“My goal in life,” wrote the poet Robert Frost, “is to unite my vocation and my vocation. As my two eyes are one. For almost two decades, Sarah Gelman has managed to combine her passion with her profession. An avid reader, Gelman has devoted her entire professional career to the book.
In her job as Editorial Director of Amazon Books, Gelman reads hundreds of books each year as she writes and curates selections for Amazon Book Review. She also quizzes authors about their upcoming releases and provides book recommendations based on season or cultural relevance.
“It truly is a dream to marry your passion with your career,” says Gelman. “For my whole team, there is nothing better than recommending a book that someone ends up loving, and most importantly, rekindling someone’s love for reading.”
Some of Gelman’s earliest memories relate to books. She vividly remembers when the reading clicked for her. Gelman was sitting on her parents’ bed reading Nan the Rat. She can also remember when she was reading Ramona and her mother and really understood all the words of a chapter book. “I set up a special reading nook on the floor of my closet so I could hide and read,” she recalls. “Just like a character in a book I recently read.”
Gelman didn’t see books as a profession until her freshman year in college while studying abroad at the University of Exeter. She discovered idol Jamie Oliver (aka “The Naked Chef”), signing books at a local store. Gelman stood in line for hours to get his book signed for his mother who is a passionate cook.
Just before she reached him, the woman she now knows to be her publicist cut the line just before Gelman reached her. “Being a 20-year-old who breaks the rules, I ran to the back of the bookstore and pulled him over as he was getting into his car,” says Gelman.
Oliver was incredibly sweet, signed her book and even took a picture with her. “His publicist was horrified,” Gelman recalls. “That’s when I started to think of books as a career. I realized there were more ways to be a part of publishing than being a publisher. She also learned the importance of going after what you desire the most.
After studying literature and creative writing at Kenyon University, Gelman spent nearly a decade working as a book publicist at Random House before moving to Seattle to work at Amazon.
It was a big step to leave New York and his job as an editor and move to Seattle, where Gelman didn’t know anyone, to work for a tech company. “I wasn’t horribly miserable back then, but I realized that instead of living my life, my life was living me,” she says. “And for too long, I thought someone else would make the decision for me. But I was single and it was just me, so I gave it a shot. This luck turned out to be the best decision of his life. “Sure, it was scary and lonely at times. But I never looked back,” adds Gelman. “I’m glad I had the confidence in myself to make an important and risky decision.”
Since joining Amazon ten years ago, Gelman has appeared on Hello america and hosted Amazon Live conversations with Mindy Kaling, Chelsea Clinton, and other notable authors.
Gelman and his team publish a monthly article, Best Books of the Month, where they read hundreds of books and discuss their favorites for an overall Top Ten and create lists in many different categories. These lists feed into their best books of the year so far which comes out in June and the lists of the best books of the year. They also plan for cover on books that can appear anywhere from the Amazon book review to video interviews on the Amazon homepage.
“Finding a hidden gem and sharing it with clients is one of my favorite parts of my job,” she says. “Hardly a day goes by that I don’t stop to think about how lucky I am to do something that fills me with so much passion.
Gelman shared the books she read last year that really stuck with her.
I have read so many books, it is always a difficult question. But here are some favorites.
What is mine and yours by Naïma Coster. In my opinion, Naima Coster is on the verge of becoming the next Briton Bennett. She writes about race, family and identity in a pure and touching way.
I would have liked to have Think Like a Monk: Train Your Mind for peace and purpose every day by Jay Shetty when I was in my twenties. It helped me change my mindset and habits when I needed it most.
I predict Sally Hepworth will come out with her latest domestic thriller, The good sister, which manages to be scary and hopeful at the same time.
Pretty thingJanelle Brown’s is the kind of book I would recommend to friends when they asked me what to read on a flight. It’s captivating, super fun, and the kind of book you start when you get on the plane in Seattle. And when you’re done, you’re across the country and have no memory of the flight.