Bookish People — Susan Coll

.Fifty-four year old Sophie Bernstein (Mrs. Bernstein to us) owns an independent bookstore in Northern Virginia. She is struggling with her grief from her lawyer husband’s sudden death. She finds herself being less and less involved with the day to day life of the bookstore that she usually micromanages. It doesn’t feel fun anymore.. In the course of this, some of her employees are becoming overwhelmed, others are less engaged than they once were and Sophie starts thinking about ways to be part of the store while physically escaping its hubbub in a most unconventional way. Meanwhile, the developer who bought the parking lot out back seems to want to buy the store and tows people’s cars if they stay in the lot more than two hours.. Should she sell? Bookish people is certainly centered on Mrs. Bernstein, but it includes an ensemble cast of store employees and her just graduated from college son.

Clemi is in charge of organizing and putting on all of the store’s events, such as author readings. Her mailbox is always full. And why she has booked a poet who has gone viral in a bad way is beyond everyone but Clemi. Noah is a slightly irresponsible but highly attractive store employee who gets away with everything. Except for her letting that happen, Autumn T. is a decent store manager, taking over fromBookish long time manager Jamal who is moving away with his husband and child to start law school. Mrs. Bernstein is devastated to have him leave. She’s not sure how her employees see her, but Jamal has felt like a son to her in many ways. Then, there’s Florence, who was fired for something you’ll have to find out for yourself and banned from the store, but she is very much in Clemi’s life. They were roommates, but they’ve had to rent out Florence’s room and she’s now sharing Clemi’s room. Not good. There eventually is a tortoise as well, but staff may not bring pets to the store so how did that happen?

Despite some competitiveness, the staff is close and they socialize outside of work. Mrs. Bernstein is invited to their parties (the lunar eclipse watching party from one person’s roof and the “come as your favorite superhero” party scheduled for the following night). She assumes they don’t really want her to come and she is pretty clearly into isolating, not socializing. Bookish people truly brings us into the day to day experience of owning, staffing, experiencing the day to day life of an independent bookstore. It is also full of laugh out loud humor, I won’t spoil it by describing this, but the humor, flawlessly woven in, earns this already engaging book five stars from me for pure, consistent entertainment and time well spent. Highly recommend.

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