An interview with Aaron Jackson of Bookworks

What’s your favorite area of your bookstore?

Well considering I am a poet I have to go with the poetry section. I really love our poetry section because Albuquerque has such a wonderful poetic community. We have so many great local authors who have works in our section and I have been told that former United States Poet Laureate Joy Harjo used to live across the street from the store.

What’s the coolest book cover that you like to have facing out on the shelves?

I would say Gwelf: The Survival Guide. It is this super cool fantasy book that reminds me of a book about gnomes that I had as a child. It is the kind of cover that compels you to pick the book up and flip through it.

If you had a staff pick for a recent new release, what would it be? Backlist pick?

I am going to say Mayor Good Boy Goes Hollywood which is a graphic novel for elementary school age readers. For kids who are fans of the Dog Man and Captain Underpants series it is a hit. As a dad I am probably more likely to have read something in the kid lit range than the adult lit range and my daughter loves all things Mayor Good Boy. For a backlist pick I would suggest anything by John Steinbeck who is my all time favorite writer. Also, The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss is in my opinion one of the greatest fantasy novels ever written.

Do you have a strange customer story?

I am an east coast transplant. My family moved to Albuquerque a little over two years ago. Well, one day while working in the store the Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, who is from New Mexico, came in the store to do some shopping. She had a couple of Secret Service agents with her who were very quiet and just observing. I began to talk to a customer who was also a New York transplant and we were discussing memories of the city when one of the Secret Service agents who hadn’t said a word walked over and said, “you know Brooklyn is always in the house” and then he went right back to his post and didn’t say another word. I thought that was pretty cool.

What author have you been starstruck to meet, or have you gotten to host a fun virtual event?

I mentioned Joy Harjo above. She came into our store and I thought it was her but wasn’t sure because of the covid mask. She came to the counter with a copy of her book Poet Warrior and when she went to pay I could see the tattoo on her hand which is very distinct. I blurted out “this is you” entirely too loudly to which she nodded and I awkwardly rang her up. She is a very polite person.

What are some misconceptions people have about working in a bookstore?

As much as we wish we could, we can’t read every book in the store. Everyone who works here has their own tastes and likes. So although we might not be able to recommend a book in a particular genre we can certainly steer you to an employee who can. For my part, I am happy to help with poetry suggestions, kids book suggestions and books about dogs.

What is your least favorite bookstore task? Favorite part about working in a bookstore?

My least favorite task is telling an author we can’t carry their book in the store. As a writer, I know how hard it is to get a book placed prominently in a store and I wish we could take in every title. Unfortunately, we have limited space so we cannot. I just feel bad because I wish we could give every author a chance to shine.

My favorite part about working in a bookstore is certainly getting someone to read a book that I love and having them love it as well. Every time I sell a copy of Merle’s Door or The Name of the Wind to an adult or a copy of The Phantom Tollbooth to a child I feel such a sense of accomplishment.

Can you recommend an underrated readalike book for one of the store’s top titles?

Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain is always a big seller for us but I think Medium Raw is actually his best work, so I am always trying to steer customers in that direction.

What’s the best dedication or first line of a book that you can remember?
I am gonna be super biased here and go with the dedication from the book For One Day of Freedom. It is a book written by my father Blyden B. Jackson Jr. and posthumously published nine years after his death. The book is dedicated to my sister and I which makes it super meaningful.

What’s YOUR favorite indie bookstore that you’ve visited, besides your own!

Since I worked there for ten years as the Director of Visual Merchandising and in many ways it was my second home and family, I have to say the Strand in New York City. I can’t quantify how much I learned in my time there and I certainly have a lifetime of memories, it was such a great job for me at that time in my life.

Aaron Jackson is the store manager at Bookworks in Albuquerque.