I'm extremely excited to be one of the recipients of the James Patterson Bookseller Holiday Bonuses
. I was one of 87 folks to get one (out of 2,848 nominations), and I realize how lucky I am to be recognized in the vast, impressive landscape of booklovers working at independent stores everywhere. I wanted to take a moment to talk about how important this job is to me.
I started at Powell's in November of 1997. But only a few years before that, I was just a dude who never went to a real college, was barely interested in books as a kid, and probably thought Tennessee Williams was a baseball player. I had finally picked up the habit (the addiction!) of reading when I was 22 years old. I would choose books by the covers, their reputations in history (banned books were of particular interest), the stories of their troubled authors. I didn't know many readers when I started reading. I didn't know who to ask for recommendations.
It's funny how your trajectory as a reader can be forever determined by one book or one author. I recall particular booksellers in Spokane, Seattle, Fort Smith, Arkansas, and Portland who put books into my hands that would alter my brain and my life. In Spokane, that book was The Abortion
by Richard Brautigan. In Seattle, it was Steven Jesse Bernstein's Personal Effects
and Dennis Cooper's Closer
. In Fort Smith, it was Mary Gaitskill's Bad Behavior
. In Portland, it was Gordon Lish's Dear Mr. Capote
and Kathy Acker's Blood and Guts in High School
When I started at Powell's, I would observe how other booksellers would help customers with such kindness and intelligence. Specifically...