Jessie: In New Hampshire where the daffodils are in bloom and the blackflies have yet to appear!
I am absolutely delighted to welcome Karen and Autumn from the Country Bookseller in Wolfeboro, NH to the Wickeds today! Since stopping the shop in person right now is not a possibility, I thought we would enjoy a virtual visit instead. They have been kind enough to host me at the bookstore many times over the years and have always gone out of their way to advertise the events, have plenty of books on hand and to make me feel at home. Welcome ladies!
Jessie: For a lot of book lovers owning a bookstore seems like a dream come true. That said, I expect there is a huge amount of work involved! What does a typical week for an independent bookseller involve?
CB: In our store, we wear all the hats. We often get asked the question, “Do you get to read while you’re at work?” The truth is, we could never find the time! When we aren’t helping readers find the perfect book, we are making coffee, receiving orders, cleaning, straightening and alphabetizing books on the shelves, building displays, and looking for new books to add to our shelves. We meet with sales representatives from some of the major publishers to go over lists of new books for each season so that every title that arrives in the store is hand-selected.
Jessie: Even though it isn’t all fun and games, I am sure you would not keep rising to the challenge if you didn’t love it. What is the most rewarding part of your job?
CB:It is always rewarding to put books into the hands of young readers. Whether we help a “non-reader” discover the love of words or keep adding to the stacks of a voracious reader, we love spreading the love of reading to the younger generations. One of the many perks of being in business for twenty-six years is that we get to see those kids grow up and not only keep reading, but then pass that love on to their kids as well.
Jessie: You are obviously book lovers. What are your favorite 2-3 genres? Which are the most popular with your patrons?
CB:For Autumn, it is easier to pick a few genres she doesn’t like, rather than the ones she does. She will read almost anything, but tends to stay away from Science Fiction and Fantasy. That’s not to say one or two books from those genres haven’t found their way on to her bookshelf.
Karen prefers literary fiction, magical realism, and anything “spiritual.”
As far as our patrons go, I think we have a pretty eclectic mix there too. It also depends on the season what our folks are reading. I think we see more history books and literary fiction fly out of the store in the winter months and lighter reads, romance or adventure, in the summer months.
Jessie: Bookstores always seem to me to be a vital and significantly contributing member of their communities. In fact, they seem to build community just by their very existence to a surprising degree. Which sorts of ways has your shop been involved in your community over the years?
CB: Not only do bookstores everywhere build community, but for us we can certainly say our community builds us. We wouldn’t survive in a small tourist town with the threat of Amazon looming if we didn’t have an extremely supportive community.
We are lucky to have several schools in the area who choose to shop with us and we have always offered discounts to not only schools, but teachers and homeschoolers as well. We love working with our local libraries to bring authors to the area. Whether it’s a big event at a local venue, or an intimate gathering in a library meeting room, it gives us the opportunity to support authors and give back to another important institution in our community.
Our favorite way of being involved in the community is existing as a safe and comfortable place for all. Especially in these trying times, many have realized or reaffirmed their opinions that bookstores are gathering places. Now that we’ve had to close our doors to the public, we are trying to remain that integral part of the community. We’d like to think we’ve always gone above and beyond, but especially now we hope that our familiar faces feel how important they are to us. Whether it’s curating personalized lists of recommendations, keeping our “cookie monsters” fed, or just answering the phone to chat with folks stuck at home alone, we are still our community’s gathering place and we hope it still feels like home.
Jessie: With all the upheaval in the world right now it is even more of a pleasure, and a sanity-saver, to get lost in a good book. Any recommendations for us?
CB: Autumn tends to be the pessimist and Karen the optimist.
So, if you are looking for somewhat of a downer to show that things could be worse, here are a few good ones:
The Return by Rachel Harrison (A story of friendship but with an edge of your seat, lights on all night, horrific twist.)
An Imperfect Union by Steve Inskeep (Proving history repeats itself and that the country was just as divided, if not more, over one hundred years ago.)
Crisis in the Red Zone by Richard Preston (Definitely puts things into perspective and will give the reader some good knowledge on how viruses operate, why this is not the end of the world, and how much the folks on the front lines of outbreaks sacrifice.)
If you are looking for something to lift your spirits or take you away, here is what Karen recommends:
The Secrets of Jin-Shei by Alma Alexander (Set in medieval China, this is a tale of sisterhood above all else.)
The Dutch House by Ann Patchett (A family saga exploring the bond of siblings and chock-full of beautiful prose.)
The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón (A gothic novel about a library of rare books that is sure to excite anyone who has ever sought solace in the written word.)
It’s also a great time to pick up those classics that you’ve been meaning to read.
Jessie: Finally, our readers love their independent booksellers. How can we best support them?
CB: For those who are in a position to, keep shopping with us! We are here offering curbside pick-up and delivery and many of our bookselling friends are too. Check to see if your local bookshop is open before trying Amazon. Even if your local store is not operating, you can check indiebound.org/indie-bookstore-finder to find another store close to you. Many of us are shipping orders all over the country right now.
If your shelves are fully stocked, but you still want to help, buy gift certificates. Ours never expire and you can use it for a celebratory shopping spree when we are able to open the doors.
A couple of great companies we partner with are doing so much to help us out as well. Audiobooks can be purchased through libro.fm/thecountrybookseller and right now if you sign up with the code SHOPBOOKSTORESNOW, we will get 100% of the profits and you get two free audiobooks. Bookshop.org is another great option if you need a book and can’t wait until we are in the shop to take your order. We have a page you can visit at bookshop.org/shop/thecountrybookseller which has lists we’ve curated. You can also search for specific books if you can’t find what you want on our lists. We receive a portion of the sales for any books you purchase through our page.
Another way to show your support is through saveindiebookstores.com . There, you can make a donation that will help the bookstores who need it most. You’ll be in good company with some huge supporters of independent bookstores like: James Patterson, Reese’s Book Club, the Book Industry Charitable Foundation, and the American Booksellers Association.
Most importantly, remember us. If you aren’t able to support us now, just remember that we intend to be here when this is all over. As soon as the doors are open again, we hope to see all our old friends and our new ones too!
Readers, do you have a favorite indelendent bookstore? Share their name here! Have you ever worked in a bookstore or just wished you could? Do you have a book recommendation for all of us?
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