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Staubach weaves experience, interests into job of selling books

by Karen A. Grava - September 29, 2008


Suzy Staubach has a few serious addictions. Writing. Pottery. Gardening. Reading. Cooking. Grandchildren.

All of them are intertwined into her career as head of the General Books Department at the UConn Co-op.

Staubach, honored Sept. 21 by the Connecticut Center for the Book with an award for lifetime achievement in service to the literary community, turned her passion for reading into a job selling books. She used her professional writing background to become a book author.

She turned her interest in pottery into a business. She turned her love for gardening, cooking, and pottery into topics for her books. And her two granddaughters have renewed an already strong interest in children’s literature.

“Suzy is very authoritative on a number of topics, and is widely known and respected,” says Bill Simpson, manager of the UConn Co-op.

“She really is a remarkable individual, who loves the power of the written word and the power that books have over people. She loves to see the connection between authors and readers, and has a deep passion for books.”

Staubach is the founder of the Connecticut Children’s Book Fair; a member of the board of Curbstone Press; past president of the Connecticut Center for the Book and the New England Booksellers Association; and has served two terms on the American Booksellers Foundation for Freedom of Expression.

“Suzy has worked hard to better the place of books in Connecticut – not simply bettering the lot of readers, but creating readers,” says Sam Pickering, author and professor of English, who nominated Staubach for the award.

“People drive past farms and see fields green and glistening with corn. What they don’t see is the labor the farmer put into the crop. ... Suzy’s biggest crop consists of readers, few of whom know how long she has worked to interest others in books.”

Staubach says picking books to sell in the store is more of an art than a science. There are lots of catalogues and barrages of e-mails that come from publishers; advance reading copies; and trade shows where authors discuss their books and publishers provide galleys.

“We try to pick what we think audiences want,” she says.

Staubach, who began working at the Co-op as a cashier, moved into the book department once her bookaholic nature became apparent to the management. But one of the biggest misconceptions about her job is that she has time to read during work.

“I read at night and in the morning,” she says. “In the winter, I like to read in front of the woodstove. In the summer, I read anywhere.”

And what does she read? Science, history, novels, non-fiction, and lately, now she has grandchildren, a lot of children’s books. Most of the time, she is reading more than one book.

In between reading and making pots and gardening at her home in Ashford, Staubach is a writer. Before her career at the Co-op, she wrote for magazines, including Parents, Seventeen, and the Farmers’ Almanac. Since then she has written two books, Clay (2005), and Connecticut, Driving through History (2001). Now she is building a sunken garden in an old stone foundation on her property, and writing a book about that experience and about the history of sunken gardens.

In the 27 years she has worked at the Co-op, Staubach has watched bookselling become computerized. Today, book inventory is no longer recorded on index cards, and used books are not located by advertising – for $1 a line – in a special monthly publication and awaiting a response.

Staubach says a recent trend that hasn’t been widely publicized is that young people and college students are reading more than they did five years ago.

“There was a time when I thought things were going completely the wrong way,” she says. “But now young people are reading. They’re buying classics and novels, and reading much more than they did a few years ago.”

She says the Internet is a wonderful tool, but it won’t replace books.

“Reading is a different experience. Narratives and story telling are part of being human. We had it in mud huts. We have it in movies. You still have novels. When you read them, they are in your head and you are in the book. There isn’t another way to connect with a writer and what the writer is thinking and imagining. So I don’t think books will go away, and I hope they don’t.”

Suzy Staubach, manager of general books at the UConn Co-op.
Suzy Staubach, manager of general books at the UConn Co-op. Photo by Frank Dahlmeyer

Suzy Staubach's Favorite Books

Suzy Staubach, recently awarded the Lifetime Achievement in Service to the Literary Community Award by the Connecticut Center for the Book, is a confirmed “bookaholic.”

The founder and co-chair of the Connecticut Children’s Book Fair and a grandmother of two, Staubach also loves children’s books.

Here are some of the books that have influenced her:

Favorite books:
The Street, by Ann Petry: “One of the best American novels, still resonates.”

Golden Notebook, by Doris Lessing, plus the Martha Quest series.

The Second Sex, by Simone de Beauvoir: “In addition to being a life changing book, it is a book that led me to many other books and writers.”

Crime and Punishment, by Dostoevsky: “Just thinking of this book brings me back to the chair in my parents’ living room and how overwhelmed I felt by the intensity of it.”

The Vagabond, Cheri, and The Last of Cheri, by Colette: “Jim Marshall once said to me that reading Colette was ‘Like eating chocolate,’ her writing is so rich. I agree.”

Favorite gardening writer:
Beverly Nichols: “Hilarious and obsessive.”

Favorite children’s books:
The Story of Ferdinand, by Munro Leaf: “Maybe if every child read this book, we’d all smell the flowers and the wars would end.”

George and Martha, by James Marshall: “Just reread these to my granddaughters, and we all chuckled.”

Little Fur Family, by Margaret Wise Brown, with illustrations by Garth Williams.

Newer children’s books I love:
"Actually I love picture books.”

The Magic Book, by K.T. Hao and Giuliano Ferri.

Luck of the Loch Ness Monster: A Tale of Picky Eating, by Alice W. Flaherty, illustrated by Scott Magoon.

Tomie dePaola’s autobiographical series, 26 Fairmount Avenue.

Books I just read and loved:
The Hour I First Believed, by Wally Lamb: “Due out Nov. 11 – extraordinary.”

China’s First Emperor and His Terracotta Warriors, by Frances Wood.

Books by Larry McMurtry.

What I am reading now:
Carolina Clay: The Life and Legend of the Slave Potter Dave, by Leonard Todd.

The Time of Their Lives: The Golden Age of Great American Publishers, Their Editors and Authors, by Al Silverman.

Reading Matters: Five Centuries of Discovering Books, by Margaret Willes.

Favorite UConn authors:
“I read as many UConn authors as I can, and loved both Margaret Gibson’s and Lynn Bloom’s memoirs, Sydney Plum’s Solitary Goose, and Marilyn Nelson and Deborah Dancy’s new The Freedom Business, and I have a whole shelf of Sam Pickering books at home.”

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