On the outs

September 30th marked my last day working at the bookstore. Now I’m just preparing for baby and trying to work on editing my novel between naps. There are a lot of naps.

My first visit to the bookstore was the day after my last day. I had a huge stack of books to buy and had saved my pennies and sold some books I no longer wanted. Plus I missed everyone already and needed to see their faces. I also missed the stacks of books and all the shelves lined with stories I hadn’t read yet. Bookstores have always been a magical place where I could lose myself for hours just thinking of all the books I wanted to take home. Bookstores smell nice and the staff is smart. I was truly proud to be a part of my store’s 30 year anniversary party this fall. It’s become an impressive thing to have an independent store last that long in the book business.

Now it’s been nine days since my last day, 23 by the time this gets posted, and I feel like I’m floundering a little. I don’t know what the new releases are. I don’t know what new author Amanda is in love with or how far Dylan is in the A Song of Ice and Fire (Game of Thrones) series. I don’t know the latest crazy customer story from Sue or how many times Allison has been hit on while shelving science fiction. Maybe she doesn’t even shelve that section anymore. I can’t confidently point out the location of the large-print section, it moves about five times a year, never settling into a true home. I haven’t seen Donna’s beautiful fall books display and I have no idea what new humor or fiction books are showcased at the register. I know I could drive there and find out, but I used to just know. I spent hours absorbing books and now that’s over.

A quick look at most of my bookshelves at home can remind me that I have plenty of books here that I haven’t read yet. Much to the chagrin of my ex-coworkers I do not shelve my personal collection in alphabetical order. Some shelves contain only my favorites. One shelf was all science fiction but now it has plays and a couple classics thrown in. Mostly I want the books to look pretty. Yes, they are for reading, but one of the reasons I don’t simply download books onto my iPad is because I like the way they look on a shelf. And stacked on tables. And lined across the mantle. And sometimes left to sit in bags for a week because I don’t have room for the new batch.

It’s still difficult not to buy new ones. I won’t have the daily temptation of beautiful covers or intriguing titles but I’ll also have less money to spend on books. I know I’ll still look through the used books and the sale books every time I visit the bookstore. I need to keep up-to-date on new books coming out. I had to find out that Arnold Schwarzenegger’s biography came out through The Daily Show like a commoner instead of seeing it on a cart in the back room a week ahead of time. I’ll have to follow through on my cousin Elizabeth’s suggestion and start visiting my library too. Although there can be a wait to borrow the most popular titles it is cheaper, so long as I can remember to return the books on time, not something I’m great at.

In the meantime, in which I’m huge and don’t really want to leave the house, I need to remember that I haven’t read at least half of the books in my own home. Maybe that sounds odd to you, but working in a bookstore for three years gives you a lot of opportunities to buy books. All of my personal spending money went to books and coffee for those three years. I have at least a hundred receipts for books filed away. I have galley copies from authors I had never heard of before taking the book home because maybe someday I might want to read it. Free books are hard to pass up. I have my husband’s science books that I made him buy with his own money but that I plan on reading too. And now we have kids books added to the mix. The baby needs his own bookcase and he isn’t even born yet.

Maybe this winter while it’s bitterly cold and I don’t want to leave the house, I’ll start at the top of one bookcase and read every book on that shelf, working my way through the entire collection. Then I’ll know what I want to keep and what I want to sell come spring. When warmer weather arrives I can unload the old at our used book counter, pick out a whole new stack to take home and line up prettily until I have time to read again.

Kelly Hannon works in an indie bookstore, is editing her first novel, and blogs about annoying people at www.letterstopeopleihate.com. Follow her on Twitter @KellyMHannon

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