Behind the Bookshelf: Interview with a bookseller, Marie Hviding

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When I transitioned to non-profit work, I took a job at my local Barnes & Noble to earn some extra money. For five years, I spent my evenings and weekends selling books (and sometimes coffee). While my romantic fantasy of working in a bookstore might not have meshed with the reality of working for a corporate giant, I wouldn't trade those years for anything. My reading tastes expanded, learned the joys of the Advance Reader Copy, and met some of my best friends. Book people, for the most part, really are the best.

Want some of that insider bookseller knowledge? I've lined up interviews with some of my favorite current and former booksellers and can't wait to share them with you over the coming weeks. I'm kicking off this series with Marie Ann Hviding (above). Marie lives in Boston and just finished a degree in Library and Information Science (you know, just to complement her degree in literature). She blogs over at

BatGirl

. I hope you enjoy her interview as much as I do!

What are you currently reading? Thoughts on it?

At the moment, I'm reading Stephen King's "

The Wind Through the Keyhole

". It's an extra novel inserted into his Dark Tower series. In theory, I'm annoyed. I waited for King to finish off this series before tackling it, because he was so erratic in publishing the series. I loved it and thought that he took some huge risks, did some crazy things, and threw in a gigantic meta element which totally blew me away, but he also gave it a definitive ending. I admire when an author has the courage to finish a work and walk away, so I was annoyed that he felt the need to go back. All of that being said, I'm really liking it. It's Stephen King, so it moves fast, and his Dark Tower writing has this hybrid vibe that blends the epic quest with King's folksy, familiar, "I'm just a guy telling you a tale" voice.

What books are you most looking forward to this year?

I've been very out of the publishing loop for the last two years, but there are several books that were either just released, or are due out by the end of 2013 that I can't wait to get my hands on:

  • Margaret Atwood's next book: Everything Atwood writes is awe-inspiring and makes me feel lucky to live in a world where she writes books and I get to read them but "Oryx and Crake" and "The Year of the Flood" were completely unhinged, gut-wrenching genius, that left me emotionally drained and I can't wait to see how else she intends to destroy me. 
  • "The 5th Wave" by Rick Yancey: I find post-apocalyptic fiction irresistible and this one has been getting tons of buzz and intriguing reviews. 
  • "Benediction" by Kent Haruf: His novel "Plainsong" is one of the most beautiful and moving novels I have ever read and this returns us to the town of Holt, Colorado. Time spent here is always time that gives me hope for mankind. 
  • Finally, I won't lie, I can't wait to read Dan Brown's "Inferno". I know people love to bust on "The DaVinci Code", but really, I thought it was a lot of fun, and throw Dante and Florence into the mix? I certainly can't resist that. 

Did you set any reading goals for 2013? If so, what are they?

Reading Goals? Mostly I'm looking forward to having the opportunity to read for the sheer joy of it. I always try to keep my reading well-rounded, so I'll be looking for something fast and fun, followed by something big and epic that I can get lost in, and then maybe follow that with something challenging to spark my brain. My usual reaction when I finish a book is to read something very different next. Also, I keep thinking that I'm ready to tackle David Foster Wallace's "Infinite Jest". Maybe this year I'll actually do it.

What three characters would you invite to the bar for a drink?

I'm going to cheat and invite 4 characters for an evening of drinks, because I couldn't bear to uninvite one of them once I got them all in my head: Gus McCrae from "

Lonesome Dove

", Eleanor of Aquitaine from

Sharon Kay Penman

's historical novels, Ford Prefect from "

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

", and Hermione Granger from "

Harry Potter

". It's an odd mix but I think one which would be interesting and provide an evening of cleverness and fun.

If you could convince any two authors to write a book together, who would it be? Why?

I've got nothing for you with the two authors. I can't seem to wrap my head around the concept of what kind of Frankenstein's Monster I would want to create with that kind of power. The only time I've seen it work successfully in my opinion, was

Peter Straub

and

Stephen King

's collaboration on a couple novels. I think they were successful because their styles are pretty similar, but I don't think the result was anything that either one couldn't have achieved on their own. Perhaps something where the reader was getting two sides to a story from a male and female point of view. That presupposes that men cannot write women and women cannot write men and I think that's a limiting way to look at things, but for the sake of argument, let's have

Henning Mankell

and

Elizabeth George

put Kurt Wallander and Barbara Havers together to solve a mystery. Both are solid writers with well-established characters who could hold their own ground and ideally not be absorbed by the other.

What's the most annoying book you see flying off the shelves?

Annoying book flying off the shelves? I don't know about that. I try not to judge things I haven't read, so usually it's more a matter of confusion. I just don't get the appeal of some titles because they don't interest me. I do worry about the popularity of books that seem to be about nothing more than pretty girls acquiring ... stuff (boys, clothes, money), but I hesitate to judge without really reading them. I worry that we are setting up our young women for lives of mental poverty.

If you could give people one piece of advice to prep them for entering a bookstore, what would it be?

Be open to possibility. Don't be afraid to try something new. Don't be afraid to read something that nobody else is reading. Don't be afraid to be attracted to a book just based on it's cover. BUT, take some time before you commit to a book. Read a few paragraphs, in fact read the first couple of pages. Don't blindly follow others, decide for yourself whether a book is right for you or not.