To enter the op. cit. Books at John Dunn Plaza in Taos is like stepping into a respite of literature filled with light, warm hues and maze. (And cookbooks, maps, and calendars, oh my!) With the comfy couch and chairs upstairs for lounging, and the familiar faces of the small staff, op. cit. feels like a book-lined home away from home. We caught up with the owner, Noemi from Bodisco, to talk about her journey with the quaint shop that opened eight years ago in August.
I’ve loved books all my life. When I was a kid, if I wanted a present, I wanted a book as a present. (Fairy Tales, in particular.) My corporate career has been in IT for 30 years. Even while I was doing this, I was online. I was one of the first booksellers on AbeBooks about 20 years ago. I was only doing rare books. Over time, what has become apparent is that when you go online, you find exactly what you’re looking for, but you miss the aesthetic of being in a bookstore. After computer science, I did an apprenticeship in a bookstore in San Francisco [where I was living at the time].
What did you learn during your apprenticeship period?
It helped me formulate what I wanted a bookstore to be. I knew I wanted to sell new and used books. As a book lover and collector, I love things that are out of print. Why would I want to sell only new books or bestsellers? I love the old books, the bindings, the quality. You can look at it and see, wow, someone hand-sewed it, or there’s an old piece of newspaper that someone used for binding. You can tell how well cared for it was.
How did you come to New Mexico?
Well, I wanted to open a physical bookstore in San Francisco, but it was outrageous. They wanted seven years’ rent, your first child’s DNA. Then I came here because I still had my home here [doing work with the state] and I walked into a place and said, “I’m thinking of opening a bookstore,” and it was done on a handshake. We started very small on Baca Street in Santa Fe.
What makes a book interesting?
That could be the beauty, even if we try not to buy a book just because it looks good. There are people who want to buy foot books to use for decoration. At least the books don’t go to landfill, because we don’t want books homeless. We will never throw away a book unless it is moldy and unhealthy.
We get books that have exciting content and create an exchange of ideas. There’s a lot going on about Russia and Putin right now. We did a dictator window in Santa Fe that caused a lot of conversations, like – is a dictator a dictator if he only does bad things? One thing about a bookstore is that it gets people talking and exchanging ideas.
What books do you make sure to keep in the store?
We are always looking for great books about Taos, art and the Southwest – very appropriate for the location. We try to keep things regional. We have just received the new Mirabai Starr. Some of our absolute bestsellers are Hampton Sides’ “Blood and Thunder” (about Kit Carson and the natives; good non-fiction about the area); the “Taos Hiking Guide”, of course – we sell a million of them; and we just received the reissue of the anniversary edition of “Bless Me, Ultima”. We listen to our customers and see what they ask for, whether it’s classics or a new translation of “The Iliad”. We have a very engaged clientele.
We want to make sure we have something for everyone. We don’t want to be an elitist bookstore. We should have a $1 book and maybe there’s a $500 one. We don’t mind if you just want to look at the book, to appreciate it that way. You should feel like you can look at maps or puzzles, or sit in a comfortable seat and look out the window. It is a welcoming place.