Where do you work and how long have you been there?
I've been in my current position as Store Manager at 57th Street Books for three years and have worked in Chicago Bookselling for 18 years.
Where might we be surprised that you have also worked?
Most of my jobs have been in or around paper products of some sort (library page, magazine printer, paperboy), but once I worked in a clothing warehouse where the company's sole purpose was sewing logo patches onto work uniforms for other organizations. My job consisted of one hour of receiving and sorting our shipments on the docks in the morning, followed by 7 straight hours of organizing rows of pants by size. It was a lot like organizing books...if all of the books on your shelves were the same title in different editions...and if the title was a book you weren't interested in. I regularly brought a book with me in my pocket and just read while hiding in the clothing racks. It's the most reading I've done on a job ever.
What do you like to read? What's your current favorite book to handsell?
I primarily read literature in translation. I don't speak or read any other languages, but have always been hungry for new perspectives and experiences of the world. While the utterly brilliant works of Valeria Luiselli (Coffee House Press) are my go-to for handselling, I've also been recommending Ann Quin's The Unmapped Country to anyone who will listen lately. She was a British novelist in the 60's & 70's who I often describe as Virginia Woolf if Virginia Woolf grew up working class and hung out at your favorite dive bar singing along to the jukebox and occasionally starting a fight.
Who are you when you're not in the store?
A workaholic...Ha! But also, I love to cook. I nearly quit bookselling to go to culinary school about 10 years ago, but decided against it. Each week, I cook something new from my ever-growing collection of cookbooks. My rule is if I've owned a cookbook for over a year and haven't made anything from it, I get rid of it. I also have a side-business where I sell vintage advertising and collectibles, focusing on print ads from the 40's, 50's and 60's. The evolution of advertising and consumer coercion is fascinating to me.
What's your favorite bookstore other than the one you work in?
Just one? Sorry, but I'm cheating. Here in Chicago, Unabridged Bookstore, Pilsen Community Books, and their newest location, The Dial Bookshop. Outside of Chicago, Green Apple Books and Music is a store I spend entire days in when I am in San Francisco. My San Francisco trip itinerary is basically Green Apple Books, delicious food at State Bird Provisions, and day-long games of pétanque in Golden Gate Park. Pétanque is the kind of sport you can play with one hand... and hold a beer in the other hand the entire time...or a book.