An interview with Katherine D. Morgan of Powell’s Books

What’s your favorite area of your bookstore?

My favorite area is definitely the romance section! I’ve always loved reading romance, but since the pandemic, I have become obsessed with that genre. In fact, in my store, you can usually find me giving customers or my colleagues recommendations on what they should read next. I have other favorites, such as the young adult and memoir section as well, but romance has my heart, pun intended.

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

As someone who (unapologetically) judges a book by their cover, one that I always smile at is Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender. It is truly stunning, and it is nice to see a book about a trans teen get such a joyful and bright cover.

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

My favorite recent pick is This Time Tomorrow by Emma Straub. It’s the perfect novel to read when you’re reflecting on your relationships with the people that you love. You should read it after watching Everything Everywhere All at Once because it’s definitely a trip. For a backlist choice, I always recommend Starfish by Lisa Fipps because it’s a middle reader that everyone should read, whether or not they have been bullied for their appearance. I read it and then promptly walked home and cried. It’s excellent.

Do you have a strange customer story?

I once handed a lady a book that she ordered, and she looked at me stunned. She flipped through the book and remarked, “I thought there were supposed to be photos in this book.” When I told her that there weren’t, she groaned and said, “Ugh, now I’m disappointed. I didn’t expect to actually read a book.”

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

I actually work on the events team at Powell’s, so meeting authors is something that I love doing. I have gotten to meet so many wonderful people, including David Sedaris (who later let me open for him twice at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall once he found out that I’m also a writer), Samantha Irby, and recently, Putsata Reang, who wrote the memoir Ma and Me, which came out earlier this month. Writers to me (and to many of the people who attend our events) are like rockstars, so I get quite giddy when I meet someone who excites me.

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

Oh, God, there are so many. People tend to think that working in a bookstore is so exciting, and while there are so many wonderful things about it, it’s still retail, and it’s still customer service. Another thing that people seem to be confused about? I don’t set the prices. It’s okay if you can’t afford the item, but please, don’t tell me that it’s too expensive. I can’t do anything about it.

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

My least favorite bookstore task is shelving. I can do it for an hour or so, but any longer, and I forget the order of the alphabet. My favorite part is talking about books and working events. I love meeting people, and I love learning about new genres. So I guess that people are technically my favorite part about working in a bookstore. Oh, the discount. The discount is a godsend.

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

If you’re a fan of What We Don’t Talk About When We Talk About Fat by Aubrey Gordon, then you can’t go wrong by picking up Hunger by Roxane Gay or Heavy by Kiese Laymon. Both are excellent. Actually, buy all three and make it a bundle for a friend.

Katherine D. Morgan is a bookseller at Powell’s Books in Portland, OR.