book broads • The Reading Life of a Bookseller


by Portia Turner
Being a bookseller, especially at a small indie store, can be both a blessing and a curse when it comes to reading. I am constantly receiving free copies of books, mostly galleys from the publishers so we can read books before they come out, and my book nerd heart is just exploding with happiness.

That said, reading when you are surrounded by all of those books can be stressful. I know, boo-hoo, you have too many books. Hear me out.

When it comes to reading, I don’t always have a choice about what I want to read. Sometimes I look over at the stacks on my shelves and think, “Oh, my precious books, how I want to read you.” But there is so much more that goes into making those decisions. The first priority for my reading has to do with events we are doing. I don’t always read the book before the events (because we have tons of events and there is no way I could possibly do that).

Take my last few months, for example, which have been especially event book heavy. For example, we had an event with Augusten Burroughs followed by an event with Brendan Reichs and Veronica Roth in March so I read their books and then we divided up the books for our YA Fest right after I finished those books and so I had six YA books that I had to read in a month. Half way through the YA Fest reading, I went on a trip and decided to take no work books with me so I took a Jane Austen which helped me with my reading challenge with my roommates. (More about that later.) I returned to work and found that there was a brand new galley from one of my favorite YA authors who was also going to be at the fest so I picked that up and added it to the list. 5 of the 7 YA books in, my brain couldn’t handle teenagers anymore so I picked up We Are Never Meeting in Real Life by Samantha Irby and started to read that but then got overwhelmed by the fact that I wasn’t reading the YA books I needed to for work. So I started reading an essay from that book followed by a YA book. ALSO, all this time, I had a galley of the new David Sedaris (my all time favorite author) staring at me, asking why I wasn’t reading it. So I was sneaking around with it, reading bits and pieces here and there and feeling like I was cheating on the other books. Finally, I finished the YA books in time for the fest and had time to read two whole books for fun before event reading for May started up. In fact, it snuck up on me cause who knew it was already May? So now, here I am having just finished Ginny Moon by Benjamin Ludwig for an event we had last Tuesday and madly trying to finish Cork Dork for an event that is happening this week. After that I have one more event book and then I can read for fun some more, that is until the June schedule comes out.

And don’t even get me started on backlist! (For those not in the book world, backlist are books that have been out for a while. They are usually in paperback and, if an author has many books, includes the older books by that author.) My roommates decided that we were going to do a reading challenge and both of them said, “Oh this will be so easy for you.” But when I looked at the list, I started to panic. There are multiple items on the checklist that include old books. While I have more than enough ideas of what I want to read to check that off, I can’t begin to imagine when I will have time to read those books. I bought Middlemarch last year because I want to read it and I haven’t picked it up since I bought it. Every time I see it I think about how much I want to read it but then I get overwhelmed thinking about all of the books that are coming out and why haven’t I read them yet and oh crap there are so many events coming up and three different books came out last week that I wanted to read oh no I’m falling behind and then I find myself in a puddle on the floor. From there I crawl away and pick up the book I am currently reading and try to forget the whole thing.

So yeah, reading can be stressful as someone working in a bookstore. And this doesn’t even take into account that publishers are constantly telling us what is awesome and coming out soon and the fact that we are going to author dinners and getting to talk to authors about their new books and why we should read them. And then we get Publishers Weekly and Kirkus and the boxes of galleys arrive everyday. I can’t even keep a TBR list anymore because everything would be on there.

All of that said, I still love reading. Nothing lives up to the feeling of hanging out with a good book. I absolutely love working in the book world and wouldn’t trade it for anything. I just really wish there were more hours in a day and more days in a week so I could just read everything.

Thank you, Portia! Read more about Portia and the other Broads as their bios fill on here. Stay tuned for more of the Nerd Phone Chain :) -Elis

1 comment

  1. You are truly a dedicated bookseller, Portia! I miss working with you!! 💓S.L.

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