For the Love of Books: Bookseller Jenna Todd

Following a childhood love of books and fine arts studies in Dunedin, Jenna Todd has managed Mt Eden independent bookstore Time Out since 2010. Todd, who also freelances as a photographer, was a recipient of this year's Kobo Booksellers NZ Winter Institute Scholarship, attending a three-day programme in Seattle for independent booksellers from around the world.
Jenna Todd manages the popular Mt Eden bookstore Time Out. Picture / Babiche Martens
Jenna Todd manages the popular Mt Eden bookstore Time Out. Picture / Babiche Martens

"Growing up an only child, books were my constant companions, the sibling that kept me company in a world of adults. I attribute my now terrible eyesight to late nights with my curtain open reading from the light of the street lamp.

"I may have been a kid from South Dunedin, but Connecticut was my home away from home (The Babysitter's Club), I could blow up a bridge using found objects (Tomorrow When the War Began series) and I learned the perils of hard drugs (Go Ask Alice) and puberty (thank you, Judy Blume).

"Lucky Book Club newsletters, the book bus and the library have wonderful book memories for me, as well as the torture of choosing a new book from a bookstore (a rare and joyful occasion!).

"As I got older, repeated gift requests would be from Dunedin University Bookshop's photography or art section. Before a world saturated by the internet, these books were the only references I had for my fine art studies.

When I visit my old bookshelves, I come across forgotten gems - their covers flash my memory straight back to how I felt when I read them.

"Not long after I moved to Auckland, I fluked into my job at Time Out Bookstore through a friend of a friend. It was so overwhelming at first, the new release table was foreign territory and the Man Booker shortlist wasn't something I'd paid attention to. Managing a bookstore was something I never imagined doing, but right now I wouldn't want to be doing anything else. Our tiny store definitely gets frantically busy and a bit chaotic at times, but you can't be too stressed around beautiful books, creative, intelligent colleagues and like-minded customers.

"Time Out is more than a retail space; it's a community hub that is a sea of familiar faces. Baby bumps turn into tiny little readers who are reading early chapter books before we know it. I get distracted while reading new titles, making a mental list of which of our customers I have to tell about them.

"What I really love about our customers, is that they know exactly how and where they can buy books online, but they see both the true value in keeping their dollars in the local economy as well as the ongoing benefits of having a thriving independent store in Mt Eden.

"I feel a bit nervous when a customer trusts in my book recommendations enough to spend a lot of money, whether it's a recent masterpiece (The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson), a life-changing read (Regarding the Pain of Others by Susan Sontag) or a book I've read a thousand times (The Secret Island by Enid Blyton). However nothing tops the feeling when they joyfully come back asking for more."

- VIVA

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