by Alexandra Abraham, Bookseller

On April 14th, 2015, I rushed home to change and get ready for my first day at a brand new job. I was a junior in high school, president of the creative writing club, and as of that day, I was also a bookseller.

Bookselling quickly became more than just an after-school gig for me. Five years later, I consider it an inextricable part of my identity. I don’t know who I am if I’m not saying, “that reminds me of this book...” at least once in any given conversation. My brain has been reprogrammed to think in Wordstock (an ancient inventory software system used by many indie bookstores, which functions on key-command only, like we’re all cliché hackers in a ‘90s sci-fi flick). I have stress-dreams about the Christmas rush as early as July. And I often find myself commiserating with fellow booksellers over drama in the publishing industry, as if it were the juiciest new Netflix documentary series.

Sometimes, bookselling feels like this hilarious little bubble. It’s more than just a retail job; for most of us it truly is a way of life. That probably makes us sound a bit cult-ish, but I think the truth of it is that we are just extremely fortunate to be able to work surrounded by the things we love: books. I love books (who doesn’t?!) and I love talking about them and I love meeting authors and listening to stories about stories. I love when someone comes in and there’s that bookseller-customer spark, when we realize we have the EXACT same taste and I can lead them to their next obsessive-read.

And yeah, sometimes it’s a little all-consuming. These last few weeks working from home, I’ve felt adrift—a bookseller lost at sea without a bookstore harbor! But we’re making it work. I am so incredibly proud of my little bookstore family and all the ways we’ve come together to make the online Booksmith experience just as magical and eclectic as walking through the front doors of our physical store. So, without further ado, to celebrate my 5 INCREDIBLE YEARS OF BOOKSELLING, here are 5 incredible books I never would have read without my indies.

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes

I can’t contain my love for this book. It was recommended to me by a fellow bookseller at a previous store, but I didn’t read it until I came to work at Booksmith. For weeks, I became obsessed with the idea of de-stigmatizing death. Why don’t we talk about it? What do you want to happen to your body after you’re gone? What do your parents want you to do with their remains?

So, it maybe turned me into the most morbid dinner guest of all time. But! This is a book full of wisdom, dark humor, and so much fascinating history. And on top of all that, it is a stellar memoir about being 23 and feeling completely lost.

Whiskey When We're Dry

Whiskey When We're Dry

This was the first event I ever attended for Booksmith as an employee. My co-worker who was hosting was ecstatically excited, having already read the advanced copy of the book for review, but I was hesitant. Did I really want to read a book by a straight white guy about being a cross-dressing lesbian in the wild west? As it turned out, yes I did! This book is not only an amazing and compelling story, but a total critique of the Wild West/John Wayne pulpy sub-genre that still claims so much of the American identity. Warning: it’s a sad one! But also impossible to put down.
Upright Women Wanted

Upright Women Wanted

So, I had to follow that one with an unapologetically fun and whimsical romp through the distant future of the old west that is Sarah Gailley’s dystopian novella, "Upright Women Wanted". I only found this book thanks to our friends at Libro.fm, an online audio book site for independent bookstores (find them under the "Audiobooks" tab at the top of our homepage). The tagline is, “are you a coward, or a librarian?” and I don’t know how you could need a better selling point than that. This is a lot like a John Wayne movie itself, if John Wayne were a queer, bookworm feminist. If you want a read that will leave you both empowered and in the mood to, like, steal a horse and make a name for yourself on the plains: this is it.
Gideon the Ninth

Gideon the Ninth

I could scream about this book for days (and I have!) but for the sake of our lovely blog editor (hi, Lydia! <3) I will try to keep this brief: Lesbian. Necromancers. In. Space. Imagine all the humor and weirdness of Terry Pratchett but 10x darker, and full of references to internet memes. Even if you see the ending coming, it will punch you in the gut. I don’t know what kind of pure madness Tamsyn Muir taps into to write these books, but I hope she never gives it up.
How to Be a Good Creature

How to Be a Good Creature

I felt like I should take it home with another memoir after getting lost in queer-fantasy wonderland for a second there. Like Tamsyn Muir, Sy Montgomery emits some serious quirky-genius vibes. Working in Brookline, I quickly became familiar with her "Soul of an Octopus" and decided to give some of her other writing a try. By telling the stories of many different pets and animal friends she’d known throughout her life, Montgomery reveals the wisdom she’s taken from all these very good creatures in anecdotes and episodes that will make you laugh and also cry. It’s a book that is very dear to my heart.
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