At Browser Books, a relationship with readers

Photograph of Browser Books by Kathi O'Leary

FIRST PERSON | Ken Samuels

The other day, while selling some books to a couple of young men, I realized I’d known them since they were little kids pleading with their mothers to buy them Berenstain Bears books.

That sums up my decade and a half at Browser Books on Fillmore and Sacramento selling books to the families of this neighborhood. I get to know them as they return again and again. Some kids are shy, nudging their parents to the counter to ask a question, while others march up and confidently fire away with their requests. Hands down, these are the most rewarding moments of my workday.

I never forget how booksellers shared their enthusiasm for literature with me when I was a child. Along with my family, they made me a lover of books — and in time a writer. I don’t know if I’m helping neighborhood kids become writers, but I hope I’m helping them become book and bookstore lovers.

Browser Books, like all independent bookshops, faces many challenges these days, but our relationship with the readers in this neighborhood is what sustains us. It begins with the young ones. One minute they’re reading Harold and the Purple Crayon and before you know it they’re on to War and Peace. After all these years, I still love to watch this development.

To me, that’s the definition of being a local, neighborhood bookseller.

Ken Samuels has worked at Browser Books since 1996.

EARLIER: “Thank God for Browser Books