Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Bookstore Bafflement

When I was in college, I worked part-time at a large bookstore chain. I loved books. I loved that I was surrounded by them all the time. I loved what I could learn just from reading the covers and spines. I was young and na├»ve and was frequently heard to exclaim, “That’s a thing?

But the job quickly made me realize that product knowledge was secondary to the ruthless patience I had to cultivate while dealing with customers and their befuddling requests. In the days before cell phones could comb the internet for answers, people brought the strangest requests to me. Some of them sounded like this:

“Hi, I’m looking for a book. It has a green cover.”

“Do you know the title or author?” I would ask politely.

“No, but it’s about a tiger. Or a shark. Actually, I’m not sure. I think the tiger was a side character. Anyhow, it was on the radio this morning.”

Before wondering how she would know the cover was green if she’d heard about the book on the radio, I would ask, “Which radio station?” I could conceivably go to the radio station’s website and see if any podcasts were included with summaries of the programming.

“I’m not sure. But it has that host. You know, the man with the deep voice.”

Right. That radio station with the host with the deep voice that talked about a book with a green cover.

Fortunately, most customers will usually provide me something to go on. Some of my favorites include:

“I’m looking for a book. It’s really popular. The cover is beige. Wednesday with something?”
The book was Tuesdays with Morrie.

“I want that book that all the kids are reading now.” No title or author given.

“This book I’m looking for is about a place, I think. My father wants it. But I can’t remember the title or author. The name was the same word twice.”
The book was England, England.

This video pretty much sums up all the other experiences.

Nowadays, it’s easier than ever to look up information about book, even if you don’t know a title or author. Even with the basic premise, you could probably get a half dozen people to respond to you in an online chat room with their best guesses.

So here’s a game I’m going to play with you. I’m going to play the clueless bookstore customer and ask you for five books. Sleuth them out and leave the answers or your best guesses in the comments below! I'll reveal the correct titles on Friday, Sept. 28. Glory to whoever gets all five correct!

Ready? Set? Go!

1.      I’m looking for a book. There’s a tiger on the cover. They’re making a movie of it. I think the author is Canadian. I think it takes place on a boat or something.
2.      I’m looking for a non-fiction book about fast food. I can’t remember the exact title, but it starts with a story about delivering pizza to a top-secret military base in the U.S.
3.      I’m looking for a romance book that my friend in Toronto wrote. It’s about a mixed martial arts fighter. I think it’s a Harlequin book. It came out in 2011.
4.      I’m looking for a sci-fi book my friend recommended. It’s about an alien war and a boy who is training to fight in it. He said they use the book to train soldiers in combat strategy. The author’s name had Scott in it—Scott something? Or something Scott? I only remember that because my friend’s name is Scott.
5.      I’m looking for a book. It’s a memoir about this blogger. She’s supposed to be really funny, but I’ve never read her. The book’s a gift for a friend. There’s a mouse on the cover, and it has a long title I can’t remember. It came out recently.


Laney4 said...

1. Bitten by Kelley Armstrong.
2. Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal.
3. Her Son's Hero by Vicki Essex (read it; loved it).
4. Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card.
5. Let's Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson.

Kristina Mathews said...

Oooh, I know # 3! Her Son's Hero by the fabulous Vicki Essex.

I worked at the campus bookstore in college. Not so many weird requests as complaints over the price of the book, lack of used books and the ever popular "whattayameanIcan'tsellitback?"

Pamela Hearon said...

Your post and the perfect video made me laugh out loud:-) I never realized how clueless people could be about books!
I've never worked in a bookstore or library, but I worked in a small ladies clothing shop while in college. Every male customer who came in to buy something for his girlfriend or wife had the same answer when asked what size she wore. They always answered, "She's about your size." I would always chuckle when the wife/girlfriend would return to exchange the gift a few days later. Seldom were they anywhere near my size;-)

mary sullivan said...

Great post, Vicki!!! I know # 3. Vicki Essex. Her Son's Hero. Great story!

liztalley said...

Ha, on that video. Who is that guy that does that voice? Ackkkk! I feel like I'm dialing the back to pay my creditcard. He's my creditcard dude!

I knew #3...and really, that's all I need to know, right?

LOL! Fun topic!

Ellen Hartman said...

Hi Vicki,

I knew them all except #2. Hmm. Actually I have a different guess for #1. It actually has a tiger on the cover...I wonder if you were obfuscating or if that detail was true?

Have you read the Bloggess's book? I love her writing, but wonder about a whole book of it. Is pacing a problem for bloggers turned book writers? Or is it like a book of short stories where the reader does the pacing?

I love a good quiz!

Snookie said...

I used google, amazon and harlequin and came up with the following.

1. The Tiger by John Vailant
2. Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All American Meal by Eric Schlosser
3. Her Son's Hero by Vicki Essex :)
4. Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
5. Let's Pretend This Never Happened (A Mostly True Memoir) by Jenny Lawson.

Snookie said...

I forgot to say it in my post, but that video cracked me up. I've run into people like that in my job too! And I don't sell books!

Ellen Hartman said...

Looks as if there are multiple possibilities for #1.

My guess is Life of Pi.

We'll have to see which one Vicki had in mind.

Ellen Hartman said...

Hi Snookie,

I just finished "The Tiger" this week. Have you read it? I didn't think it was quite as thrilling as the reviews made it sound (it wasn't very thrilling at all), but it sure did have a ton of fascinating information about everything from fossils to Russian history to...tigers.

Snookie said...

No Ellen, I haven't read it, but I've been thinking about reading it. Been catching up on my harlequin supers :).

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