I still have dreams where I’m in the bookstore past closing time, and customers are banging on the door or lining up as far as the eye can see. The dreams are often nightmarish, and I wake up feeling panicked. I worked for five years in a big bookstore, and I genuinely wonder why my subconscious has decided to use it as the setting for some of my most anxiety-inducing dreams.
I’m incredibly lucky to have had the opportunity to be present for midnight Harry Potter and Hunger Games book launches. I cherish the moments where I was able to brighten someone’s day by recommending the perfect page-turner. There really is nothing like standing in a nearly empty bookstore and feeling the weight of all the pages around you.
But it’s not all fun, there are some downsides to working in a bookstore. Not convinced? Here are a few reasons you might want to slip your resume somewhere else.
You’ll spend your days wondering how in the world you’re going to be able to read all those books. You look at the tall shelves surrounding you and quickly realize that the truth is you’ll never read all the books, and you panic and fall into a hole of existential dread.
2. Don’t Expect a Paycheck
Okay. You’ll get a paycheck. I hope. But you’re not going to see much of it, because the urge to buy new books will overtake all of your senses. The logical part of your brain actually dies when you’re constantly surrounded by so many books. When there’s a sale, you’ll fly into a book-buying hysteria as if the paperbacks and mass markets won’t be there the next day—but they will, and you’ll feel ashamed the next day when you come in and see the nice stack still sitting there.
3. You’ll Need to Stay Up Past Your Bedtime
When a trendy book gets a sequel, you’ll inevitably be asked to work late for a midnight book launch. There will be crowds. There will be shrieking teens and probably a few people in costume. You’ll go home past your bedtime and then you’ll be up even later because you need to start the damn book that you just bought at the launch.
4. Your Bookshelves Will Break
They’ll heave under the weight of all the books you’re bringing home. You could buy another bookshelf, but why not live dangerously? You stack and re-stack like you’re in the DaVinci Code and there’s only one possible configuration that will make sense. Eventually, you re-organize the books by spine color, because let’s face it, you’re only organizing so you can look at and admire your collection.
5. People Will Pester You For Recommendations
Customers will flock to you as if they’re Princess Leia and you’re Obi-Wan. You’re the only one who can give them what they need. Their stay stay-up-late read, the book they’ve been searching for all day, the perfect book for mom’s birthday. Sometimes they only know what the author’s name sounds like. Often, they provide you with a vague description of a book they’ve never read but saw recommended in a magazine. The hunt becomes a puzzle and you are the puzzle master. It feels good to dole out recs with confidence and slapping your “recommended by” sticker on a book is incredibly satisfying, but sometimes it’s tough to be in a position of so much power.
Gosh! Working in a bookstore sure is tough 😉