How would you describe your job?
I have the distinct pleasure of functioning as a conduit between authors and readers. When we write a recommendation, give a book prominence on display, or host one of our many events, we are in direct conversation with two sides of a magical equation. (All while combating the encroaching threat of sentient dust monsters.)
Where are you originally from?
I hail from the Buckeye side of the Ohio-Michigan border, spitting distance from Lake Erie.
What did you do before you came to Powell’s?
Edward McKay Used Books and More in Greensboro, North Carolina, took me in and gave me my calling. Go Grasshoppers.
What is the best part of your job?
As booksellers we are tasked with taking all those wonderful moments we have experienced in bookstores ourselves and distilling them into personalized journeys of discovery for the variety of readers that visit us every day. Having the opportunity to be a tribune of the curious and servant to the written word is a constant reward; being able to meet and interact with a slew of intellectually insatiable weirdos is just a bonus.
Recommend a book or author you think everyone should read.
I have an inkling I'm not the only Breece D'J Pancake
devotee among Powell's staff. The departed West Virginian has been heralded by luminaries from Kurt Vonnegut
to Chuck Palahniuk
on the strength of a mere sliver of raw, ashen work. As his champions continue to earnestly press these stories into the hands of readers, so too will his legend rightly grow.
Last book you loved:
Max Porter's Grief Is the Thing With Feathers
is a slim, scraggly sheaf of enormous empathy.
Do you collect any particular types of book?
We're blessed with access to so much of the latest and the greatest, the bright and the shiny, but it's those rare artifacts that make me go googly-eyed. These require patience and persistence, though thankfully not always a high level of financial investment.
A few of my most prized acquisitions include Don Delillo's pseudonymous 1980 hockey farce
, a gorgeous copy of Marian Engel's novel Bear
, and a first edition of Terry Southern's Candy
found at the wonderful West Side Book Shop in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
What’s your biggest literary pet peeve?
The sometimes insular nature of American publishing can lead to a preponderance of novels set in New York City. As such, this can feel a bit like a literary safety blanket that comes prepackaged with a well-established lexicon and comfortably familiar reference points, neither of which make for very interesting reading.
It's a heck of a town, I get it. I'm just more liable to gravitate toward compelling work set in such comparatively unsung American hamlets as Terre Haute or Duluth or Flagstaff or Wilkes-Barre or [INSERT YOUR NON-NYC CITY HERE].
Do you have any odd reading habits or book rituals?
I'll admit it, I'll admit it. My preferred literary form is the oft-maligned short story. It pains me to hear even the most enlightened of readers reflexively state that they don't bother with what I consider to be the very lifeblood of literature. But instead of bemoaning my admittedly dubious pariah status, I'll do as a bookseller should and proselytize for a few of the magnificent collections released this year. I wholly endorse Callan Wink's Dog Run Moon
, Amie Barrodale's You Are Having a Good Time
, Greg Jackson's intensely cerebral Prodigals
, and Jen George's The Babysitter at Rest
, which is nothing short of a perception-altering turbine blade. Give these a shot and if you still prefer the novel, I promise, I'll understand.
Why do you think bookstores remain so popular in the digital age?
At this point, shopping at your local independent bookstore is a moral act. It signifies the kind of community you want to live in during a time when the rapidly diminishing "third place" between home and work seems more vital and necessary than ever, especially as our ideological chasms widen. Indie bookstores exist due to the thoughtful, conscientious individuals who support them. Thank you, Powell's shoppers.
Tell us about your first memorable reading experience.
I recall dutifully reading Camus
as a teenager out of some vague sense of wanting to seem "deep" or "cool." In the intervening years it has becoming glaringly apparent that this particular brand of sweaty desperation pays few-to-zero dividends. It has, however, served as an avenue toward discovering great books I may not have otherwise read. If social anxiety is what it takes to get you into Anaïs Nin
or Jean Genet
, then so be it. Expanding your reading habits may never win friends or influence people, but it can certainly reap great personal rewards.