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Staff Profile: Louise Barros

I’ve been on all ends of the reading spectrum in the relatively short time I’ve been alive. I learned to read at a very young age (thank you Nana and Papa) and I was an unstoppable reading tornado for many years. Maxing out my Ripon library card was my favorite way to spend a Saturday. Like most millennial children, I cut my teeth on Harry Potter, taking turns reading out loud with my sister and mom before bed. I’d always save Fleur Delacore’s dialogue for my sister; she can pitch Fleur so perfectly—haughty but honest. Reading aloud brought me so much personal satisfaction. But I remember the year when the only book I read was Jane Eyre, over and over again, searching between the lines for our similarities and happy when one or two could be found. Maybe I should have read a bit more, but I don’t regret my decision. I’ll always be grateful for Jane.  

I stumbled into bookselling with almost no knowledge of the industry. I had just moved back in with my parents after living in Soquel for about a year. I went to Modesto Junior College, studied psychology and music, and got a job at The Big Bookstore two towns over. I thought working at The Big Bookstore would really mesh with my bookish ways, but mostly I was found behind the register. No shelving, no bookselling, just tendering cash and living vicariously through customers with big stacks of new releases. I was…bored. People would bring me their selections and gush, “You must really like working here,” or “I could never work here—I’d spend my whole paycheck on books!” Only one of these statements was true.

After a year of midnight drives from Escalon to Santa Cruz to rendezvous with my sweetheart, I made a loving leap into domestic bliss by moving back. Everything about Bookshop is so different from The Big Bookstore. Days aren’t monotonous and I’m constantly stretching my imagination to connect people with good reads. I revel in pairing someone up with the perfect book, talking about my favorite YA novels (Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, at the moment), and getting book recommendations from my coworkers. This is a labor of love for us, which has kindled a great many semi-heated discussions among my peers about which American author best exemplifies our culture (Sherman Alexie, in my humble opinion) and other such debates.

I have a reputation for cynicism; my ideal job would be Professional Hater, if such a thing exists (move over, Dale Peck). I only read about 12 books per year, and I love that this slow habit doesn’t invalidate my job as a bookseller. I’m a woman of principle, and I don’t need more notches on my bookshelf to prove I’m dedicated to reading. I don’t suffer foolish writing—my apartment is filled with half-read books I’ve been meaning to give away. And maybe that’s a little unfair, but I’m at peace with myself and with that mass market of A Tale of Two Cities I’ll not pick up again. Bookselling at BSC has empowered me to refine my personal tastes. When customers come back and tell me how happy they were taking a chance on an unknown author’s road-trip novel (Nevada by Imogen Binnie), my pickiness is justified.

Louise has been at Bookshop Santa Cruz since 2012. As the receiving supervisor, she processes hundreds of books each day, meaning there’s a 50 percent chance she received the book you’re holding right now. You can also find her fussing over the Women’s Studies and Queer Studies sections on a semi-regular basis.