NZ's best emerging bookseller

From Nights, 7:15 pm on 3 August 2022

After a career in palliative care nursing, a decade raising children and an English literature degree, Lisa Adler is now an award-winning bookseller.

She says her appreciation for human stories developed as a nurse, visiting people in the community who were near the end of their lives and focused on reflection.

"The things that I really loved about being a nurse were the patients that I met, it was their stories. Most people have extraordinary lives. They may not make headlines and they may not realise they're doing anything out of the ordinary but that human connection and [human story element that I enjoy] carries into books, I think. Books are an expression of that," Lisa tells Bryan Crump.

New Zealand's Best Emerging Bookseller Lisa Adler holds a selection of books in a boook store

After a career in palliative care nursing Lisa Adler decided she wanted a change of scenery and she is New Zealand's Best Emerging Bookseller Photo: Vic Books

When her children were born, Lisa stopped working as a nurse and enjoyed life as a full-time parent till 2010 when she enquired about retraining.

She learnt that to retrain as a nurse at that time cost $3,500 and involved three months full-time study at polytech, plus – in her case – the cost of childcare.

"I felt really good about my job and I did have extra qualifications ... I was really insulted, I have to say, about what I was going to have to do to get back in the game."

After working in Australia and the UK –where nurses are paid more than in NZ – Lisa experienced how much more the profession was valued.

'What you get paid is part of how people view you."

With nursing no longer a viable option, Lisa's husband suggested she do something she loved. job involving books and reading came to mind.

The joy of books and reading – which Lisa had rediscovered during ten years at home with her children – came to mind. 

Lisa enrolled to study Engish Literature and Classics at Victoria University, already planning to eventually become a bookseller.

"I really like people and connecting with people ... I thought working in a bookshop perfect way to engage with people and talk about books."

Lisa was working as shop manager at Vic Books' Pipitea shop when she was named as NZ's Best Emerging Bookseller.

That store has now closed, she says largely due to the 23-day run of anti-mandate protests that overtook central Wellington in March. 

The Covid pandemic has been hard on all retailers, Lisa says, but at the start of 2022, staff at Vic Books Pipitea were feeling positive about the return of international students and foot traffic from cruise ships.

She wasn't opposed to the action itself, and at first, found it interesting to talk with protestors who came into the shop.

"I completely uphold the right for people to protest and at the beginning, I was really fascinated to see how it was going to be going and to see all the varied groups meeting together and protesting."

More often than coming in for a chat, the protestors came in to buy coffee from the shop cafe, Lisa says, and eventually, their behaviour degraded.

"It wasn't pleasant, which is why we shut."

Lisa, who now works as a book buyer for Vic Books Kelburn, is hopeful that bookstores and books aren't going the way of the dinosaur - partly because they offer more integrity than online retail corporations such as Amazon.

"People are starting to realise that Amazon is shady… and the other thing it doesn't do is engage you as a person."