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Bookseller offers personalized picks

Furloughed from her job a couple of months ago, Carlie Tomlinson had the idea of selling books online, but with a personalized twist.

 In addition to selling books to customers who know what they want to read, Carlie and her husband Lloyd offer a service large, corporate booksellers do not: They take time and consideration to select books for undecided shoppers. Interested customers can take an online quiz (sign up at shopbook, and they will email you a link to the quiz) to help in a book selection.

 The quiz includes questions about reader preference: A light-hearted or heavier read, a slow burn or page turner. Based on quiz answers, Carlie and Lloyd choose books for each buyer.

 Carlie said she and her husband team up well because their tastes in books differ, and they top their own reading experience with additional research.

 “We really care about what people are reading and bringing them some joy and comfort, especially during this time,” Carlie said. 

 So far, all her customers have sought light-hearted reads; unsurprising considering the state of the world. One of the most popular books lately has been “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society,” a novel set during WWII, by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows.

 While we chatted about books and her business, Carlie mentioned two Barbara Kingsolver books that have been on my to-read list for a while; “The Poisonwood Bible” and “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.” 

 I’ve been spending much of my quarantine time trying to get projects done. Carlie inspired me to take time to relax with a book. Of the two, I plan to delve into the latter first. 

 “I read it every year as a way to get myself back in gear,” Carlie said. She explained that the book’s information about food production and the ethics of our food chain always inspires her to shop as locally as she can. 

“I recommend it to everyone,” she added.

Although Carlie has some go-to favorite reads, she also said, “I try to read outside of what I usually like.” To that end, she challenged herself this summer to read a book connected to each state — either set in a state or by an author in the state.

She still needs to read a few books to complete this challenge, including representative books from West Virginia and Virginia (where she recently relocated), but said she enjoyed the graphic novel “Weedeater” by Robert Gipe, from Kentucky.

 A challenge actually triggered Carlie’s love of reading: When she was a kid, her best friend Michelle challenged Carlie, to get more points in accelerated reader quizzes. So Carlie immersed herself in books above her grade level. Since then, reading has been her passion, and for now she said her business is also a passion.

“Reading really teaches empathy,” Carlie said, adding empathy is something we’ve always needed, but now even more, to help us all see perspectives of other people.

 Reading can help alleviate stress, along with being educational and fun. Book clubs can be bonding — something else we can probably all use right now. My family and I have initiated a nightly virtual read-aloud tradition.

So far, we’ve read “Michelangelo and the Pope’s Ceiling” by Ross King, “The Colosseum” by Mary Beard, and now are working our way through “Travels in Siberia” by Ian Frazier.

 If you are ready to relax, learn something new, or read for any and every other reason, but don’t know what book to choose, check out Appalachian Books and let Carlie help you choose.

ALDONA BIRD is a journalist, exploring possibilities of local productivity and sustainable living in Preston County.