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How to Be a Customer in a Book Shop, According to Bernard Black

Bronwyn Averett

Staff Writer

Bronwyn Averett holds a PhD in French literature, and as a certified book doctor she advises consuming a wide variety of texts. Literary loves include contemporary African and Caribbean fiction, gigantic novels of the 19th century, short stories by Mavis Gallant, and 90's YA. She writes about reading at Follow her on Twitter @indirectlibre.

While we at the Riot take some time off to rest and catch up on our reading, we’re re-running some of our favorite posts from the last several months. Enjoy our highlight reel, and we’ll be back with new stuff on Tuesday, January 3rd.

This post originally ran October 24, 2016.

 bernard-blackAnyone I’ve ever known who has ever worked in a used book store considers Bernard Black something of a mascot. A drinky, smokey, angry, irreparably untidy, Irish mascot.

The British series Black Books, starring the incomparable Dylan Moran as an angry misanthropic owner of a used book store, takes place in a shop that is something like a cross between Paris’s famous Shakespeare & Co. and your basic broom closet. To anyone who has ever sold books, it is an inspiration.

In my days as a pusher of gently used and rare volumes, I encountered mostly amazing customers. But, as in any retail job, there will always be one or two of those people. You know who I mean. People who let their kids eat ice cream near the first editions. Who interrupt poetry readings by talking loudly on their phones. Who rearrange the entire erotica section.

I imagine that you folks out there find yourselves in used book stores fairly often. So I thought it might be useful to provide some basic rules for proper customer behavior, according to Bernard Black.

1 – It’s good to know what you’re looking for.

2 – But don’t be too eager.

3 – We are not open during lunch.

4 – And I am not your interior decorator.

5 – Speak softly, in case your friendly bookseller has a bit of a hangover.

6 – And don’t overstay your welcome.