“It’s like selling culture”: Interview with Lorena Sanchis from Re-Read Librería Lowcost
Working in a bookshop is about more than sales; it’s about talking to people and selling culture, says Lorena Sanchis.
She has been working full-time at second-hand bookstore, Re-Read Librería Lowcost, for two years, but has helped out since the beginning when her partner, Alex Clapés, set up the first Valencian branch of the franchise store five years ago. In this booklover’s paradise you can buy one book for 3€, two for 5€ or five for 10€. The original store at Grand Vía Ramón y Cajal, 45 has since expanded to include a second shop at Carrer de Joaquín Costa, 59 in the barrio of Canovas. We spoke to her about her story, her favourite books and why she loves Re-Read.
24/7 VALENCIA: Can you tell us a bit about your background and how Re-Read was set up?
LORENA SANCHIS OF RE-READ: I’m from Valencia. When I was 18 I worked as a cashier and I always liked talking to people. I did a two-and-half-year course in photography and graphic design and started as a fashion photographer, but I didn’t like the work. Then I did graphic design and worked in a studio; we did origami for decorations and store windows. But it had to close, so I came to work here full-time. I prefer working here because I don’t have to fight with the customers!
My partner, Alex Clapés, is from Barcelona; he came here to Valencia to be with me and live together. He couldn’t find anything for work so he started this store. It’s a franchise, like a McDonalds or Burger King, where you pay and you can use that name. There are more around Spain, in Castella y León and Alicante, for example.
I started working here two years ago but I was here from the beginning. When I finished working at my graphic design job at 5pm, I’d come here until 8pm and on the weekends too. I was always coming and going here. In December it will be five years since this shop was set up and the other branch in Canovas was two years old this summer. We opened the other shop because we didn’t have enough space here at the Grand Vía Ramón y Cajal store to put all the books. Now both stores are all full of books again! I’m usually here as more people come here, but I go to the other shop too if it’s necessary. The guy who is in the other store in Canovas is a co-owner now. There are three of us and there’s another guy who comes only on Saturdays.
Why do you think it’s important for people to read second hand books?
The environment, first of all, because there is no need to make new books if you have ones already printed. And it’s cheaper. Everyone can buy books. You don’t need to spend 20€ on one book if you can have it for 3€ because many people can’t afford that. I also think it’s cool to dig and see what you can find. Those three reasons for me are important. Lots of people buy books here for Christmas. They buy one present from somewhere and then buy a book as well for 3€ more. People go crazy here with a lot of books that they can’t carry! It’s cool.
What’s your favourite thing about working here?
I like working with people and talking to everybody. It’s cool to work for yourself too. That’s very important. I have always liked books but I never imagined that I would work here. I wanted to be many things but not this. I didn’t imagine I’d like selling books so much, but I really love it! You’re selling culture. It’s not clothes or whatever. I think I wouldn’t change it. It’s very nice when you see people who love books and they come into here and their face lights up. They’re like: “All the books cost 3€?!”.
I’ve met all kinds of interesting people here, like super old people and you get to know many things going on in their lives. There’s a couple who come almost every week and it was very cool because when we first opened, in the first month, she was going to have a baby and now the baby is five. And we’ve known that baby since the beginning. She’s like my niece! A sad thing is that one of those clients who came every week and we talked with him a lot, has now passed away. It’s like losing a friend. I like clients that come almost every week and they tell you things like “I’m going to have a granddaughter” and you’re like “oh, that’s so cool!” and they tell you all about their life.
What’s the most interesting book you’ve ever read?
There are two books. This summer I read one called Una Educación (Educated) by Tara Westover (published 2018, Penguin). It was very hard but interesting. It’s about a girl from Idaho from an ultra-religious family; their father didn’t allow them to go to the school or go to the doctor or wherever because ‘they were from hell’. It was a very closed way of living; they didn’t meet other people. But she ends up having a doctorate from Oxford University. This is the story of how she was able to get there by herself and she tells us about all her life. When I was reading it, I thought she was going to be my mum’s age but she was only three years older than me (I’m 31) and I was really shocked! That closed way of living is something you wouldn’t think was happening nowadays; you think about it happening a long time ago. But it was very interesting because it teaches that if you go for something, you can get it.
And the other book is Manuel Para Señoras De La Limpieza (A Manual for Cleaning Women) by Lucia Berlin (published 2015, Farrar, Straus and Giroux). It is a collection of short stories and it mixes a little bit of fiction and her real life. She is dead now but she became famous after she died. She had a very interesting life; she’s from the Southern US, she was an alcoholic and had problems with her husband. I really liked it; she has a special way of writing.
What are you reading at the moment?
I have three or four books on the go. I’m reading El Extranjero (The Stranger) by Albert Camus (published 1942, Vintage International) and Gente Normal (Normal People) by Sally Rooney (published 2018, Random House). I have just read 30 pages of Gente Normal so far but I like it more than El Extranjero. I usually read one book here in the shop when it’s quiet and one at home, and maybe sometimes I read one more as I change between two at home. It’s quiet and we have cool music in the shop; I read more here than at home! My favourite genre of book is ‘narrativa’/fiction.
Have you always loved reading?
Yes! I don’t know when I started reading; I was so young. My parents always told me I had to read before sleeping. I need to read before bed now; if not, I can’t sleep. Sometimes I used to go home at 7am in the morning after a party and I couldn’t read because the lines looked like waves! If I didn’t read a few lines, I couldn’t sleep. I’d go over them about 20 times because I couldn’t read them as I was super drunk! It was funny. Now we have 2000 books at our home that we’ve collected over five years! We need to buy another apartment to keep all the books!
How does the process work when people bring books for you to sell?
We have to make a selection. We have to see the title and year of edition because if they are old we don’t usually take them; people normally prefer more recent books. We pay 0.20€ per book. Every day people bring books: about 150 a day! This morning I was in the other store and there were about 200 books dropped off that morning. I was sorting through them myself. It’s not that much really; it’s three piles of books. We usually went to people’s homes if they had more than 250 books to pick them up, but now, with COVID, we don’t do that anymore. Once we bought 1,500 books from someone! I have a very small car and we had to put the books under the seats, on the doors, all around! It was crazy! There are people that have a lot of books they have collected throughout their life. People usually bring us books when they are moving from one house to another one. They are moving and they don’t have enough space. But there are people who live all their life in the same house and it is incredible the amount of books they can have!
Interview and ‘Re-Read’ photo by Anna Hart
Copyright 24/7 Valencia
RE-READ LIBRERIA LOWCOST
Gran Vía de Ramón y Cajal, 45
960 07 06 89
Carrer de Joaquín Costa, 59
960 91 14 20