A few months ago, I got an offer from a local indie bookstore (over Twitter!) to come work a few days a week. I immediately accepted- after 8 months of being cooped up with my new twin boys, I was ready to get out of the house and talk to adults. Sometimes the pay doesn’t cover the cost of childcare for twins, but it’s not about the money- it’s about talking to grown ups who don’t want me to feed them applesauce. And now, after working (and loving) the job for almost three months, I have a few confessions to make.
I Love Reading Things Before You Do
One of the best parts of being a bookseller is that I get advanced review copies (ARCs) of books months before they come out. The new John Irving that comes out in May? I’ve had it for a month. Alex George’s much-buzzed A Good American? Oh yeah, I read that like six weeks ago. And while my enjoyment of this is partly a “nanananabooboo I got it before you,” it’s mostly about how I am now in the business of BUZZ CREATION as opposed to being on the receiving end.
I Have So Many Tawdry Quirks, I Could Open a Tawdry Quirk Shop*
I Don’t Judge Your Taste in Books
When I get a customer who wants a recommendation, I usually ask what the last book was that they loved so I can see what they’re looking for in a book. Sometimes there’s a pause, an embarrassed shifty-eyed gaze to the floor. A mumble of, “well, I read a lot of teen books, like, Hunger Games and stuff…” Independent bookstores can have a reputation for being snobby places where the books are “curated” out the ass- where you won’t find a best seller anywhere, but where you can definitely find the collected works of David Foster Wallace. I’m sorry if you’ve had that experience at other indies, but honestly- I don’t care what you read. If you want to add to your collection of mermaid erotica, I’ll help you. You want to read the next Twilight? I’ll help you. Looking for a how-to on building your own yurt? You’re the coolest! Let’s do this. There’s no judgment.
Customers Can Make Me Feel Inadequate
When you ask me if I’ve read a certain book, more often than not, the answer is no. As a book blogger and general reading-obsessed-type-person, I already feel the pressure of every book I’ve ever not read bearing down on me. The other day I actually had a customer whip out a Best Books Of All Time list from some obscure newspaper and start grading me. I almost hyperventilated.
Unsupervised Children Near the Humor Section Make Me Nervous
We have a humor section with books like What To Do When You Have a Huge Penis, and Snark: The Sex Edition. I keep that stuff on the top shelves for a reason, but sometimes browsing customers move stuff around. When your six-year-old wanders over there, I internally freak out and rush over before she can discover what to do with an anatomical tripod.
Recommending Books Is A Two-Way Pleasure
So that’s it. Any other booksellers out there have confessions to make? Unburden your soul, booksellers. Unburden your soul.
*Anyone get the Doctor Who reference? Anyone?