What it’s like to work at a bookshop
When my favourite bookshop in Dhaka asked me to join their team last year, I said yes in a heartbeat.
It took me a good few weeks to believe that my job was to find books for readers of all tastes. The happy readers, the melancholic ones, the productive readers, and the indecisive ones. Young readers, grumpy readers, and scary readers.
Each day, as I walked into the bookshop, I inhaled the smell of books – old and new. For the first time in 24 years, I felt a sense of belonging. Here, at a bookshop.
I stood in front of the shelves and perused through them — fiction, essays, art, architecture, film, self-help, and a personal favourite, new releases. I knew exactly who would love to read each book I looked at.
One day, I found a collection of short stories. Allow me to rephrase, the collection of short stories found me. It was old and precious. I took a picture of the book, held it close, and whispered, "Go make someone happy." A few minutes after I posted the photo, an order was placed for the book.
Ordinary magic is the best kind of magic, I realised.
I met a little boy whose mother was looking for the Bangla translation of Living to Tell the Tale. I happened to know exactly where it was, since the book happened to be one of my favourites. The shade of red from the cover was that of the boy's glasses. He asked if the person on the cover was Einstein. I smiled and introduced him to Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Unimpressed, not knowing the magic this man was capable, the boy asked, "Who's that?"
One such morning, I met my favourite author in the cafe corner. Casually, and miraculously. I told him how much I loved his work. It did not even occur to me to ask for an autograph.
One of the fellow librarians started to call the place where I take photos my "studio". The name stuck. When I lost my favourite book, and therefore my heart, the bookshop held me together. And when I received an autographed copy of that same book as a gift, the broken heart began to heal.
I have lived and breathed stories since I was about six years old. Books have always been my saviour and my sanctuary. I was that child who was found reading in a corner at family functions, the friend who always had a book in her backpack, and the date who reads on rickshaws because she needs to know what happens next.
So, from mastering the art of carrying as many books as my hands can hold, dealing with papercuts regularly, getting new releases delivered to my desk fresh off the press to having the occasional impromptu conversations with readers browsing the shelves, working at a bookstore has been the most gratifying experience I have ever had.
Shimin reads everything she can find, talks to cats, and writes a lot of letters. Send her a book at firstname.lastname@example.org