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Cori Cusker ’95 stands outside the bookstore where she works

The book seller

The best part of Cori Cusker’s job is helping her Bright Side Bookshop customers find their next great read.

“When you go to look for a book, you’re wanting a specific experience,” said Cusker, a 1995 DePauw graduate. “You’re wanting to feel something, right? And so I see it as my job to figure out what that is. Are you wanting something that’s going to make you happy? Scared? Inspired? What is that emotion that you’re looking for?”

Chances are Cusker will be able to satisfy most any reader. As the assistant book buyer and a “book matchmaker” at the Flagstaff, Arizona, shop, she is intimately familiar with the inventory. Using a detailed digital catalog of upcoming books, she makes decisions about what books to bring into the store, which ones will resonate not only with readers but also with the store staff members who are asked to sell them. She also conducts a daily analysis of which books are selling and which ones aren’t.

“We have to be really thoughtful about what we’re carrying,” she said. If regular customers come in and see the same books, “they’re not going to come back. … If it sits on our shelves and it’s not going anywhere, then out the door it goes,” sent back to the publisher.

She also arranges events, including a socially distant visit in March 2021 by author Jeff Kinney of “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” fame. During a conversation with Kinney’s publicist at Abrams Books, Hallie Patterson ’07, the two women came to realize they both were DePauw alums.

Cusker, “a lifelong lover of books,” read 155 in 2021 – some for work, some for pleasure. The bookshop used to be her side gig; she had worked at Northern Arizona University eight years when in June 2020 the school laid off more than 100 non-tenured faculty members.

The layoff was difficult, she said, but so was working with freshmen who were academically at risk. And by working in the bookshop, “I’m still helping people,” she said. “… It makes me happy. And I get to be around books all day.”

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