9 Ways Working In A Bookstore Can Change The Way You Look At Books Forever

Girl choosing book in the bookstore
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By Kerri Jarema

I never planned on becoming a bookseller. In fact, it was the farthest thing from my mind until suddenly, there I was, handing in my resume. I had been moving jobs a lot since I graduated college (first as an Arts & Entertainment writer, then a Fashion Freelancer, Corporate Creative, Associate Editor, Social Media Manager, then Freelancer one more time...) and had found myself in a slump. I was working on my own projects and making exactly zero dollars, and looking to get out of the house and off the computer for a few hours every week. I had always loved books, and bookstores, and so threw caution to the wind, walked in to one of my favorite shops, and applied.

My on-a-lark retail stint would end up lasting almost three years and, in many ways, totally changing my life both as a reader and otherwise.

Sure, I could write a novel about all of the frustrations that come with bookselling (rude customers, minimum wage, the backbreaking labor of all-day shelving) but there are tons of amazing things about working with books, too. So much so that I think any book lover would benefit greatly from being a bookseller at some point in their life, even briefly. I've compiled nine of the biggest ways bookselling changed my reading life below, if you're looking for a little inspiration.

It Makes You Think More About Why You Love A Book...And Why You Don't

One of the biggest (and best) parts of bookselling is, well, selling the books, or handselling. The best booksellers have perfectly honed pitches for countless books in all different genres and age groups, just waiting for someone to come along and ask, "What should I read next if I liked Divergent?" or "I'm looking for middle grade books with feminist themes." This forces you to think more critically about the books you're reading; why you like them, why you don't, why you would recommend them to others and why you would tell them to steer clear. It will not only help you think more deeply about what you're reading, but will help realize exactly what books you love the most.

It Helps You Broaden Your Reading Horizons

On a slightly different note, being a bookseller will also make you want to pick up books you've never considered reading before, whether because the genre is outside your comfort zone, the author never seemed like they would be a favorite, or you'd previously disregarded an age group entirely. I worked at a children's bookstore and loved YA and MG already, but still, working with a group of passionate book people pushed me to read their favorites and opened me up to new reading possibilities. In fact, it was my bookseller job that made me take a second look at graphic novels, which I'd decided I didn't like. And now I have Nimona in my life so, obviously I'm thriving.

You'll Get A Behind The Scenes Look At The Publishing Industry

For me, this was probably the biggest learning curve of bookselling, and also the thing that has helped me the most in my career after leaving the store. Learning all of the different publishing houses and imprints, how book buying works, how author events and panels are put together, how stock signings are run...all were new-to-me aspects of books which I steadily picked up over my tenure as a bookseller. Not to mention meeting authors, publicists and editors, and hearing about the politics of cover design, marketing, pre-sales...really, it's endless what you will learn if you're a dedicated bookseller. So if you're eyeing a career in publishing, bookselling might be a great place to spend some time while you're interning.

You'll Have A Hand In Helping People Become Book Lovers

The most rewarding moments of bookselling was when I got a reluctant reader to pick up a book. Especially as a children's bookseller, there were countless moments where a parent would ask for help choosing a book for their kid, from seven to 17, who just wasn't interested in reading. But by listening to what they like, and letting them loose in a store where nothing is off limits, I learned that many people don't like to read because they think they have to read only certain things. Watching someone light up when you place the perfect graphic novel or YA fantasy or MG mystery in their hands will make you more excited about the power of books than ever.

Book Signings! Meeting Authors! ARCs! The Perks Will Change Your Life

As a bookseller, you're going to have access to a lot of literary perks, and it's going to forever change your reading life. From being privy to secret author stock signings where you can get your series signed and personalized while having one-on-one chit chat time with your favorite writers, to having access to covetable ARCs (after you fight your co-workers for them, of course) you'll feel like you have a backstage pass for all things bookish. Like I said before, no job is perfect, but some of these bookseller perks make up for the realities of retail. And if you're lucky, you might even get to hold on to some of these perks after you've left the bookseller life.

You'll Get To Relive The Magic Of Your Childhood Favorites

This might be super specific to children's bookselling, but if you have the opportunity to handsell in the kid's section as a bookseller, you will find that your excitement for your favorite series of yore will grow stronger the more you share them. I made sure my store always had ample copies of The Baby-Sitters Club, Ramona Quimby and Encyclopedia Brown books on sale because they were some of the ones I loved most as a child... and believe me, people can feel the excitement radiating off of you when you handsell a book that you really, truly love. Seeing kids walk off with those books made me relive my own love of them and reminded me why I love books.

You'll Read Way More Than You Ever Did

This is one side effect of bookselling that will definitely carry over. I have never read more than when I started selling books and the habit is not one that's easy to shake. It started because I needed to catch up on some common kids books I'd missed; then because I wanted to keep up with new releases so that I can be the most effecting handseller I could be, and to answer customer questions about popular releases; then I wanted to stay in touch with ARCs; and soon I was reading 8 to 10+ books a month and loving every minute of it. If you've ever wanted to fit more reading into your life, bookselling will most definitely help.

Your Home Library Will Be More Organized

You're going to spend a lot of your time shelving books and then re-shelving them when customers inevitably leave gigantic stacks haphazardly placed all over the store (please, book buyers, I beg you not to do this). And though it's one of the most annoying parts of being a bookseller it's also going to be hard to shake. I still walk around book stores, straightening crooked stacks, lamenting unorganized shelves, and noticing when a book has been placed in the wrong section. But this will carry over into your own shelves, too. If you ever had trouble keeping your home library neat and tidy, you won't have to worry too much about that after being a bookseller for a while.

It Makes You Part of A Larger Community Of Book-Lovers

By far, this has been the most lasting reward of being a bookseller, and if you're lucky enough to work with a staff of people that you (mostly) genuinely like and want to spend time with, your reading life, and regular life, is about to get a lot better. I didn't have a lot of bookworm friends growing up, but now a handful of my closest friends are all crazy book people like me. These are the friends I can rant and rave to about pretty much any book and be met with empassioned opinions, not confused faces or bored eye-rolling. Being a reader doesn't have to be a solitary activity, and bookselling is your door into a vibrant community.