Musings From A Bookmammal

The Tuesday Ten—The Best Things About Working In A Bookstore


bookstore 2I was a bookseller in one of my previous career lives. For about seven years I worked in a very large bookstore that was part of one of the major bookstore chains in the US, and, for the most part, I simply loved that job. Don’t get me wrong–I don’t miss the sore feet, working the day after Christmas when the “season of returns” began, or dealing with “challenging” customers. But there are a lot of things that I remember very fondly about those days–so here are the top ten things I miss the most about working in a bookstore:

  1. Books, books, and more books. Obvious, right? We’ve all heard the phrase “bookstores are my candy shop” but when you work in a bookstore, it’s true. Temptation is all around you—but it’s the very best (nonfattening!) kind. To me books are comfort objects, and coming to work each day to a place filled with literally thousands of them was such a deep pleasure. There are two minor drawbacks to this, though: Your TBR list grows uncontrollably, and you quickly realize that your book-buying budget is terribly inadequate. This brings us directly to #2 . . .
  2. Employee Discounts. This is the most dangerous thing about working in a bookstore! There was a great employee discount at the bookstore I worked for—plus, there were special Employee Appreciation Days twice a year when an even more generous discount was offered. The temptation is to get carried away! I know that I never could have afforded a lot of the wonderful hard cover books I own today if I hadn’t bought them while I was a bookseller. However, when I did need to control my book buying, there was a wonderful remedy in place. That takes us to #3 . . .
  3. Check Out Program. This is the part that practically made me swoon during my interview. Employees were allowed to borrow any hardcover in the store, as long as it was returned in saleable condition. Can you imagine it? It was like having an enormous, private library. Practically any book you wanted was right there for you to borrow and enjoy. The philosophy behind the policy was that the company wanted us to be well read, but understood that even with our employee discounts, we just couldn’t  purchase all the books we wanted to read. This is one of the things I miss the most.
  4. New Releases. It was so easy to keep track of new books by favorite authors—we saw them shipped in every day! Plus, we saw ALL the new books coming in—it was such a great way to discover new authors and topics.
  5. Working along side of booklovers all day, every day. Hands down, this is what I miss the most. The company I worked for prided itself on hiring people who knew books, who loved books, and who could talk about books. We all talked about books with customers, of course, but we also talked about books constantly with each other. I still remember some of the conversations I had in the stock room with fellow booksellers—Was “Catcher In the Rye” really a great American novel, or was it all hype? Which books has everyone read but you? How would you have re-written the ending to the latest hot novel? (I’m not sure who was out on the sales floor during these conversations, but I’m sure that the customers were being taken care of by someone!)
  6. Being a Book Detective. I LOVED IT when a customer would approach the information desk and say to me with a sigh, “You probably can’t help me, but . . .” and then would offer a vague description of a book. “I think the cover is blue, I heard them talking about it on the radio, I think it’s by a woman . . .” I viewed these types of inquiries as a personal challenge—I think all booksellers do—and it was amazing how often we could figure out the right book by asking the right types of questions! The best part was actually being able to walk the customer over to the shelf and hand them the right book and watch their jaws drop open.
  7. No need to join a gym! Books are heavy, and they have to be moved. Boxes of books need to be moved off of delivery pallets. Books need to be sorted into their area bins. Books need to be put onto shelves. Books need to be taken off of shelves to make room for new books. I was in the best shape of my life when I was a bookseller. When I left to take a desk job I felt the difference within just a few weeks.
  8. Storytimes. I spent a lot of time in the kids section of our store, and I ran the story hours that we held three times each week. There is nothing like reading one of the “Froggy” books—complete with audience participation– to a group of preschoolers to put you in a good mood! And this brings us to . . .
  9. Costume Characters. I’ve paid my dues dressing up as Clifford The Big Red Dog, Peter Rabbit, The Cat In The Hat, and many more. Let me tell you—those costumes are HOT! I learned very quickly to bring shorts and a tank top to work on “costume days”. But the oohs and aahhs from the kids made it worth it. (Bonus question—my avatar is a photo of me dressed as character from a book—do you know who it is???)
  10. Did I mention the books?

What about you? Have you ever worked in a bookstore. . . or wanted to work in one? Please share!

Author: bookmammal

I love books, reading, writing, cooking, eating, reading while eating, and sharing thoughts about all of the above–plus a bit more! I usually post about topics relating to books and literacy during the week, and then participate in a variety of non-bookish memes on the weekend. Please feel free to join in! Some random things about me– –I have multiple bookshelves in every room of my home except the bathroom. They’re all filled to bursting. They help to make my house my home. –I have two cats who I love dearly, but who I definitely do NOT dress in human clothing. Ever. –I’ve never had a cavity. –I make a mean spaghetti sauce. –I’m a newcomer to yoga and I love it. –My day is not complete without a little chocolate.

45 thoughts on “The Tuesday Ten—The Best Things About Working In A Bookstore

  1. You’re Lilly from Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse! That was my absolute favorite book when I was a child. My mom read it to me countless times. 😀
    I would LOVE to work in a bookstore. That’s something I really, really want to do at some point in my life. This post makes me want to do it even more!

  2. I would love to work in a bookstore. I would love to visit a bookshop where people like you work. By how often I see books shelved in the wrong section (I’m speaking non-fiction books in the Sci-Fi section) I get the distinct idea that the employees at the bookshops I frequent don’t have a clue as to the contents of their books.

  3. I would love to work in a bookshop – it would be my idea of heaven. We are lucky our local bookshop is clearly staffed by people who love books and they are so helpful too. Oh I can’t believe that is you as Lilly!

  4. I miss having a book store in my community. Or the surrounding communities. 😦 I love book stores.

  5. Before I began reading this post, I immediately began a mental checklist of why I would adore being a bookseller…and after reading, I realized I definitely may have missed my calling! 🙂 Thanks for stopping in on the hop!

    • It was definitely one of the best jobs I’ve ever had (not money-wise, but that’s another story!) I actually started working there planning to stay for only a few months–and I had so much fun I stayed on for seven years!

  6. Check out program, who knew? What a great benefit! Although that may be offset by having to dress up like Clifford 🙂 Sounds like a lot of fun. Thanks for sharing.

    Paul R. Hewlett

  7. I’ve never worked in a book store, but I’ve certainly spent plenty of time in them! My favorite is our local indie, which sadly is struggling. There is just no place like a bookstore!

  8. I’ve never worked in a bookstore but always find it incredibly satisfying browsing in a really good bookstore. They don’t have to be massive either, we live in a rural area in North Wales and have two really good bookstores near us.

    • Very true–I’d rather spend time in a bookstore that may have fewer books but has a more thoughtful selection than a store that has tons of books but only carries the current popular titles and best sellers. One of the best things about bookstores is finding hidden, obscure treasures!

  9. This was such a fun post to read! It made me want to run out and apply! Living in Asia, this type of bookstore doesn’t exist, at least for English books and in my experience. I always hope it exists in some of the local languages, but I really don’t know. Thanks so much for sharing this at Booknificent Thursday. It was a delight to read!

  10. I didn’t work in a book store but my first real job was in a library. I thought of it as WONDERFUL, even though the library was a tiny branch. I’ve always loved books. There are bookshelves in every room of my house except the bathroom and the bedroom because we have our own personal stacks by the sides of the bed- thus no need for a shelf.

  11. … and I’m still jealous. I would love to work in a bookstore!

  12. I would love it to be my own bookstore with big comfy armchairs and pots of coffee and homebaking on the go. Don’t know if it would make much money but to work among books with some of my favourite tastes and smells would be…..ahhhh!
    Great post and great reasons. :)x

    • The only down side is when you own the bookstore with the big comfy chairs, you never get to sit in them because you’re too busy working!
      Baked goods in bookstores are the best–there’s something about that smell that goes together with books perfectly!
      Thanks for stopping by!

      • I’m just afraid I would be the one sitting in the big comfy armchairs eating carrot cake, sipping coffee and reading while the profits ……..disappeared. ;)x

  13. I’ve Never had the pleasure of working in a book store… And I’m sure my human hasn’t either…. But our house looks like a bookstore! Just one question… How do you decide which book to nap on?



  14. I worked in a book store as a summer job about 9 years ago. It took me two years of hassling the manager to get that job! I loved it, except for gift-wrapping. My parcels have always looked like something the cat dragged in, and I couldn’t even wrap a book properly. The first one I tried, with the customer standing watching, was a disaster. The manager just walked away (trying not to laugh).
    I got about 3/4 through, looked up at the customer and said, “That’s not very good, is it?”
    He said, not amused, “No.”
    “I’ll start again,” I said.
    Gradually, I improved, until one day, observing the book wrapped and ribbon curled, a satisfied customer said, “Ooh, it’s so lovely when someone else does the wrapping. I can never do it as well at home as they do it in a shop.”

  15. Pingback: Some Things I Love About Working in a Bookstore | { D R E A M I N G ° W I T H ° I N K }

  16. I would love to work in a book store, though many people think my job is a dream job (I work in the Coroner’s / Medical Examiner’s office). My husband used to work in a big book store in London (Foyles) and it was insane how my TBR pile skyrocketed!

  17. I love your list! I feel the same way about working in the library as a volunteer…except for the costume!

    • When I was a kid I was always jealous of the high school students who volunteered at the public library–until I realized that they weren’t able to sit around the library and read all day!

  18. Thanks for your comment on my blog! I relate to everything in your post, especially #6! I loved searching for an obscure book or guessing which book a customer wanted.
    I never had to dress as a character, though one of my friends did and we still laugh about it!

  19. I always wanted to work in a bookstore, no-one told me that I wouldn’t be reading books all the time! SD

  20. I can feel the intensive period you must have had there, your written word has conveyed every bit of yet. All i can articulate right now is my intense desire to work in one.

  21. I agree with everything you said about it except storytimes and costumes, which we didn’t do. But I totally would have!!!!!

    • I loved running the storytimes–it’s one of the things I miss the most! And those costumes were really hot to wear, but the kids just loved them.

  22. Pingback: Happy Blog-Birthday! | Musings From A Bookmammal

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