Thursday, June 06, 2013

Behind the Bookshelf: Interview with a bookseller, Malnurtured Snay

 Meet Malnurtured Snay! Let's call him MS for grins. He's a voracious reader living and working in the District, and another one of us who always wanted to work in a bookstore. As he plotted his escape from Timonium to DC, MS started applying at all your standard stores: Barnes & Noble, Kramer's (one of my favorite discoveries when I first moved to this area), and the Borders in Golden Triangle (ever notice how it's not an actual triangle?). He wound up at Borders and worked there until February/March 2011, when the store closed in the first phase of what was Border's death knell (his words, not mine).  He bought a lot of books during his time there.

MS can be found exploring this beautiful city by foot and by bus and is known to tweet incessantly about Star Trek: TNG (among other things) at @MalnurteredSnay. He can be found proffering book reviews and other opinions over at, you guessed it, Malnurtured Snay.

What are you currently reading? Thoughts on it?

I've been reading "Arthur the King" by Allan Massie which places the Arthur legend at the end of the Roman occupation of Britain and Merlin the son of a centurion. I'm enjoying it, but it's really making me want to watch John Borrman's Excalibur.

What books are you most looking forward to this year?

None - ever since I stopped working in a bookstore, I just haven't kept up with news about what books are being published. I've also become a huge fan of used bookstores and book sales. There are lots of both in the DC area, and there's a great weekly "Folio Sale" at the DC-Chevy Chase library on Connecticut Avenue. There's also an annual "pop up" bookstore at Farragut Square for a month each spring. Somehow this was off my radar until this year, but I definitely stopped through a few times and picked up a lot of stuff. 

Actually, I take that back because Nathaniel Philbrick has a new book coming out (it's not nautical themed, which is strange) on the battle of Bunker Hill. But due to my aversion to buying books new (they're expensive!) I'm going to hope I get it as a birthday or Christmas gift this year. 

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

I actually set myself a goal of not buying any more books. I live in a studio apartment. There are bookshelves stacked on bookshelves in my apartment, and each shelf is packed full of books. I even have a book handtruck from Borders in one corner, and it's piled high. I just buy books in vastly more quantities than I will ever be able to read them, but that goal only lasted a few months. I've been finding books that I have multiple copies of and taking them to work and trying to give them to coworkers. I don't work in a bookstore anymore, so this is a little harder than it used to be. I'll just be happy to have a few great days with good books on the roof deck of my building.

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

Jack Reacher, King Arthur, and Harry Potter. I guess it would have to be a British bar - drinking age is 18 there, right? Gotta make sure Harry can get a drink. 

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

I think if you could get Alastair Reynolds, who writes some amazingly scientific space opera, to collaborate with Ken Follett, who writes these tremendously thick and engaging historical novels (I want another sequel to Pillars of the Earth!) that would just blow my mind. 

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

Well, it's been a few years since I worked in a bookstore, but can I do three way tie? Anything in the Twilight Series, anything by Dan Brown, and anything by Nicholas Sparks. Speaking of Sparks, I don't for the life of me understand why he isn't shelved in Romance.

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

Like ... as a customer, or as an employee? 

As a customer: feel free to browse, but when you're done with a book, please actually put it back onto the shelf where you found it. Don't just stack the thing. We had one night when some college professor (or professor-type, anyway) came in with some of his students and walked around the store, from section to section, pulling a bunch of titles out from each section, then just leaving them stacked on the floor when they moved along. Seriously, fuck that guy; don't be that guy. And if you ask a bookseller for help and all you know about the book is that it has a red cover and used to be on that corner of that table six months ago and they find it for you? They deserve a cash tip.

As an employee: there are customers who come in, browse, and leave. Most of these people are boring, and unless they come in a bunch, you won't remember them. The ones you will remember are those who are great, and those who are awful. Wherever you work, there will be code names for the awful ones. Every now and then I run into some of these awful people in DC, and the first instinct is to just turn and fucking run. Oh! The stories.

1 comment:

  1. I really like the idea of tipping the bookseller who makes the incredible find!!