Celebrate national puzzle day with a bookish puzzle

What’s better than a hot beverage, an excellent audiobook and a new puzzle? National puzzle day is January 29, and we put together a list of some great bookish puzzles to check out to celebrate. And keep an eye on our Instagram page for a giveaway that may be coming up!

  1. Visit the NYPL on a dreamy, snowy day
  2. Jane Austen lovers will love this hunt for some of her most iconic scenes and characters 
  3. Check out the bright colors of this idyllic bookstore front
  4. Let’s get together and read quietly
  5. A quintessential shelf filled with books and cats
  6. The first line of a book can tell you so much about it, and this puzzle is filled with great ones
  7. Any reader would be happy to move into this house filled with books
  8. Who else started their reading journey with Nancy Drew?
  9. Stacks of diverse spines to fill your 2023 TBR
  10. Some of the most recognizable classic covers
  11. If you’re in a book club, you’ve probably read one of these titles
  12. You’ll remember these bedtime stories fondly
  13. There are some surprises to find in this bookstore
  14. Take a trip up the ladder in front of these enormous shelves
  15. This bookstore has lots of levels to peruse
  16. What’s better than spending a day at the bookstore?
  17. A shelf filled with books and imagination
  18. Book lovers browse these illustrated shelves aside some plants
  19. This looks like a great set up for a bookstagram photo
  20. Spend a beautiful spring day at the library

 

An interview with Dana Swift of Books & Books

What’s your favorite area of your bookstore?

I love the children’s area. There is something truly magical about this colorful place where kids of all ages come to discover a new book or discover the joy of reading. It isn’t always some portal into fantasy or adventure either. The children’s area can also be where a historian picks up their first biography or botanist their first book about plants. The real magic happens when kids learn something new about themselves.

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

Being starstruck has become part of the job description because Books & Books hosts such wonderful authors. At my first event, I worked with one of my all-time favorite authors, Brigid Kemmerer. That experience set a high bar. However, most recently, I’ve gotten to introduce and help Maggie Steifvater sign copies of her books. While doing so, a nice customer inquired if Maggie was an author, and I began as any fan would gushing about Maggie’s books. That customer turned out to be Victoria Beckham, a fact I only registered after a fellow bookseller told me who I had been talking to.

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

My immediate response is to say something about the physical labor with hauling books, heavy books to be exact. But I also find the daily struggles are when customers think I can and have read everything in the store and thus ask me for recommendations in genres I don’t pick up as much. However, that’s my favorite part of working with other bookworms, who can find your next great read.

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

My absolute least favorite part of the job is not being able to find a specific book for a customer when our systems say we have it. It’s down-right heartbreaking if a title has only been misplaced. On the other hand, I absolutely LOVE handing a customer a book they are excited about. There is nothing better than watching a customer’s face light up. Another favorite part of my job involves seeing my books in the bookstore every day. I was a bookseller years ago while I wrote my first novel and being a bookseller once again with my series on the shelf is indescribable. 

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

I love first lines, but I also hardly recall all my favorites unless they entangle themselves into pop culture. For example, the opening of Pride and Prejudice feels like a staple of literature. One of the first lines I keep coming back to is The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis. It begins, “There was a boy named Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.” There’s something about the simplicity and voice of the narration that shouts interesting.

However, I’ll leave you with this –– The first line to anything I’m re-reading is especially thrilling. For it means I’m once again going to be swept into a good story.

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

This is such a good question. I will say the list is mighty and varied. The first indie bookstore I ever encountered was Toadstool Bookshop in New Hampshire, a small pocket of joy I can easily sink into when I think of childhood. In Austin, Texas there are two bookstores I adore –– BookPeople for how large and diverse their selection and BookWoman, the first place I ever read my own fiction aloud to a group of strangers. For that’s the wonder of indie bookstores. They aren’t simply storefronts. They are experiences and connection and community wrapped in the love of literature. And I’m so glad to call Books & Books my home away from home. 

Dana Swift is the children’s book buyer at Books & Books in Miami.

An interview with Vicky Sanz of The Wild Detectives

What’s your favorite area of your bookstore?

Our nook is a special one, not only is it a place where I enjoy reading myself along with a cozy drink, but also is where awesome book discussions happen. It always puts a smile on my face when I see groups of friends or random people connecting there. 

Another one is our patio, site for book presentations, movies, music shows and dancing. 

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

Currently, I really like Ways of Being by James Bridle. There is a hint of surreal dream that winks at me from the bookshelves. Sometimes I play a game – I like the idea of book covers having a conversation. What would Lenny the Lobster say to David Foster Wallace: Consider the Lobster? 

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

I feel I always end up on backists, never enough time. Right now I am slowly going through The Tyranny of Algorithms by Miguel Benasayag, The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows by John Koenig, and Revenge of The Librarians by Tom Gauld to balance the mood. 

Do you have a strange customer store?

Not necessarily strange, but on Fridays when I shelve books I get to listen to many first dates and I wonder, will I see them again? 

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

One of my favorite events is the Hay Festival at our bookstore. Throughout the years, I have gotten to meet some of the new voices of Latin American literature. Lucky me! For example this year I met Dolores Reyes

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

Before I started working here, I thought I would be able to read all the time. It is not possible. 

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

I like ordering books and unpacking. I know it’s odd, but it is like Christmas every Friday for me! Also, when a customer tells me how much they liked a book. Least favorite is alphabetizing constantly, because books seem to wander around and mix themselves up all the time. 

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

This summer I found the cutest children’s bookstore in Argentina, En un lugar de La Mancha. 

Vicky Sanz is a book buyer at The Wild Detectives in Dallas.

An interview with Melissa Smith of Bodacious Bookstore

What’s your favorite area of your bookstore? 

My favorite area of the bookstore is the cozy gray chairs near the window. The lighting is perfect for reading and the chairs are so comfy! I also absolutely love our children’s area, which looks like a lighthouse. It’s so magical.

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

I love the design of the book Horrostor by Grady Hendrix. The way that it looks like an IKEA catalog is super genius, plus, he’s one of my favorite authors. 

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

Ooooh, that’s a tough one. It would be a tie between Mad Honey by Jodi Piccoult and Signal Fires by Dani Shapiro. They were both SO GOOD! My backlist pick would be Shiner by Amy Jo Burns.

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

That you get to sit and read all day. That is the FURTHEST thing from the truth.

What is your least favorite bookstore task? 

Arranging the bookshelves and making sure the books with shelftalkers are front facing.

Favorite part about working in a bookstore? Getting to see all the new releases firsthand. Recommending a book to someone and they buy it and love it.

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

If you liked Verity by Colleen Hoover you would LOVE The Push by Ashley Audrain.

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

“The swimming pool is filled with dog shit and Dee’s laughter mocks us at dawn.” Nightcrawling by Leila Motley

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

I visited Fabled Bookshop in Waco, TX the summer of 2021 and I absolutely fell in love. I attend all of their virtual events, get their newsletter and stalk all of their social media.

Melissa Smith is a manager at Bodacious Bookstore in Pensacola, Florida.

An interview with Vanessa Deubler of Madison Street Books

What’s your favorite area of your bookstore?

My favorite area of the bookstore is our staff pick wall. There’s such a variety of books on there, all well-recommended by my coworkers, and it’s right by our front windows.

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

The Grip of It by Jac Jemc has my favorite cover ever. The design is striking and creepy, but there are also these little faces throughout that you can only really see when they reflect the light. It’s great for a display.

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

A recent new release I read and loved is Bliss Montage by Ling Ma. It’s only the second book of short stories I’ve ever read! For a backlist pick, I can’t decide between The Grip of It by Jac Jemc and A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles.

Do you have a strange customer story?

So, so many. Recently at an event I had a customer ask me about the color of my sweater and then make arguments for both sides about whether it was pink or purple. He was nice, it was just funny.

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

We’ve had a lot of really cool events, and some with really big authors, but my favorite event so far was the book launch for Shirlene Obuobi, MD, who wrote On Rotation! We had a lot of people show up and there were cake and giveaways. It was really fun and everyone was so friendly! I also really enjoy the poetry events.

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

We don’t wear aprons, contrary to what Joe from You will have you believe. Besides that, I don’t know! I think it might be a little romanticized. It’s not all discussing poetry while dust floats through shafts of light. There is some of that, but you also lift a lot of boxes, shelve a lot of books, and carry a lot of chairs.

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

I love having events but setting up for them and putting everything away is not my favorite. Other than that, I don’t really mind anything in particular unless there’s a lot of it, which can get tiring. But the best parts, by far, are getting to talk about books all day, picking books out for our bespoke subscription recipients, and recommending books to customers, especially when we have similar reading tastes.

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

I’d recommend Dear Child by Romy Hausmann for anyone who read and liked The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides. Also The Grip of It by Jac Jemc is another great haunted house story for the folks who love Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson.

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

That’s a really good question! I can think of a few, but my favorite line ever is actually the last line of The Book Thief by Markus Zusak which, after a book that takes place over the course of World War II, ends with Death saying, “I am haunted by humans.”

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

I recently went to Unabridged Bookstore in Chicago and loved it! It’s definitely strange being a bookseller in a bookstore that isn’t your own. I turned around every time the phone rang. I’m also dying to go to Dog Eared Books Valencia in San Francisco, just as a side note.

Vanessa Deubler is a bookseller at Madison Street Books in Chicago.

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.

An interview with Holly Dowell of WORD Bookstore – Brooklyn

What’s your favorite area of your bookstore?

I love our staff pick section and our themed window displays! Our staff has such varied tastes and I enjoy seeing them all side-by-side. We also swap out the front window seasonally to match the heritage months and other bookish celebrations like Banned Books Week. Often people find new books by seeing the featured selections there.  

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

I’m a sucker for beautiful, creative covers that also perfectly align with the book. Briefly, A Delicious Life by Nell Stevens fit this excellently with 19th-century pastels of oranges concealing a pale face. I also swooned over the hardcover editions of Infinite Country by Patricia Engel (opalescent folklore!) and Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi (the strong dichotomy of pink and black is stunning). They’re all good books, to boot!  

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

Two recent new releases I’ve adored have been The Strange Inheritance of Leah Fern by Rita Zoey Chin and Acceptance by Emi Nietfeld. Chin’s debut novel is enchanting and tender, mixing all of my favorite elements – a road trip, scavenger hunts, and a young woman searching for answers. Nietfeld’s memoir is a must-read. She candidly describes her childhood in and out of foster care & institutionalization. 

As for backlist, I have to show some love for my favorite author Anthony Marra. His book A Constellation of Vital Phenomena left me forever changed, offering a deeply human perspective on the Chechen Wars. In the nonfiction realm, I cannot quit recommending It’s What I Do by Lynsey Addario. She writes of her time as a war reporter with such conviction and honesty. 

Do you have a strange customer story?

I have no shortage, haha. One that comes to mind is a customer who came and asked for our help remembering a title she’d read about recently but couldn’t remember. She was confident it was nonfiction nature writing, recently reviewed in a major publication, and had something to do with birds. We racked our brains and used all our Googling techniques but came up empty-handed. She thanked us for our efforts and left, convinced that her partner would remember. A few hours later she came back, exuberant. The book? Where the Crawdads Sing.

What author have you been starstruck to meet?

This is one of the coolest parts of working for an indie shop in New York City. I’ve had a number of such instances, but particularly notable was getting to host the First Lady of Iceland to celebrate her book, Secrets of the Sprakkar. The event was even recorded for C-SPAN!

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

Honestly, I could write a book about this! A common misconception is that I know about every book ever written. I wish that was true, but thousands of books come out every month! I couldn’t possibly keep them all cataloged in my brain. Another misconception is that we get to read on the job, but there’s just far too much to do with a lean staff. That said, it is accurate that we spend a whole lot of time chatting about books.

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

Least favorite? Shelving. It’s the dishes of the bookstore – it always feels like you just did it! My favorite part is making recommendations, whether it’s in-person, on our Instagram stories, or for our WORD To Your Mailbox subscription service. I love learning the nuances of people’s preferences and helping direct them to the perfect read.

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

Can I make a few? If you liked Pachinko, I suggest We Measure The Earth With Our Bodies by Tsering Yangzom Lama. For readers of Sally Rooney’s Beautiful World, Where Are You, try Happy Hour by Marlowe Granados. And if you picked up bell hooks’s All About Love, follow me right this way to See No Stranger by Valerie Kaur.

Holly Dowell is a Bookseller & Social Media Manager at WORD Bookstore – Brooklyn.

An interview with Danielle King of Left Bank Books

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

It has always been the basement lol. Under normal circumstances – we’re undergoing some downstairs construction and renovation due to some recent flooding – Left Bank is a two-story bookstore, with a robust and lively upstairs, and a quieter downstairs area that houses our used book department and the science fiction/fantasy collection. SFF takes up ⅔ of the longest wall in the room, and I have spent hours, as both customer and employee of Left Bank, perusing the shelves. It feels like you’ve found something a little secret the first time you walk downstairs, and you are immediately confronted with our graphic novel section, which presents an apt visual transition to the fantastic worlds depicted on the covers in the sci-fi/fantasy section. There’s usually a table with some chairs adjacent to the section, so you are welcomed to sit with those covers, to open them, to take a glimpse at a possible future.

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

I genuinely try to get away with facing out every single book by (MacArthur Genius) NK Jemisin, and I love that our backlist buyer/merchandiser Randy is so willing to let me get away with it. The art is so striking, and often a bit gothic, and gives you somehow not very much but also a tremendous amount about the story it represents. I also am nothing short of obsessed with the cover of They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us by (MacArthur Genius) Hanif Abdurraqib. I mean, it’s a wolf in a track suit and a chain, somehow both approachable and containing a warning, and I can’t think of a better visual metaphor for the wonderful and devastating prose that the book contains.

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

God’s Children Are Little Broken Things (Arinze Ifeakandu) is this remarkable, heart-rending collection of short stories about (mostly) queer men in modern urban Nigeria, and it broke my heart with characters who are desperate for acceptance, but willing to take so much less.

White Teeth (Zadie Smith) & The Secret History (Donna Tartt) are often, in my mind, vying for the role of my Favorite Book. It’s never entirely clear who’s winning that battle. If you feel the need to slip into the classic “dark academia” text, Donna Tartt’s first novel is a bildungsroman and thinly veiled autobiographical account of her own time at the somewhat infamous Bennington College. If you’d rather be swept into one of the great family dramas of the modern age, a young Zadie Smith is flexing her considerable linguistic muscles in this wonderful unpacking of the role of the ones who love you in the quest for a fulfilling sense of identity, and no one is left behind on the ride.

4. Do you have a strange customer story?

I once had a customer who tried to order a book that had no release date several days in a row. She called every day, pretty close to when we would close, and would ask if I would be able to order the illustrated edition of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. And every time she called, I told her that they’d only released the first few books, and that it probably takes a good bit of time for them to produce. And every time, she would respond, with a morose, “Oh, ok, I just would have figured that book would be out by now.”

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

Bernardine Evaristo was a genuine delight to host. She was exactly the right mix of self-inspired and self-demanding as a creator, and her curious and remarkably generous attitude kept me on my toes throughout the interview. I had already held her in tremendous esteem, but there’s something about being told to get to work on your novel by such an accomplished and down-to-earth artist that really sticks with you.

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

I think a lot of folks attach a romantic notion of casually reading and browsing shelves aimlessly to working in a bookstore. But it’s actually quite a lot of work to keep up with inventory, to maintain order on the shelves, to keep up with the various tasks that make it possible for us to point folks towards their next favorite read.

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

My least favorite task, in the bookstore and in life, is probably cleaning the bathroom. My personal favorites are probably pulling returns or doing inventory details, as they’re opportunities to see all the books that we have to offer our customers. I add so many things to my to-be-read pile whenever I’m doing a task that involves any degree of close shelf reading.

8. Can you recommend an underrated readalike book for one of the store’s top titles? (For example: If your store sells a lot of The Song of Achilles, you might recommend Tin Man.)

We sell a TON of Stuart Turton’s The 7 ½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle and our customers are constantly thrilled by the twisty, perspective-shifting mystery story. To me, a classic version of the locked-room (locked-building?) mystery that I think people have forgotten about is The Westing Game (Ellen Raskin). While technically a middle-grade book, I’ve returned to it maybe a dozen times, and it never fails to deliver, and is great for kids and adults alike. A more adult-oriented suggestion would probably be The Starless Sea (Erin Morgenstern); though not a genre mystery, the layers of understanding that unfurl before your eyes going through this book are as stunning a magic trick as I’ve ever seen.

assistant manager/used book buyer/IT specialist

An interview with Casella Brookins of City Lit Books

What’s your favorite area of your bookstore?

I’m our resident speculative fiction specialist, so I spend a lot of time in Science Fiction & Fantasy. We put a big focus on written staff recommendations here, and I get a lot of satisfaction from writing “talkers” that get great, semi-obscure SFF titles into the hands of people who wouldn’t normally think of themselves as genre readers.

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

I adore the illustration work Rovina Cai’s been doing, and I face out Nicola Griffith’s Spear whenever I get the chance; it helps that I found the book delightful as well. But there’s so many great cover designs right now — Jeff VanderMeer’s Picador paperbacks are superb, for example, and Simon Prade’s cover for Simon Jimenez’s The Spear Cuts Through Water (another one I loved, and reviewed) is just stunning.

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

Ned Beauman’s Venomous Lumpsucker is definitely my top pick from this summer, but it’s been a good year. Backlist? I’ve got too many to list—I will say that getting more people to read Sofia Samatar’s A Stranger in Olondria and The Winged History is part of my secret job description.

Do you have a strange customer story?

Not all that strange, but I’m always amused when people say, “I didn’t know if it was okay to take this book off the display!” Like: please! We made them hoping you would!

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

I don’t usually get starstruck, but I could make a case for being the world’s biggest C.J. Cherryh fan, and the language centers of my brain literally shut down when she was in Chicago for a signing a few years ago. City Lit hosted a few online bookclubs for this year’s Hugo Award finalists—as part of Chicon Fringe—that were a lot of fun.

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

That the actual job involves reading! Also, I think most people don’t realize the physical labor in a bookstore—it’s the equivalent of packing up and moving every week or two.

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

Doing returns is definitely my least favorite, just kinda spiritually. You want every—well, okay, most—books to succeed, but we don’t have infinite space, and new books are always being written, so we have to make room.

Favorite part is when a customer comes back to let us know that our idiosyncratic recommendation connected them with something they loved—knowing that they would never have wound up with that particular book if they hadn’t come in to our shop.

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

I love when people need a follow-up to Emily St. John Mandel: her books have so many threads leading off to other works. For fans of Sea of Tranquility, I might recommend Michael Zapata’s The Lost Book of Adana Moreau: that sense of place, the multi-generational nature of the story. Plus it’s just beautifully-written.

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

“For thirty-five years now I’ve been in wastepaper, and it’s my love story.” Bohumil Hrabal’s incomparable Too Loud a Solitude.

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

Oh my gosh, there’s so many—tons of favorites right here in Chicago. I think I want to shout out to Small World Books in Venice Beach, however—whenever I’ve wound up in LA, I often find myself kind of at loose ends near there, and it’s a wonderful oasis. Have never failed to pick up something great and unexpected there.

Casella Brookins is the assistant manager at City Lit Books in Chicago.

 

An interview with Mika Tuzon of Scrawl Bookstore

What’s your favorite area of your bookstore?

I love our fiction wall at Scrawl– it takes up an entire wall of the store from floor to ceiling and it gets the best natural light!

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

I am definitely guilty of judging a book by its cover. They’re more often art pieces in and of themselves (it’s a plus when the content is great, too)! Disorientation by Elaine Hsieh Chou is a recent favorite– the cover is what sold me on grabbing this title and I always make sure it’s out for the customers to see. I’m obsessed with the pink ombre and all the floating objects. I would love to know in general how authors go about deciding on their book covers. It seems like such a vital part of the process– it is the first thing readers see when they’re deciding on their next read, after all!

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

Two Brown Dots is a collection of poetry that came out in late April by Danni Quintos. It’s separated into three parts– Girlhood, Motherhood, and Folklore. Danni deep dives into what it means to grow up Filipina American and navigate the world as a woman of color in her poetry with exquisite vulnerability. I’m a little biased as she is my friend and fellow Kentuckian writer– she’s the first person I really saw myself represented in as far as poets go. As far as backlist titles, there are so many! I’ll just list out some favorites: Brown Girls by Daphne Palasi Andreades, The Mismatch by Sara Jafari, World of Wonders by Aimee Nezhukumatathil, The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett, Daisy Jones & the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid, Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid, and anything by Mary H.K. Choi and Jenny Han!

Do you have a strange customer story?

There was a customer that came in one time that was incredibly rude and seemed eerily familiar, so naturally I looked her up (as one does). I probably can’t go into too much detail about who she is, but let’s just say I had seen her on TV before as she was one of the defense attorneys for a man in Hollywood who had fallen from grace.

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

We had an event with Monica Hesse a couple of years ago. She’s a columnist for the Washington Post who focuses on topics of gender and she’s written amazing YA historical fiction like The War Outside
and Girl in the Blue Coat. That event was coincidentally attended by mostly teen femmes– it was so lovely to witness their energy and enthusiasm as they asked her a lot of questions regarding writing and journalism. She is also just a really lovely person!

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

People often romanticize working in a bookstore. Booksellers do a lot of heavy lifting– literally! Contrary to popular belief, we spend little to no time reading during our shifts. Sometimes, it’s just one person to a shift, which means one person is receiving shipment, answering the phone, shelving, manning the register, restocking, bringing out curbside pickups, helping customers, the list goes on and on! That being said, I wouldn’t trade this job experience for anything. It’s really special to work at a family-owned independent bookstore. Another big misconception– meet cutes don’t happen here! At least I haven’t witnessed or been part of one.

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

Restocking can be a pain– our shelves are more often than not filled to the brim! However, I prefer restocking and shelving to receiving shipments. There’s a lot of little steps required of receiving shipments so it’s easy to mess up. I’ve been here for five years, so I have lots of practice at getting more titles to fit on our shelves. Also, shelving often gives me the opportunity to find books I never would have thought to look at. I often go home with my discoveries– it’s exciting for my TBR pile, not exciting for my wallet! I think the worst part about working at the bookstore is when people are rude about the mask policy. We still require them which I truly appreciate, and most customers are understanding. However, we get the occasional naysayer which can be a little hit to the positivity I try to exude while I’m at the store. My most favorite part though is getting to know our neighborhood regulars. We have quite a few people who come in and/or order from us very frequently. I love when they come in and I remember them by name– people love being remembered! Getting to talk about books everyday is a big win, too.

Can you recommend an underrated read alike book for one of the store’s top titles? (For example: If your store sells a lot of The Song of Achilles, you might recommend Tin Man.)

If you’re a fan of nonfiction books like Crying in Hmart, you’d definitely enjoy Carefree Black Girls: A Celebration of Black Girls in Popular Culture by Zeba Blay. I believe this book deserves more love and is essential reading for all– it was my favorite read of 2021 by far. It’s a collection of essays that ponders
Black women and their contributions to culture in general. Blay’s wit and insight are razor sharp, and it’s great to see women of color celebrated. More of that, please!

Mika Tuzon is a bookseller at Scrawl Books