each other get there.

P.S. Read books! Here is a reading list I created for our current situation

Find out more about Julia and what she likes to read over at her Staff Picks page.

Struggling to Focus? Read for Escape!

by Cheri, a Bookloft bookseller

I don’t know about you, but during this very strange time I have found my attention span to be somewhat all over the place. I am either totally sucked into watching a television show, movie, reading a book, or I can’t concentrate and my mind is racing and wandering within five seconds of trying to look at something. I DO know that the things I am gravitating toward are much more light-touch than normal. This is not my regular state of being. I am no longer as interested in taking deep dives into the philosophical or psychological right now. Rather, I am longing for escape - be it literary, tv, or even random online shopping, scrolling through pages and pages of items that I really do not need, but can’t help but look at and want to buy. Is this my new normal? I really don’t know, but I’m trying to do my best to go with the flow and take things as they come, with as much deep breathing as I can muster. In the time that I have managed to get myself focused to read, certain stories have touched me more deeply than usual, and that may also be a sign of the times. Here are a few that have helped me escape:

Home Before Dark by Riley Sager
What’s a better escape than a haunted house? I read this in one sitting on a
Saturday and I didn’t regret it.
It Cannoli Be Murder by Catherine BrunsA\
A cozy mystery is always a comfort to me. This one is great fun with an italian
chef protagonist and murder by cannoli. Super light and easy to read, this
provided a respite from the chatter of my mind.
South of the Buttonwood Tree by Heather Webber
A sweet story with southern charm and some magic.
Madame Badobedah by Sophie Dahl
Achildren’s hardcover book that I really loved! Wonderful artwork, and contains
a very great lesson about not judging a book by its cover. I highly recommend --
it brought out the child in me
Over the Woodward Wall by A. Deborah Baker
A middle reader with a lot of heart. It reminded me so much of Alice in
and also the 80’s movie Labyrinth from my childhood. A fantastic
escape with endearing characters. I look forward to the next installment.

Whatever is helping you during this time, hold onto it. I’d like to say it will all pass soon, but who really knows. I do know that books have always been good company for me and I am grateful to be spending my days as a bookseller surrounded by so many of them.

Find out more about Cheri and what she likes to read over at her Staff Picks page.

A Gentleman Bookseller at the End of the World

by Giovanni, a Bookloft bookseller

COVID-19 is a scary thing. New information about it comes out every day and life as we know it will never be the same. But being a bookseller in an unprecedented time gives me a new perspective on the role books play in our society.

For two and a half months, we were closed to the public, not even allowed to come into the store to fulfill online orders. It was understandable, as we were still learning the effects of the virus and how it spreads.

But all that downtime was spent reading. I read at least one to two books per week. And when we reopened for online ordering, we were flooded with requests for new books. Having been opened for just over a month, we still get inundated with orders and requests for books.

Books offer an escape from reality. Whether it’s the next summer beach read, a suspenseful thriller by your favorite author, or diving headfirst into a different world entirely, be it fantastical or futuristic, we find comfort in stories. They allow us to forget our troubles, the troubles of the real world, and maybe find hope or a happy ending in a good novel. Books also educate us and allow us to view the real world from a different perspective. Some of the best sellers have been about social justice and highlight the very real issues facing Black communities in our country.

As we all try to educate ourselves or find escapes into other lives or other worlds, we also need to be constantly aware and respectful of the people around us. Masks are required, as is hand sanitation, and social-distancing (which I have been practicing since 1999). Being in a new space in a new world is exciting and frustrating. We have our own space independent of other businesses, but we are also getting used to new sections, new displays, discovering new problems, and working with customers who, for the most part, are as excited as we are to be in the new space.

As always, there are challenges, old or new, due to the reality we are all living in. But again, books are our best friends at times like these, offering comfort, excitement and entertainment from our very own homes. I am grateful to have a job when so many are facing unemployment and financial challenges, and even more grateful to work somewhere that allows me to access so many worlds, lives, and perspectives. Books are escapes, education, entertainment, and above all, purely essential in times like these.

Find out more about Giovanni and what he likes to read over at his Staff Picks page.