Monday, June 07, 2010

So... What Kinds of Books do Booksellers Buy?

In honor of our Employee Shopping Day, I though I'd finally put this post up. A while ago, I interviewed a bunch of coworkers because of a question that I get from customers all the time: You obviously love books if you work at a bookstore– how do you not spend your whole paycheck right here? How can you hold yourself back?

I know, however, that we don't spend our whole paycheck on books. As Jason reminded me, “Yeah, for the first few weeks, when you realize you've got an employee discount, you just buy stacks and stacks. And then you realize: oh, right. Bills.” But more than that, I think booksellers are particularly picky about what books we buy. We're around books all the time, and browse a lot, and are usually pretty devoted library patrons. It seems like only the cream of the crop make the cut to come all the way home and sit on the shelf, permanently. There's only so much shelf space in a book lover's home, although I actually know of some great workarounds fellow booksellers use– storing books in a never-used oven, for example, or making piles of books into bedside or coffee tables.

So I asked people what books they absolutely have to buy. What kinds of books can you not help yourself around? What takes a book from a library list to the employee hold shelf? Is it genre, emotional attachment, physical beauty? There were a lot of answers, some that popped up repeatedly, some very unique ones. When I tried to pull them all together in one cohesive post, it was impossible. So instead, I'm going to spread 'em out over a few posts.

#1 – Self interview (Anna, in Kids)

I love to buy autographed books. Some people couldn't care less, but I love to see that mark–or inscription, even better–and know that the author held the book, touched it. In the time I've worked here I've gotten signed copies from (among many others) John Green, Lois Lowry, Jon Scieszka, and Judy Blume. (I got Forever, okay? Life-changer.) The other place where I have no self-control is with beautiful old used children's books. If it's from the 1950s or earlier, if it has line drawing illustrations, or color plates, or deckle edges, or a leather cover, or some funny outdated language in the title, it's only a matter of time before it comes home with me.

More to come...


  1. I just love knowing there are people who appreciate a deckled edge! I tried the coffee-table-out-of-books technique and it didn't work for me. Too cluttered and not level enough to set anything on. It's nice to know that I'm not the only one who has to set boundaries about what to bring home.

  2. Yeah, kind of like working in an ice cream shop. Got to draw the line somewhere, huh?

  3. My most frivolous purchase this employee shopping day was a used copy of "Pure Imagination: The Making of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" ( and it was a 95% aesthetic choice. The cover is amazing and I kind of want to frame it. My other purchases were remainders and a book for my mom.

  4. I'm sorry about linking to Amazon, but the book is out of print. Forgive me.

  5. I always end up with books only I would be interested in, like art philosophy books, or old books of maps.


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