Interview with Michael Keefe from Annie Bloom’s Books

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

The Fiction section. It occupies the middle area of a long stretch of wall, with enough room for a good number of faced-out titles, so it looks inviting. Plus, I mostly read contemporary fiction, so it’s my favorite section to browse in any store.

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

The Great British Baking Show: A Bake for All Seasons. Though I’m not a baker, I love the show. And the cover makes my mouth water.

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

My current Staff Fave is the novel Mercy Street by Jennifer Haight. The main protagonist is Claudia, a counselor at a women’s clinic in Boston. It also follows a couple of male protestors, and Claudia’s pot dealer. A backlist title that’s really stuck with me in recent years is Go, Went, Gone by Jenny Erpenbeck, about a retired professor in Berlin who becomes involved with a group of immigrants from Africa. It’s a beautiful examination of empathy, with plenty of well-intentioned missteps along the way.

4. Do you have a strange customer story?

This one has stumped me! I’ve forgotten all the strange customer stories from before the pandemic. Since reopening our doors to the public in April 2021, the vast majority of our customers have been extra gracious and supportive.

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

Until the pandemic started, I’d only ever hosted one or two events at Annie Bloom’s. Then we went online, and I suddenly found myself hosting all of them. It’s been an unexpected treat!

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

Having now read a few Books Forward interviews, I’ll have to agree with my fellow booksellers out there: we spend a lot more time lugging around heavy books than we do getting paid to read them.

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

My least favorite part is carrying the aforementioned heavy books upstairs to the sales floor from the receiving desk in the basement.

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

For anyone who’s been drawn in by American Dirt‘s migration story, Infinite Country by Patricia Engel would make for an excellent complimentary novel about the trials of emigrating from Latin America to the US.

Michael Keefe is the events coordinator and publicist for Annie Bloom’s Books in Portland, OR.