Not too long ago, brick-and-mortar bookstores thrived. People actually drove to a bookstore — small, quirky independent stores (selling old or new books, or both) as well as the large big-box retailers (Crown, Borders, and Barnes and Noble) to get lost, if even for a fleeting hour, in a labyrinth of bookshelves, cherishing that distinctive aroma of books (bibliophiles know, of course, that nothing beats the smell of old books). As a reader walked through the stacks, the spines of hundreds books called out, luring the reader like a siren’s song: “Come, read me.”
The guardians of these literary oases were — and are for those bookstores still standing — the intrepid booksellers. A bookseller is one part librarian, one part salesperson, one part teacher, and several parts book lover. Not only did they know their way around the store, they knew their way around literature. Each day they would answer dozens of questions and lead readers to the titles they sought. But not all of the customers’ questions warranted an intelligent, thoughtful answer. To shed some light on the amusing side of book selling, Jen Campbell and her colleagues gathered some of the most entertaining and baffling questions that customers posed, revealing the underbelly of the modern enlightened technological society — the semiliterate.
I’m looking for some books on my kid’s summer reading list. Do you have a copy of Tequila Mockingbird?
Where do you keep Hamlet? You know “to be or not to be?” Is it in with philosophy?
Excuse me, but do you have Flowers for Arugula?
Hi, my kid needs The Count of Monte Crisco for Honors English.
Did Charles Dickens every write anything fun?
Do you have any Willa Catheter?
Where are your fictional novels?
Who wrote the Bible? I can’t remember.
Do you have a book that interprets life?
[Customer holding up copy of Joyce’s Ulysses] Why is this book so long? Isn’t it supposed to be set in a single day? How can this many pages of things happen to one person in one day?
For further reading: Weird Things Customers Say in Bookstores by Jen Campbell, Overlook (2012)