Meet a Bookseller
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
Wonderland 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.