Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Booksellers are Holiday Heroes: Introduction

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If the word Christmas evokes for you only images of silent snowdrifts, twinkly lights, plates of sugar-dusted cookies and crackling fires, friends and families gathered around the hearth with drowsy, placid smiles, you clearly have never worked in retail.

My father owned a small business when I was growing up that specialized in selling car audio equipment to car-loving suburbanites. Christmas meant a tense and hushed month of twelve-hour shifts, foul tempers, and Hungry Man dinners. Christmas day was the day-before-Boxing-Day. We alleviated stress with mountains of shortbread and Die Hard 2. December 27 was when the holidays really started – until someone invented Boxing Week.

When I was 19, I started working in a large bookstore in downtown Vancouver and I got a taste of December retail, floor-side. I had whole shifts in which I was positioned at the top of an escalator, ready to take the confused and frantic people by the hand and guide them to the appropriate section. I loved December – shifts flew by, hangovers were forgotten by 9 AM with gallons of coffee and brisk, purposeful walks from section to section, and I perfected my machine-like speed shelving method in the early morning hours before the store opened.

These days, I rarely buy gifts at Christmas unless they are books. Bookstores are often the only retail environment I experience in December if I can help it. I love going in with my ridiculous questions for booksellers. For example, my sister went through a phase of reading novels that retold a history from the point of view of a woman. Where are those, bookseller? What about books for a five year old who likes Moomins? Where are the literary mysteries? Good booksellers help make happy readers of us all, and they do it with grace and aplomb in a month of burnout and impatience.

So, I’m tipping my hat to the good booksellers of Toronto. Next week, along with the literary holiday parties series (which I hope is tickling you as much as it delights me), I’ll bring you Q&As with some of our loveliest and most helpful book types, including instructions on how to be an ideal holiday shopper and the books on their wish lists.

Now get out there and get your book shopping done!

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

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Sachiko Murakami

Sachiko Murakami is the author of the poetry collections The Invisibility Exhibit (Talonbooks, 2008), a finalist for the Governor General’s Literary Award and the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award, and Rebuild (Talonbooks, 2011). She lives in Toronto.

Go to Sachiko Murakami’s Author Page