An interview with Ericka Arcadia of Hudubam Booktraders

What’s your favorite area of your bookstore?

I’ve always loved our sci-fi/fantasy area the best because those were the books I carried around when I first started feeling like a reader. I was never the kid who read enough to get a personal pizza for it, and I never had money for book fairs. It used to be on an order system, and when the shipments would arrive I would watch all my classmates get their brand new books with the brand new smell in the air. I borrowed a lot of books from the library at school and boyfriends, and it wasn’t until I read Dune that I felt the magic of what reading does to our minds. I thought, “This Frank Herbert guy thinks I’m smart!”

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

I LOVE cover art, and that is a really tough one to narrow down, but Penguin Classics Deluxe Editions (our bookseller Andrew brought those to my attention) are doing the most. I think the best one is the artwork for The Master and Margerita by Mikhail Bulgakov. It’s just gorgeously intriguing.

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

I cannot keep V. E. Schwab‘s books on the shelves and I know why; I am very much enjoying The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue. Backlist: I really love to read anything by Haruki Murakami. I always seem to gravitate back to the first novel of his I read, Sputnik Sweetheart. That feeling of having my mind completely blown just hasn’t really been the same now that I know to expect the unexpected from him.

Do you have a strange customer story?

Probably a very unconventional attachment developed between myself and a customer, Chris, who was a Vietnam Veteran in his 70’s. He loved to talk about 80’s science fiction, fantasy, and horror movies. I saw him almost every day for 18 months, for several hours a day, and we talked about everything all the time. He loved the show Dark Shadows, and I think he used to watch it after he came home from his time in the service. He did two tours. Anyway, he loved the show so much that he would try to strike up a conversation about the show with anyone who would listen, and he had copies of a DVD collection of the show in his bag at all times to give away to people who didn’t know what he was talking about. His brother, who handled his affairs, left us with about 15 copies of the show that Chris said should be given away to anyone interested, and we honor that request to this day.

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

We don’t really get starstruck by authors who come in because we’re a small community, so we all kind of know each other already. On that vibe, our open mics have been magical because it truly feels like we’re together as a family. A writer proposed to his wife during an open mic, so that’s the environment. We haven’t had one since the pandemic, but we’re hoping to set one up again soon.

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

It’s work. It takes so much energy to keep things going, and the idea of it just being a “cool hang” doesn’t really get to be realized. You have to derive joy from helping people and making them happy, and I feel like that really comes first.

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

Delegating. I have an amazing crew of booksellers that have finally been made happy by me stepping back from the day to day functions so they can shine in their roles, and that was a hard place for me to come to. But I can trust them, more than myself on a lot of the service requests, and they’re fantastic. It’s just, when you run something yourself for so long, it’s hard to pry your hand off the wheel. My favorite part is ringing up kids who have found something in the 50 cent bin or something lightly used, nice and cheap. They’re going home with something in their hands that they chose and that makes me happy.

What’s the best dedication or first line of a book that you can remember?

I always loved that Nabokov always dedicated his books to his wife, Vera. I think it was the first dedication I ever really noticed, and I took it as, “I didn’t have to do this alone.”

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

That is a super tough question. Can I give a handful of shout outs? I grew up on Watermark Books in Wichita, KS, and I happily go broke there every time I visit home. I love that Left Bank Books in the Pike Place Market in Seattle is still running their revolution, and that is actually a bookstore that is the same age as I am, so bravo them! And I love Powell’s in Portland It truly was a place that had everything.

Ericka Arcadia is one of the owners of Hudubam Booktraders in Clarksville, TN.