I’ve been thinking a lot about the idea of what it means to be a book-seller.
I’ve always been drawn to books about storytelling and reading, and I love to read and have my books read to me.
I’m a bookworm.
And I’ve learned that I don’t need to be afraid to put my mind to work.
But what if the very thing that makes me a bookseller isn’t the stories, the poems, the books, but the art of reading them?
What if there’s something more at play than the stories?
What, exactly, is it that makes us booksellers?
I don’t think I know the answer yet.
I’ve tried to put this question in the context of my own work, and how I’ve experienced bookselling over the past two years.
Recently, I came across a collection of essays by two of the booksells who made up the book The Book of Things: Sara Gail Rothery and Scott Sorensen.
The title refers to the title of the collection: The Book Of Things: Stories From the Underground Library.
Rothery, an artist and educator who lives in Brooklyn, and Sorenesen, a writer, artist, and educator, share a passion for books, both fiction and nonfiction, that is rooted in their own personal experiences with what they see as the perils of the business of bookselling.
In the essay, the two discuss their first book, the story of a man who goes to his grandmother’s house and discovers a trove of treasure—books.
“I found this book at the very bottom of a drawer,” Sorene writes.
“It was buried in the kitchen.
I had never been there before.
My grandmother was dead.
I found this at the bottom of my grandmother’s kitchen drawer.
It was buried up to my knees in a box.”
The story of this particular book, The Story of a Man, is, Soren writes, “one of the things I feel most grateful for.”
Roldy, on the other hand, takes a different tack.
“[I]n the end of the day, I don [feel] grateful for anything.
It’s a way of being alive.”
She tells me that she wants to keep the books buried up, “just like the treasure we found.”
She also describes the books as “not a book, but a place to live in,” “a place to be.”
I asked Roldy what makes her bookshop different from other bookstores.
She told me that it is, “not the books but the space, the experience of what a book is.”
What makes it so different?
“The space is really, really important,” Roldys told me.
“That is the difference.
A bookshop is a place where you can sit, listen, read, and just go.
It is a space where you feel like you’re in another place.”
Roreys and Sosten say that their shop is not just about the books—it is also about the people who are there.
Sorensens, for example, is a writer.
“There is an incredible sense of community in bookstores,” he told me in an interview.
“People come and go.
You can walk the store and meet with other people who share your interests, and you can have a conversation.
It feels like a real community.”
There are also other things at play, Sostens tells me, such as the fact that “books are not the thing that sells them.”
“There’s a reason that a lot of booksellings are closed,” he said.
“You’re not really sold, you’re sold by a bookshop.
The fact that you’re there is the part that makes it a book shop.”
When I ask him what that means, he tells me: “It’s a book where you don’t sell a book.
It sells the experience.
It doesn’t make you sell a thing.
You’re there, you read it, you listen to it, and it’s a story.”
In Rotherys’ case, she says, “I think bookstores are places where people have something to talk about.
We’re talking about things, we’re talking to people.
It gives you a sense of connection.
There’s a sense that you know someone who is in a position of power and influence, or a person who is the subject of an issue.”
Sorin Orenstein, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, told me recently that he’s always loved books.
He’s also, he says, always wanted to write about them.
“I am a big fan of books,” he explained.
“But I always felt like a