May 2020

Shelf Life with Emma Straub: ‘It’s all nerdy, I’m afraid.’

Interview by
Emma Straub—author, bookstore owner and all-around beloved human—shares a glimpse of her life in the stacks.
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Do you visit bookstores differently now that you own your own bookstore, Books Are Magic?
I pay attention to different things—how things are organized, what kind of tote bag they make, what sales software they use. It’s all nerdy, I’m afraid.

What are your bookstore rituals? Where do you go first in a store?
I tend to do a lap first, to see what’s what and to get a feel of the place. Then I usually go to the S section in fiction, just to see if my babies are there.

Do you have a favorite bookstore or library from literature?
Right now I’m reading the Harry Potter books with my 6-year-old, and so the Hogwarts library is in the front of my mind. Now those books are magic.

While researching your books, has there ever been a librarian or bookseller who was especially helpful?
Ha, yes! My first novel, Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures, covered a whole lot of time—1920 to 1980—and I did a lot of research at the Margaret Herrick Library in Los Angeles, where the librarians were patient angels and helped me find everything I needed and didn’t laugh at me when it was clear that I didn’t even know where to start.

Tell us about your favorite library from when you were a child.
The library in Westport, Connecticut, sold me a copy of Miss Piggy’s Guide to Life from their annual book sale when I really needed it as a large, blond kid. The library that I think is the most terrific, though, even though it isn’t even close to where I live, is the main branch of the Nashville Public Library, which has a truly magnificent children’s program, and which I treasured more than I can say when my family and I spent a few months there when my first child was brand-new.

ALSO IN BOOKPAGE: Read our review of All Adults Here.

Do you have a “bucket list” of bookstores and libraries you’d love to visit but haven’t yet? What’s on it?
South America seems to have some truly magnificent bookstores and libraries. Instagram is always showing me ones with gorgeous staircases. Closer to home, there are lots on my bucket list—stalwarts like Square Books, Changing Hands and Left Bank Books, and newer stores like Wild Rumpus, Literati and White Whale. The list gets longer every year!

How is your own personal library organized?
The massive bookshelf in our living room used to be big enough to have everything alphabetized, and now it’s not, and books spill over in every direction. The books in my bedroom are in no order whatsoever, except that the closer they are to my pillow, the sooner I plan to read them.

Bookstore cats or bookstore dogs?
Although in general I am a cat person, I tend to think that dogs are better behaved hosts in bookstores.

What is your ideal bookstore-browsing snack?
Our bookstore runs on candy. It shouldn’t, but it does.


Author photo © Melanie Dunea

Get the Book

All Adults Here

All Adults Here

By Emma Straub
ISBN 9781594634697

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