Bookstore: Sherman’s Books and Stationery, Freeport
Brief Bio: Josh Christie started his career in bookselling in 2004, working as a frontline bookseller at Sherman’s Books and Stationery in Camden, Maine. While he is still working for Maine’s oldest bookseller (Sherman’s opened in 1886), he now hangs his hat at Sherman’s of Freeport. Though he spends most of his time on the floor selling books, Josh also is a book buyer and event planner for Sherman’s. Returns, inventory, promotions, remotes, training, accounting – if it’s a task at the bookstore, Josh has done it. An avid outdoorsman, he also writes skiing and hiking columns for the Maine Sunday Telegram. He served on the NEIBA advisory council, and was the 2010 recipient of NEIBA’s Rusty Drugan Scholarship for Emerging Leaders.
What books recently rocked my world: I just finished Stacy Sciff’s Cleopatra, and I can’t think of enough superlatives to heap on the book. The biography is mesmerizing, transporting, beautiful, surprising – such a great, great book. It really paints a picture of the woman that I haven’t seen before.
On the recommendation of Lev Grossman, I just devoured one of PG Wodehouse’s Jeeves and Wooster books (Code of the Woosters). It’s a riotous book that doesn’t show it’s age at all, and I’m excited to dig into more Wodehouse. Speaking of Grossman, his newest book The Magician King is one of my favorites so far this year.
Oni’s new graphic novel Petrograd, a history of the conspiracy to murder Rasputin, is simply fantastic history. The story is smart and engaging and the book is flawlessly produced, a quality I’ve come to expect from Oni.
Luckily, I can also mention a Algonquin title – Naomi Benaron’s Running the Rift, which I finally got around to after picking up a galley at BEA. I’m only about a third of the way through, but the writing is stunning. I can see why the book won the 2010 Bellwether prize.
Best damn event(s) we’ve hosted: Every year, Sherman’s hosts “Books in Boothbay,” a massive book fair in Boothbay, Maine. This year, for the seventh annual fair, we had more than 40 Maine authors in attendance. It’s a completely free event, and authors run the gamut from niche local writers to huge names like Julia Spencer-Fleming. It is one of the largest book-related events in Maine, and showcases the tremendous literary talent the Pine Tree State has to offer.
Most entertaining author(s) we’ve hosted: The most entertaining author we’ve hosted is easily Jeff Foltz, whose debut novel Birkebeiner was published by Maine Authors Publishing last fall. Not only is Jeff a great writer and a charming guy, but he’s a consumate salesman – as he put it, he could sell sand in the desert. We’ve hosted Mr. Foltz a couple times, and a friendly competition has grown between the author and the booksellers; if we can sell more books in the week before he comes that the day of his event, he buys the coffee.
So far, we’ve been buying a lot of coffee.
Strangest question a customer has ever asked: Being in Freeport, which is ground zero for tourists in Maine, we get a lot of great questions that aren’t even book related. “When does a deer turn into a moose?” is one of my favorites, and more than one customer has asked “why is the harbor decorated?” when they noticed all the lobster bouys.
My favorite strange book question is “where is the non-fiction section?” Seven years in, I’ve managed to resist saying “See the fiction section? Everything that’s not that.”
Why our store kicks ass: Our store in Freeport is large enough that we can carry a little bit of everything, both in terms of books and gifts. We’ve got a small staff that has been selling books for a long time (at seven years in, I’m still the newbie!), and we’re all voracious readers on different topics. I think we offer some of the best, personal customer service in the state, and we make sure that our customers leave with the right thing – whether it’s the right stack of books or just the right greeting card. We do lots of events with our local historical society and library. We have a huge selection of books about Maine and by Maine authors for kids and adults. We even gift wrap for free, which is a big deal for all those Saturday-morning birthday parties.
Our store in Bar Harbor is celebrating 125 years in business this year, making Sherman’s the oldest booksellers in Maine. I hope we’re living up to the standards that have kept us around for that long.
What makes our neighborhood and customers awesome: Well, we’ve really got two different types of customers; folks from here and folks “from away.” Both are awesome.
During the winter, our customer base is pretty much all locals. We’ve got a handful of great local book clubs that always pick fantastic books, including a self-directed club made up of 5th graders. Freeport is a town that gets cold and quiet during the winter, and our customers need good, beefy books to get them through the lean months.
During the summer, coastal Maine is just crazy busy, and summer people cruising through to buy books is great. Whether they’re looking for light summer fiction or the newest prizewinners, the summer crowds ask for a huge variety of books. Not only does this keep us on our toes, but it means that over the decades we’ve built up a phenomenal and eclectic inventory.
I promise you won’t find this at any other store: Our huge Maine gifts section. Our gift manager and buyer make sure we’ve got stuff you won’t find in any other store, let alone another bookstore. Weather sticks to Bucky Balls to photo frames to buoy lamps to Bananagrams, we’ve got it all.
Why I do what I do: I love books. I love reading. I like gently hoisting my taste in books on others. And, honestly, I love talking to people. Everyone brings and takes away something different from every book, and every day selling books is an education.
If I weren’t selling books I’d be: An unrepentant ski bum. I actually went to college in a now-defunct “Ski Industries” program, so I’d be among the most qualified schussers out there.
Books that changed my life: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon, The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, and a hundred others. Every book changes your life a least a bit, right?
Top three songs on the soundtrack to my life: I can’t think of any songs that really describe my life, since the definitive album about staying in on Friday nights reading alone hasn’t been written yet. So, I’ll just go with three of my favorites.
Death or Glory by The Clash
The Power of Love by Huey Lewis and the News
Spunk Drive 185 by the Rustic Overtones
My last meal request: Two bacon-cheese hot dogs from Wasses Hot Dogs in Rockland, and a pint of chocolate milk. Followed by lots and lots of craft beer.