We loved this article so much, that we thought that we would run another viewpoint.
We caught up with Oliver Wearing, a bookseller and one half of book podcasting duo Looks and Books. This article gives a different perspective on working with books. It also highlights an equal amount of passion and reverie for the written word.
What is your job title?
What does your day-to-day look like?
In a word: books. Selling books, carrying books, re-arranging books, recommending books, endlessly receiving paper cuts from books – we do it all. They seem to multiply like little paper rabbits, which is both the best and worst part of the job. I’ve worked in retail and customer service before, but being a bookseller is a different ball game entirely.
Personally, I find that because books are so deeply personal to our individual lived experience, there’s a level of trust in the bookseller/customer relationship. This gives even the more menial aspects of my job a real sense of soul. There’s also a coffee shop in our store, so at the very least, my blood supply is always well-caffeinated.
How many books do you read a month?
Although I’m not allowed to read on-shift (tragic, I know). My staff discount and propensity for receiving proofs from publicists means that almost all of my spare time is spent flicking through pages. As a result I am always almost missing my stop on the tube as a result.
I typically read two books at a time – one fiction, one non-fiction – and I also co-host a literary and fashion podcast called Looks and Books, where we run a bi-weekly book club. If I had to put a number on it, I’d say 4 in a bad month. 6-8 in a good one.
Why did you choose this career path?
Growing up, I never liked to think about the future or how I’d spend the rest of my life. I was compliant and malleable to the opinions of those around me. Meaning that my ‘career ambitions’ at any given time were what my family had told me I should do. After a failed work experience and countless nights of dead-end career research, my sixteen-year-old self finally figured out that I have to be genuinely invested in something to dedicate myself to it entirely.
At this time, I was developing connections with authors that transcended the A-Level syllabus – Sylvia Plath, Jeffrey Eugenides, Virginia Woolf. In a stroke of uncharacteristically rare genius, I made a decision that eventually led me to three incredible years studying English at university.
After I graduated, I still had no idea what I wanted to do with my life, except that I wanted it to involve reading. Well, that was a year and a half ago and since then, I’ve been working tirelessly to establish a career for myself within the publishing industry. I don’t know how long I’ll work as a bookseller, but every day I’m surrounded by books and people who love books, and that’s all that I can ask for.
What is your favourite book?
Now, this is a notoriously tricky question, and I’m going to have to give two answers. The first is Just Kids by Patti Smith. Simply because it is the most stylistically beautiful, affecting and inspiring book I’ve ever read. That answer never changes.
My second choice in the best book I’ve read recently, which is This Really Isn’t About You by Jean Hannah Edelstein. It’s profoundly observed, wryly unsentimental and deftly written, and I couldn’t recommend it more. Go out and buy it in your droves.
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