I was once the kid who sat in the bookstore for hours, amassing a huge stack of books that I would read to near-completion, beg my mom to buy, and leave in the chair when my request was firmly refused. It’s still weird to me that I’m now the person who picks up and shelves those books. Back in middle school, the idea of working in a bookstore had the same glamorous, impossible appeal of becoming a druid or a Pokémon trainer. But somehow, getting my English literature degree at UCSC led to me working at Jamba Juice on Mission Street, which led to working at both GameStops in Capitola, which led me to Bookshop. I’m always reminded of how cozy and close this community is when I see a Jamba regular looking for a smoothie book, or my favorite GameStop people in the sci-fi/fantasy section. And it goes without saying that I see a former professor once a week, and can tell if a stack of Dickens presented to me at the register is destined for a John Jordan class.
I used to finish books so quickly that my mom asked 9-year-old me if I was actually reading all those Nancy Drew/Animorphs/ Sailor Moon books or just turning the pages. I think I just liked to read fast because it meant I could read more. And the more I read, the more I wanted to read. I’ve never kept a physical to-read list, and the thought of starting one now is laughable and terrifying. It’s great to be surrounded by coworkers and customers who help me find my new favorite books, or guilt trip me into finally reading A Game of Thrones.
I’m making a deliberate effort to read at a more relaxed pace, though it really just means I end up reading six books at once. Right now I have A Clash of Kings and The Wise Man’s Fear in my work locker, The Marriage Plot in my bag, Kushiel’s Dart in my car, The River of No Return by my bed, and Anna Karenina on my smartphone. (I had the latter spoiled for me while reading a movie review, but I’m determined to finish it nonetheless.) One might think that such a hectic reading system would lead to stress and confusion, but I’m not really happy unless I have a little too much on my plate and not enough time to get it all done. Working at Bookshop is perfect because there’s always something interesting to learn and something new to read. Okay, more like a million somethings. But I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Andrea Aquino has been a bookseller at Bookshop Santa Cruz for a year and a half. She shelves hardcover new releases, science fiction and fantasy, and she is part of Bookshop’s marketing team. If you’ve ever read a hardcover book’s shelf talker in loopy Sharpie script with too many exclamation points and superlatives, Andrea probably wrote it.