An interview with Julia DeVarti of Books Are Magic

What’s your favorite area of your bookstore?

I love working at the register with our bag of dog treats right under it. All the dogs who have visited before know exactly where to go, and I love getting to say hi to all the four-legged friends who come by!

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

I’m loving the current trend of covers with splashy multicolored art on them. The Startup Wife, Detransition Baby, and The Last Suspicious Holdout are all covers that come to mind especially.

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

My newest staff pick is a recent release called Open by Rachel Krantz, and it’s a fascinating look at polyamory. The writing style is so interesting because it’s a “reported memoir” that blends journalistic research with personal narrative. It was such a thought-provoking read, and I’m very excited to feature it on our staff picks shelf! A backlist book I recently chose as a staff pick is The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi. It’s sort of like a decolonial National Treasure for YA readers, and it’s an absolute favorite of mine!

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

I’m on our events team here, so I’ve been lucky to meet and work with a lot of phenomenal authors! I was definitely starstruck to meet Mira Jacob when we hosted her, since I’m a huge fan of her book Good Talk, and I loved meeting Jane Pek as well. And we’ve got a few really incredible authors lined up for events this summer that I am so pumped to meet, but I can’t say more than that just yet!

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

I think a lot of people have the idea that working in a bookstore means reading all day, but I pretty much never have time to read at work! I’m either plugging away at office work upstairs, down on the floor helping to shelve and ring customers up, or setting up and hosting an event. I’ll also say that I don’t think a lot of people know just how connected indie bookstores are to the rest of the publishing world. I’m constantly in touch with folks in marketing, publicity, or sales, and of course, so many authors as well. It’s something I really love about working at Books Are Magic — getting to be a part of the wider book ecosystem!

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

I don’t love having to remind customers to keep their masks on… You’d think this far into the pandemic everyone would have the hang of it by now, but I find myself having the mask conversation almost daily, unfortunately. But there are many things I love about working in the bookstore too! I think Books Are Magic has the most incredible staff, and it’s such a joy to get to work with everyone else on the team. We’ve also really been building up our TikTok presence lately, and it’s been a great way for us to get to be silly together. I’m new to making TikTok videos, but it’s quickly become a favorite store activity for me! And the last favorite I’ll name for now is getting to see the excitement of a first-time author on the event circuit. There’s a twinkle in their eyes and always such a warm energy in the room. It’s just so special to be a part of welcoming a new book into the world, and I’m really grateful that I get to do it so often as part of the events team.

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

We sell a lot of The Body Keeps the Score, and I’d recommend What My Bones Know to anyone looking for something similar. It’s a memoir about the impacts of complex trauma that draws on the author’s own experiences, and she also dives into the impacts of trauma on the immigrant community in her hometown. The author, Stephanie Foo, has come by the store to sign copies a few times, and she’s so lovely!

Julia DeVarti is a Events & Marketing Associate at Books Are Magic in Brooklyn, NY.