I recently devoured Ruth Reichl’s third memoir, Garlic and Sapphires, which focuses on her six years as the chief restaurant critic for the New York Times. The position made her so sought after and recognizable that she had to resort to creating elaborate disguises and alter-egos in order to experience restaurants as regular, non-NYT-food-critic diners did. It’s charming and funny, and it gave me a wicked case of the I-Want-That-Jobs. Then I got to thinking about how it could be adapted for publishing. So I give you bookish jobs I wish existed, and which would make readers’ lives (or at least MY reading life) measurably happier.
Book Event Critic–I want this to happen for a couple reasons. First, it’s a gig I would really love. I mean, who doesn’t want to travel around attending book events and visiting bookstores? Second–and more important–imagine if enough people cared about book events for there to be regular coverage of them in mainstream media? What a wonderful world that would be! Third, a regular discussion of literary events and communities would be about nine hundred times more fun to read than most book reviews are, and it would provide useful feedback for the folks who plan events. And if publishers, authors, and bookstores perceived the book event critic’s opinion to be as make-or-break as they perceive traditional book reviewers’ opinions to be and knew that a Professional Assessor of Book Events might show up incognito at any time, there would (I dearly hope) be more awesome book events and fewer snoozefest-y ones. And that would be a good thing for everyone.
Bibliotherapist–The Guardian reported recently that some doctors in England are set to begin prescribing books instead of drugs for their patients with mild-to-moderate mental health concerns, so why not have someone whose job it is to prescribe books for whatever ails you, be it physical or existential? I suppose you might already have access to this kind of service if you are particularly close to a bookseller or librarian (or if you have poor boundaries and tell anyone who will listen about your issues–speaking of, there’s a book for that). How great would it be if you could make an appointment or have a regular date with your bibliotherapist where you could dish about your mood, your travel plans, the annoying thing your husband is doing lately, your recent bout of insomnia, and the song that won’t get out of your head, and they would prescribe the perfect book to make you happy again?
Book Sniffer–In these increasingly digital times, you can’t swing a cat without hitting an ode to the smell of books (usually written in service of an “ebooks are the devil” argument). Teddy Wayne takes this obsession to a hilariously logical extreme over at McSweeney’s, and if you are in the I Love How My Books Smell camp, you might find it hits a little close to home. If that’s the case, you’d probably also be interested in hiring a professional book sniffer to help you identify and purchase the right books. After all, if smell is what you’re after, you need books that smell good at the time of purchase and only get better-smelling with age, and you need your books’ smells to complement each other on your shelves. Think of this as a book-smell sommelier. A biblio-nose.
Personal Book Butler–This one is straight from the Department of Wishful Thinking. A book butler would hang out in your house to serve all your literary needs. Want your shelves reorganized or alphabetized? Ring for the butler. Need someone to force you to get off the computer and read a book every evening? Butler it. How about your favorite beverage prepared exactly to your liking while you lounge with your current read? Ring for Jeeves! And when you can’t cook dinner because your book is too absorbing? You guessed it. What would you ask a book butler to do?
Talk Blocker–Think of this as the anti-wingman, the bro who falls on the grenade not so you can chat up the Betty at the bar but so you can NOT have to chat with anyone. I want a talk blocker to sit next to me on airplanes (it’s well documented that I do not like to be interrupted while I’m travel-reading), stand with me in line at the bank/post office/grocery store, and be my buddy in any and every waiting room to chat with the Nosy Rosies who are constantly harshing my OhthankgoodnessIjustfoundafewminutestoread mellow. Take your Talk Blocker anywhere you think you might find some extra reading time that you’d really rather not have interrupted for inane chatter with a stranger.