Bookish bits & pieces

I have a review brewing of the night I spent with Mr Schuester last night, but I’ve not got the energy – so instead, I have a few bookish gems I wanted to share…

Thanks to Twitter, my attention was drawn over the weekend to a bookseller blogger who has composed a series of posts on the topic of ‘weird things customers say in bookshops’. As anyone who’s ever worked in retail (especially in a bookshop) will know, the customer can come out with the most bizarre things at times.

For example:

Customer: Do you have that book – I forget what it’s called; it’s about people with large, hairy feet.
Me: Do you mean hobbits? The Lord of the Rings?
Customer: No…. erm – The Hairy Bikers.

Customer: Did Beatrix Potter ever write a book about dinosaurs?

Customer: I read a book in the eighties. I don’t remember the author, or the title. But it was green, and it made me laugh. Do you know which one I mean?

Once upon a time I led a happy life as a bookseller – I can get terribly nostalgic for it sometimes. I worked with great people, had a 30% discount on stock, plenty of opportunities for freebies and proofs and spent my life surrounded by books – fabulous. Then there were the customers… For a while I wondered if it was the location of the shop – Gloucester is a special place generally – but then I worked in London and, as the examples above illustrate, eccentric customers appear to be drawn to bookshops like staples to a magnet… 

A few years ago I fell into a moment of bookselling reverie in which I recounted some of my favourite moments and shared a truly disgusting story I’d heard from former colleagues – if you’re not eating right this minute, I’d recommend it for a bit of light (but gross) entertainment. 
Jen – the author of the amusing blog – also happens to work in the shop which is officially my favourite second-hand bookshop in the world – Ripping Yarns in Highgate. It’s where much of my Chalet School collection was purchased and was a regular haunt during my formative years in Muswell Hill. Any time I’m in Highgate during shop hours I pop in and browse for as long as I’m able. If ever you’re in the vicinity, I highly recommend it – oh and it’s not just children’s books, it sells pretty much anything and everything.

As an aside, I realised today that I seem to have a reputation for being massively anal about keeping my books in good order. A friend returned a book I’d lent them with the caveat that I was more than welcome to insist they bought me a new copy, implying that it wouldn’t be up to my standards. It was fine – clearly read – but the spine wasn’t cracked (ok, I may be a tad anal about that) and none of the pages had been folded over. I’ve bought worse looking books in Oxfam. Am I really thought of as being that much of a Monica when it comes to books?? 


  1. I really do have to try to be careful when I borrow books because I am not at all careful with my own. I break the spine, splash them in the bath, carry them around in my bag getting jostled and bumped around. I even underline stuff sometimes. But I don’t fold pages. I hate that. Tim’s far more anal about his books and yet he doesn’t love them nearly as much as I love mine. Clearly we have different ways of loving 😉

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