How would you describe your job to someone you just met?
I’m a matchmaker! I match people with the book they didn’t know they wanted. My focus is on literature and local authors. I also write reviews for shelf-talkers in the store and blurbs for the website.
Last book you loved:
by Keith Rosson, Red Clocks
by Leni Zumas, and Mammother
by Zachary Schomburg (sorry, I can’t pick just one!).
Where are you originally from?
Born and bred in Portland.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
Seriously, I’ve wanted to work at Powell’s since I was 12!
What did you do before you came to Powell’s?
I owned a ladies’ resale clothing store.
What is the best part of your job?
My coworkers! I’ve never met such an amazing bunch of people with so much book knowledge — it’s inspiring, really. As far as customers, I love it when they have only a vague idea of what they want to read, and then being able to get them excited about my recommendations. If I can get someone excited about a book, it is really, truly rewarding. Hopefully, it will instill, or reignite, their love of reading.
What is the most interesting part of your job?
When a customer doesn’t know the title of a book or the author, it’s a challenge to find their book. We have a lot of tools to try to figure it out, and when we can, it’s very satisfying. It’s often a group effort among coworkers, and we’re like a dog with a bone: we don’t give up until we find the answer, even after the customer is long gone.
Share your favorite customer quote.
“Dude, I cried when I first came here — walked in and walked out crying!”
Share a memorable experience you've had on the job.
If I can get someone excited about a book, it is really, truly rewarding.
When I worked at the airport store, a customer wanted some recommendations for her book club. We talked about a lot of books, and she chose a few. She lives in Scotland, so I never imagined I would hear from her again, but I did! She wrote a letter to Powell’s — I was able to write her back, and now we’re friends on Facebook! We’ve been sharing book recommendations back and forth for years!
When you’re not reading, what do you like to do in your free time?
Is that a trick question?
What’s your favorite spot in Portland?
Aside from Powell’s, The Tao of Tea.
What makes for a good book in your eyes?
I really need a good story, and obviously, good writing is also important. Even if the characters are unlikable, I’ll stick with a book if the story has me hooked. Any book that makes me lay my hand on my chest and gasp is a 5-star read, for sure.
Recommend a book or author you think everyone should read.
by Rene Denfeld, Mink River
by Brian Doyle, Rebecca
by Daphne Du Maurier, Lonesome Dove
by Larry McMurtry, The Secret History
by Donna Tartt, A Dark-Adapted Eye
by Barbara Vine, Devil All the Time
by Donald Ray Pollock, A Month in the Country
by J. L. Carr, and Man’s Search for Meaning
by Viktor E. Frankl.
Walk us through your favorite route when browsing books at Powell’s.
I’m a die-hard Blue Roomer: A-Z literature, local authors, classics, award winners, staff picks, old favorites, and new arrivals. I usually stop by the sale tables in the Orange and Green Rooms, and on the mezzanine. I’ll also make a short trek up to the Gold Room, but I mainly stick to the mystery aisles there.
Do you collect any particular types of books?
I collect different editions of a book called The Love Letters of a Portuguese Nun
. It’s a handful of love letters written by Mariana Alcoforado, who was a nun in a Portuguese convent in the mid-1600s. She fell in love with a soldier, who seemed to fall in love with her, but left her heartbroken. The letters are so gut-wrenching, and her writing is achingly beautiful, so I just fell in love with the whole story. I have editions in French and German (which I can’t read), plus several different editions in English. I’m constantly looking for editions that are new to me.
What’s your biggest literary pet peeve?
I’m not a fan — really, really
not a fan — of the overuse of simile and metaphor.
Tell us about your first memorable reading experience.
When I was in first grade, the teacher made little caterpillars, which hung on the wall, to track our reading. We got a caterpillar head with our name on it, and then a body segment for each book we read, with the title written on it. After a while I realized that my caterpillar stretched all the way around the room and doubled back on itself; that’s when I knew that reading was my first love. I so wish I knew which books were on that caterpillar!
Do you have any odd reading habits?
I’m an underliner, a spine-breaker, and I sometimes make notes in the margins. My books are well-loved! Depending on the book, I might research historical events, look up maps and images. I keep track of quotes from books and then use them in art pieces.
What’s your favorite book of all time?
Jude the Obscure
by Thomas Hardy. That man is an absolute genius.