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Staff Profile: Sara McLeod

Reading has always been a part of my life. My parents read to my mother’s swollen belly when she was pregnant with me and books were a constant at bedtime once I was born. Even today when a customer buys Love You Forever by Robert Munsch, I am transported back to those nights with my parents. I love how a book, like a certain scent, can evoke strong memories even when the details have long dissipated.

The beauty of working with books is that you are surrounded by old friends and you never know when you might meet a new one. Bookshop Santa Cruz introduced me to new genres that I never would have considered. I used to read mainly fiction, getting lost in New Mexico in Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal Dreams, or exploring the cold shores of Puget Sound in David Guterson’s Snow Falling on Cedars. Once I became a bookseller, I learned the joy of ARCs (advanced reading copies—books for booksellers to review before they are published) and expanded my literary world to include biographies, mysteries, and science fiction. I do not worry that I have yet to delve into politics or science; I believe there is a time in one’s life for certain books. I attempted to read Huckleberry Finn twice, once in high school and again after graduating, but simply could not get into it. Then when I moved to Italy to study abroad, I found a tattered copy of the book and it became one of my favorites, Huck speaking straight to my heart as I sat alone in my room, a world away from my family.

There are different shades of books for different times in one’s life: the serious novel, expanding your vocabulary by forcing you to the dictionary on each page (Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections); the fun and mysterious characters in the beach read you pour through in a single day (Maria Semple’s Where’d You Go, Bernadette?); the happy medium of great writing coupled with wild imagination (Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven). Wherever I am in my life, I can find inspiration, love, excitement, or hope between the pages of a book. What a delight it is, then, to be surrounded by like-minded people, my fellow booksellers and customers who understand what it is to be bowled over by the right read.

Years ago a friend of mine loaned me her copy of Rafe Esquith’s Teach Like Your Hair’s on Fire, and one quote in particular has become ingrained in my mind: “Reading is not a subject. Reading is a foundation of life, an activity that people who are engaged in the world do all the time.” I love Bookshop Santa Cruz because it strives to continuously engage its community, a community that showed up by the hundreds after the 1989 earthquake destroyed the original shop, donning hard hats and grim determination to carry out books and save the bookstore. I may now be a member of the Bookshop family but I remain in awe of its magic, and of the community itself, a community that understands the value of reading. ¶


Sara joined Bookshop in 2013, working as a bookseller, supervisor, events host, and marketing team member. She now runs the gift department, overseeing gifts, cards, toys, and calendars, but don’t worry—the stack of books on her bedside table remains precariously high. Her staff profile was featured in the 2017 Summer Newsletter.