An interview with Aron Spellane of Solid State Books

1. What’s your favorite area of your bookstore?

I try to read in every section, but I always come back to the general fiction section, where most of my favorite authors are shelved. Every time I shelve or alphabetize in that section, I find a new gem to add to my to be read pile.

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

There are so many great ones, but I really enjoy the cover of Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James, as well as the recently released sequel, Moon Witch, Spider King.

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

My favorite recent release is a graphic novel from January called The Short While by Jeremy Sorese, a book that explores falling in and out of love, dance cults, post-internet culture, and joyful queerness. My go to backlist pick is always What is Not Yours is Not Yours, a short story collection by Helen Oyeyemi that inspired me to be a bookseller.

4. Do you have a strange customer story?

Every bookseller has that classic, “I forgot the title and the author, but it was red, and I think I saw it here last month…” story, but I recently had to do a little sleuthing for someone who found a recipe for mushroom risotto in the Washington Post’s Food section and was trying to find the cookbook from whence it came.

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

Meeting Jeannette Winterson was a trip. I hosted an event with her for her book Frankissstein. She is tinier and louder than you might expect, but it felt a little bit like meeting royalty.

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

I think a lot of people think it is a chill job with a lot of downtime for reading, and let me tell you, that has never been the case for me.

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

I want to say that my favorite task, like all booksellers, is talking to people about books, and that’s certainly true. But I not-so-secretly adore getting to receive book shipments into our inventory. I feel much more connected to what is coming through our doors and what we are choosing to sell, and I think it makes me a better bookseller since I have a more intimate knowledge of the books on our shelves, since I touch each one as it arrives. My least favorite part is kicking people out when we’re closing. If someone has a way to do that without it being awkward for everyone involved, please let me know.

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

For everyone reading Malcolm Gladwell’s Talking with Strangers right now, I recommend Intimacies by Katie Kitamura, one of my favorite fiction books of last year. I think Gladwell’s insights pair extremely well with Kitamura’s prose and deep characterization, and the lessons learned from each will stay with you long after you finish.

Aron Spellane is a bookseller at Solid State Books in Washington, D.C.