On the Job: Tattered Cover’s Head Book Buyer

As head book buyer for Tattered Cover, Bethany Strout uses her passion for reading to stock up on some great stories.

Photograph by Jeff Nelson

This job is a book lover’s dream: Bethany Strout, head book buyer at Tattered Cover, is the person responsible for filling the shelves of its four locations with books, from biographies to thrillers, self-help to romance. Children’s books are her main focus—Strout says picture-books are making a comeback, and her office is filled with colorful, glittery stacks of them to prove it. Though her background is in the publishing industry, Strout is doing what she loves most at the Tattered Cover: reading, and sharing her love of reading with others.

What’s the best part of your job?
“Matching readers with books and really seeing that connection, because books and reading are so important to me, personally, and I believe so important for everybody. I really think there’s a right book for everybody.”

What makes the Tattered Cover so special?
“Reading is really personal…and independent booksellers are all people who love books, who love reading, who will spend time talking with you and really try to find that right book for you. It’s important to us that it feels special when you come in, and that you can find a wide variety of books that cover all sorts of topics that will encourage you to think in new ways or to deepen the ways you’re already thinking.”

How does a book end up on the shelves of Tattered Cover?
The standards with which I determine whether or not I’ll buy a book for the store are: a) Will the customer have already heard of this book before they walk in the store? b) Do I like this book and want to promote it? c) Do I know of another bookseller at Tattered Cover who likes this book? d) Is it a type of book we sell well (like books about Colorado), or does it diversify our collection in an important way? But book buying is both an art and a science, so there’s always something new to try.

What are your favorite books right now?
My favorite adult book right now is Furious Hours by Casey Cep. This is a true story from 1970s Alabama, of a revival preacher-turned-killer who never gets prosecuted, the man who shoots the preacher dead at a victim’s funeral in front of 300 witnesses, the Kennedy-esque lawyer who defends them both–and Harper Lee, who becomes obsessed with this case and spends a decade trying to write a book about it. It’s narrative nonfiction at its absolute best. My favorite kids book is P is for Pterodactyl by Raj Halder and Chris Carpenter, illustrated by Maria Beddia. It’s like no other alphabet book you’ve seen—in this book, a is not for apple, it’s for aisle. A delight for kids and adults.