|One of the most beautiful stores I visit for work,|
Full Circle Bookstore in Oklahoma City.
2. What's your objective? Figure it out in advance. Most people don't just wander into a grocery store without a specific goal in mind. For me, it's usually "I'm out of ice cream. I must buy ice cream. Where is the damn ice cream? For the love of god, I need ice cream now. NOW." For bookstores, it could be "I want to see what's new," or "I need a gift for Gianna's birthday four months from now," or "I heard about this book on NPR and it sounds amazing." It helps to have a goal in mind.
3. Call ahead if there's something in particular you want. If you heard about a book on NPR, that means that thousands of other people also heard about it. Sure, if we're talking about the new John Grisham thriller, the store most likely will have a fat stack of books waiting for you to walk through the door. If you are in search of a book that your friend mentioned at lunch as being the best she's read this year, and the publisher is Smaller Than a Butt Crack Press, call ahead. And when you go in to pick up your book, figure in time to poke around and see what else captures your interest.
|Welcome to Maria's Bookshop in Durango, Colorado.|
From here: new arrivals on the table in front, staff picks on the
endcap to the left, gift items under the table, and a canoe
hanging from the ceiling.
4. When you get to the store, stand near the front door and get your bearings. Generally you will see: new arrivals, bestsellers (either national or for the store), gift items and seasonal merchandise like calendars, and possibly books for upcoming author signings. There may be themed displays. Where is the information desk in relation to where you are? Where is the restroom? If there's a cafe, where is it? Soak it in. Now it's time to play.
5. How to Browse. I like to start with the new arrivals because these displays change most frequently and are usually also the books featured in reviews and media. Insider tip: Tuesday is the best day to discover what's new since that's the biggest industry-wide release day of the week. Also, the Tuesday closest to the beginning of a month is more popular than, say, the third Tuesday. This year September 30th was a huge release date since it was a Tuesday, the day before a new month, and in the fall. You know how movie studios release the Oscar buzz movies in the fall? The same is true for the book industry.
|Great book. Has nothing|
to do with dog pictures.
What are you in the mood to read? There's no reason you have to spend time in every section of a bookstore. I almost never visit the religion section (fear of smiting). I don't like fantasy books, so I gloss over those. I do love fiction, but that's a broad category and typically the biggest section in most bookstores. So let's say that you want a novel. How do you find what you're looking for among thousands of books? Here's how I do it.
- Check favorite authors. What haven't I read? What's new?
- Absolutely judge books by covers. If a cover jumps out at me, I'll at least read the summary even if I've never heard of the book or author or publisher. (That said, try not to rule out a book entirely based on the fugly cover.)
- Totally lost? Play bookstore bingo. Pick a shelf, pick the fourth book over, or the blue book, or the first book you find with a certain word in the title. You're exploring.
- Visit a section that's off your radar. I've already said that I don't shop in the religion section, but the flip side is that I'm fascinated by religions from a cultural studies angle. I won't be interested in Joel Osteen's latest book, but I would be interested in a new biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
- Ask a bookseller.
|This is Consuelo at BookPeople in Austin. |
She's a great reader. Don't be afraid to ask
her for book recommendations.
She's there to help.
7. Don't be a book snob, and don't tolerate it either. I think that people are afraid of booksellers (and others) judging their reading tastes. It happens...but it shouldn't. There are books that I think are awful, but at the same time when I'm working in a store, my goal is to help the customers find their perfect books. I was in a bookstore selling to a buyer when a customer came in and wanted recommendations. This customer, a woman in tennis attire, asked for "books that typically have pink covers." I admit it. I may have vomited in my mouth a little. The buyer stopped what we were doing, stood up, and assisted the woman in finding something she'd love. The customer left happy and the buyer made a sale. Do you think that the hardware store employee judges you for buying a certain shade of paint? When I bought my house, one of the rooms was painting a chartreuse color that made my head hurt. Someone sold that hideous paint color, but I doubt anyone thought twice about the transaction.
Let's say that the bookseller looks nothing like you. Maybe she's a goth girl with a bunch of piercings. Maybe he's the stereotypical preppy gay guy. Maybe she's a middle aged PTA mom type. So what? Here's what you have in common: you both like books. Keep in mind that many booksellers are a bit introverted. They are bookish people. Chances are that the bookseller is willing to set aside her social
|From Beauty and the Beast, Disney|
8. Have an idea. It's easier for a bookseller to recommend a book if you say "I'm looking for a gift for my uncle. He's really outdoorsy and likes to birdwatch," or "I need a book for my friend's seven year-old daughter. She's not into the whole princess thing. Help?" If I were looking for a gift for Gianna, I might say "I need a present for my pal who loves literary fiction but also as a twisted sense of humor. She loves women comics like Kathy Griffin and Gilda Radner. One of her favorite books is Dan Chaon's Await Your Reply. I know she's already read Gone Girl." That's a lot for the bookseller to use in helping me find a book.
|This fall, Penguin Random House, working with Save the Children,|
is donating a book to a US child in need for every #GiveaBook
hashtag on Twitter and Facebook.
Let's change the world one book at a time.
10. Have fun. I really don't like shopping for anything...except for books. Books are commodities, but they are also sources of inspiration, creativity, challenging ideas, great stories, fascinating histories. I think it's high time we celebrate bookie culture the way that the foodies have elevated the concept of destination restaurants and grocery stores.