Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Customers 15 (Holiday Customers)

Ah, holiday shoppers...

Customer: My Dad wants a book for Christmas, you know, that book on war?

Me: Do you know the title?

Customer: No, it's about war.

Me: Um, do you know any words in the title?

Customer: No

Me: Do you know the author's name? First or last name?

Customer: No

Me: Do you know which war?

Customer: No, don't you know it? It's about WAR. It's that really popular one.

Me (ever so patiently): There are a lot of books about war...we usually need a little more to go on. 'War' is a pretty broad topic. I can show you the section.

Customer: Okay, I'll take a look there.

I take him to the section which takes up a large section of a wall...

Me: This first part is Military History, then it goes into Warfare, then Weapons of War, then it goes into each of the wars, starting with World War I and going chronologically up through the Iraq wars. The Revolutionary War and other wars earlier than that are in United States History, or other history if the U.S. wasn't involved.

Customer: Oooooh, I see what you mean. I'll start looking. Thanks for your help.
(at least that's what I hope he says, rather than storming off, frustrated because I wasn't able to find the book he wanted.)


A pair of shoppers knew exactly which book they wanted, I just don't think they were sure what they would be getting...

"We're looking for a book, by Mary Roach? It's called Stiff?"

"Sure, we have that, it's right over here in medical reference, I'll show you."

"Is it fiction?", they asked.

"Ah, no, it's definitely not fiction. It's about the different ways human bodies decompose after people die."

Maybe it's a gift?

Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers


Other customers aren't shopping for others, they just need a little help finding exactly what they want...like the older woman with white hair using a cane who asked a bookseller...

"I've read a lot of the paranormal romances and I like them. Is there anything else you can recommend along those lines, but can you make sure it has really steamy sex scenes? I like those the best."


And this couple, taking their children and grandchildren on a train trip..."Do you have The Polar Bear Express? We need 7 copies."

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Monday, November 29, 2010

The Holidays are HERE

Black Friday was BUSY. The whole week-end was busy, and yes, I worked the whole week-end. It was busy in that onslaught kind of way, where the customers kept coming and coming and coming.

"Festive" is the euphemism for crazy busy at our store, as in, when a staff person comes off the floor for a break and has that glazed look in their eyes and the manager says "It sure is festive out there."

Some of the customers are pleasant, if not always aware that other people are also waiting to be helped...

A woman comes up to the register to purchase a fancy computer lap desk, the most expensive one we have in the store. She has long blond hair, is about 5'9", and is wearing a tan wool coat. A line is forming behind her. We finish the transaction for the lap desk, and out of the corner of her eye, she sees our display of holiday CDs.

"Oh, just a sec, I need one of these," she says. She leaves her (large) bag holding the lap desk and comes back with two CDs, Elvis Presley's Blue Christmas, and a Frank Sinatra Christmas album. "Hmm," she says, "I don't know which to pick." She looks at the play list on each. "Which would you pick?", she asks.

Trying to keep things moving I say, "I'd go with Frank Sinatra. I love his voice."

"I don't know," she says, musing. She pulls out her phone. And makes a call. As it's ringing, she says in a whisper, "I just need to find out what he wants. It'll just take a second."

Normally I'd ask her to step to the side so I could help other customers, but with her large purchase, and cashiers ringing at the next registers, there wasn't anywhere for her to go.

"Okay, he wants Frank Sinatra. I shouldn't have even called." She paused. I rang up the CD and she ran her credit card. I handed her the receipt and put the CD in the bag with the lap desk. Her phone rang. She answered. "He changed his mind. It's my stepson. He wants the Elvis one. Can we just trade it?"

"I have to do it as an exchange, but I can do it quickly." I rang the exchange through and handed her the Elvis CD and her receipt. Her phone rang again.

"I'm not even going to answer that," she said. "Thank you so much, you've been very nice."

"You're welcome," I said. "Have a good day." The next person in line steps up to the counter.

Others are not as pleasant...

A man wearing a blue shirt in maybe his mid-30's approached the counter with two books and a receipt from our online store. The receipt was a gift receipt, which showed the amounts paid for the books in code so the recipient doesn't know how much was spent.

"I want to return this one (Ramona the Pest) and get this one (Ramona and Her Mother). I have this receipt."

"Great. I can take care of that." I look up the amount paid for the book he wanted to return and rang it into the register as an exchange. "That'll be $.60 please," I say.

"What? Why? You mean to tell me that that one is 60 cents less than this one? Even though they're both marked the same? What is that about? That doesn't make any sense."

"I can't tell why it cost less, but yes, according to the receipt that you brought in, whoever got it for you paid $5.39 and the one you want here is $5.99," I said. I'd been ringing the transaction into the register. "So there is a 60 cent difference."

"That is the stupidest thing I've ever heard," he said, infuriated. "Unbelievable," he spat. He swiped his card. I handed him his receipt. "Here you go," I said.

"Go to hell," he said in a mean, low voice as he snatched the book and walked away.

Taken aback, I could barely greet the next customer, a young woman with long hair and a black coat. "Retail sure is something, isn't it?" she said, having overheard the interaction. She was smiling.

"It sure is," I said, smiling back at her.

I think that that would be festive. Yep, festive for sure.

You can send email to: 2of3RsATgmailDOTcom. Thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Mark Twain on Thanksgiving...among other things

      Autobiography of Mark Twain, Vol. 1

I've been reading Mark Twain's autobiography. It's been a bit of a challenge, because the editors have included notes and letters and dictations of Twain's and included them in the book. When I heard he had an autobiography, I thought it would be a more of a piece. Instead, it seems to be lots and lots of little pieces.

However, this was Twain's intention - not necessarily to include all the letters and references, but to have it be an autobiography made up of pieces...

"So you see the result is that this narrative of mine is sure to begin every morning in diary form, because it is sure to begin with something which I have just read, or something which I have just been talking about. That text, when I am done with it and I don't seem to get done with any text - but it doesn't matter, I am not interested in getting done with anything. I am only interested in talking along and wandering around as much as I want to, regardless of results to the future reader. By consequence, here we have diary and history combined; because as soon as I wander from the present text - the thought of to-day - that digression takes me far and wide over an uncharted sea of recollection, and the result of that is history. Consequently my autobiography is diary and history combined."

I realize that including all the letters and all the transcripts and so on allow it to be a more complete and scholarly tome. Except it kind of FEELS like a scholarly endeavor, rather than a more friendly and inviting autobiography. Its heft alone, the thing is over 950 pages (and this is only volume 1!), makes it rather off-putting. It's just harder to get to the good bits, is all.

That said, there ARE good bits. Yes, it meandered. It wandered. I didn't read all the references and footnotes. There were some bits I wasn't all that interested in reading. AND...there were some that were absolutely delightful...

"But the main difficulty is the flies. They like it up there (on his shaved head) better than anywhere else; on account of the view, I suppose. It seems to me that I have never seen any flies before that were shod like these. These appear to have talons. Wherever they put their foot down they grab. They walk over my head all the time, and cause me infinite torture. It is their park, their club, their summer resort."

Twain gets his own social commentary in there as well. This passage illuminates his thoughts and observations of Thanksgiving...

"...reminds me that my own seventieth (birthday) arrived recently - that is to say, it arrived on the 30th of November, but Colonel Harvey was not able to celebrate it on that date because that date had been preempted by the President to be used as Thanksgiving Day, a function which originated in New England two or three centuries ago when those people recognized that they really had something to be thankful for - annually, not oftener - if they had succeeded in exterminating their neighbors, the Indians, during the previous twelve months instead of getting exterminated by their neighbors the Indians. Thanksgiving Day became a habit, for the reason that in the course of time, as the years drifted on, it was perceived that the exterminating had ceased to be mutual and was all on the white man's side, consequently on the Lord's side, consequently it was proper to thank the Lord for it and extend the usual annual compliments. The original reason for a Thanksgiving Day has long ago ceased to exist - the Indians have long ago been comprehensively and satisfactorily exterminated and the account closed with Heaven, with the thanks due. But, from old habit, Thanksgiving Day has remained with us, and every year the President of the United States and Governors of all the several States and the territories set themselves the task, every November, to advertise for something to be thankful for, and then they put those thanks into a few crisp and reverent phrases, in the form of a Proclamation, and that is read from all the pulpits in the land, the national conscience is wiped clean with one swipe and sin is resumed at the old stand."

He also talks at length about his daughter, Susy, who died in her early 20's of meningitis. Twain loved her much and missed her greatly, even as he wrote over 30 years after her death..."She was our wonder and our worship."

Whether he talks about the death of his wife or his daughter, a news item of the day, flies, Italian architecture, or commenting on political or social happenings, it is thrilling to read Twain's previously unpublished words 100 years after his death.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! Thanks for reading!

You can send email to: 2of3RsATgmailDOTcom

Monday, November 22, 2010

Moonlight in Odessa

I was fortunate enough to receive Moonlight in Odessa, as an Early Reviewer copy through librarything.com. (thank you, librarything!)

                                    Moonlight in Odessa: A Novel

Daria, a 23 year old woman, is the main character and narrator. Ukrainian, she lives in Odessa with her grandmother. Educated as an engineer, she is an office assistant with a shipping firm, scrambling to eke out an existence with severe economic challenges in the Ukraine. To make more money, she takes a second job with Soviet Unions (get it?), a matchmaking firm pairing American men with Ukrainian women.

Daria has learned to navigate the sometimes seedy underworld that comprises daily life in Odessa, including bribing officials and dealing with mobsters. She is invaluable to her boss at the shipping firm, but wants more for her life. As she works with the matchmaking firm, she explores possibilities for love for herself, including coming to the U.S. to be with an American man who turns out to be less than he claimed to be in his communications with her.

One thing that bugged me about the story was Daria and cooking. In the beginning of the book, Daria has never cooked. Her Boba (grandmother) cooked for her growing up. Cooking in Odessa is revered and is a sign of love for friends and family members. Later in the book, Daria learns a certain kind of cooking (not Odessan cooking which is elaborate), instead she learns bland, low fat, chicken in broth and steamed vegetables kind of cooking. Then a few months later in the story she makes an amazing Odessan feast for her friends and neighbors, and every dish is phenomenal, which seemed a little unrealistic to me. Then, a month or so later, she meets someone who will show her how to bake. Does she know how to cook or not?

One thing the author did that I really liked and thought was effective was how different English verbs and their tenses came into Daria's mind when she was experiencing feelings...

"He was just like other men, only with shinier teeth and fancy cologne. We stared at each other. The only sound in the office was the ticking of a clock. Weep-wept-wept. Win-won-won. Withdraw-withdrew-withdrawn."
Well done.

A lot of the book has Daria (and many others in Odessa), longing for ease in life in America. Consequently, there are many comparisons and descriptions of the differences between Ukrainian life (and Ukrainians) and American life (and Americans)...

"I ran to the self-help section. (In Ukraine, we weren't big on self-help. People depended on fate or the State to help them.) Americans were very much into self-serve, self-medication, and self-help: the ultimate do-it-yourselfers. Americans were all part-time pharmacists. They knew exactly which medication to take for any ailment. They found answers in books. Look at Tristan. Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus had clearly helped him. I found titles like Closing the Deal; The Rules; Men are like Waffles, Women are like Spaghetti, and then I found a book entitled Ten Stupid Things Women Do to Mess Up Their Lives. I looked at the table of contents and found that I had committed a completely different ten. So many books were aimed at getting a man. What I needed was a book entitled Catch and Release; Put Him Back in the Sea Painlessly and Effortlessly. No such luck."

The book concluded with a tidy ending (which I don't always like). However, I did like that Moonlight in Odessa introduced me to a world that was unfamiliar to me, and used it to contrast it with life in the U.S. The author clearly loves Odessa, and even though there may have been a few too many mentionings of the wonderfulness of Odessa, it was delightful to read about Daria and a place that is clearly dear to the author's heart.

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Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Giving Tree? or The Taking Tree?

Last night I was feeling frustrated with my relationship with some of my family members, so I asked one of my co-workers what she thought about their behavior (which has resulted in me feeling unappreciated).

"Have you read The Taking Tree?", she asked.

"I don't think so...", I said.

"Have you read The Giving Tree?", she asked.

"Yeah, of course," I said.

"I HATE The Giving Tree!", she said. "The tree in The Giving Tree is a complete doormat! What an awful message in a book." She shook her head.

I laughed. "The Giving Tree IS kind of a doormat," I said. "I hadn't thought about it that way. Interesting that you said that. I left my marriage in large part because I needed not to be a Doormat Wife. With my brother I am trying not to be Doormat Sister. And with my kids I'm trying not to be Doormat Mom. I haven't completely gotten there yet."

"In The Taking Tree, there's a boy and a tree, and the boy takes and takes and takes, but it has a REALLY different ending."

We went to find the book in the store. And it does indeed have a different ending! The Taking Tree is the anti-doormat.

Here's the description from the publisher...

We all know the story of the "selfless" tree that gave all she had just to make sure a young boy was "happy". Snore. This is a different tree. This is a different boy. This is a very different book. The Taking Tree is not so happy when the boy takes her twigs to pick on his sister, or takes her apples to sell for college (she's an oak tree for goodness sake), or when he cuts off her branches to build a house that he burns for insurance money. And the boy is not sorry at all. Ever. In fact, he's kind of a jerk. And the boy asks for more, and more, and more until the oak tree is so fed up she just can't take it any longer. While another story might end sweetly with an old man sitting on a stump. This one does not.

"I don't know what to tell you about your situation," she said. "You could maybe give them this book!", she said.

"I may just do that," I said, not sure that's the answer, but really glad to have a laugh about it.

        The Giving Tree 40th Anniversary Edition Book with CD     

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Wednesday, November 17, 2010


Rodeo in Joliet
Bibliophile and I ventured to Wordstock in Portland this year. A plethora of books, authors, and book accoutrements that would make you drool. (Ok, maybe that's just me...but I do run my hands over hundreds of books that have not crossed my path before)
And so it was with Rodeo in Joliet, a memoir by Glann Rockowitz. I saw the smooth white cover lying on a table at Wordstock and the book DEMANDED that I open it. I am one of those people who read the first line of a book and know if I want to read it or just keep looking. I don't read dust jackets and I don't turn the book over to see what someone ELSE thought of the book. I read the first sentence to see what I think. After all...if you sit down to write a whole gosh darn book it seems like you could write a first sentence that just might make someone want to keep reading.
And so I open the book and read:

Voices are underwater, faces are Vaseline, smells are electric, words are paint spills and I can't feel a goddamn thing.

I turn to Bibliophile and say, "I want this one". And that is how I came to read the memoir by Glenn Rockowitz, a book I had never heard of.

Glenn has just gotten a diagnosis of terminal cancer in the beginning of the book. Cancer that has advanced and left him with an estimated three months to live. Glenn has a wife who is then seven months pregnant with his son. Glenn begins the wild ride of how one spends the last three months of their life and what their priorities are.

Glenn is not necessarily a likable character and I found myself as angry at his behavior as he was at his disease. He does not sugarcoat his experience and he seems to think that good manners boil down to a waste of time and time is something he has just about run out of.

Glenn's writing style reminds me of James Frey, (A Million Little Pieces), and that is a compliment...I couldn't care less whether James fudged or changed or downright lied about things...I found his writing brilliant.

Glenn writes in the same clean honest style which is shown brilliantly in a passage about not wanting to be a "cancer patient" anymore.

I don't want to be on Oprah.
I don't want to be a feature in People Magazine and have a picture of My Family on the Beach, and a picture of My Son jumping on the Bed.
I don't want to be a story.
I don't want to be part of a support group.
I don't want to have a good cry.
I don't want ME time.
I don't want to TALK to Others Like Me.
I don't want a Coffee Klatch.
I don't want to Keep a Diary.
I don't want to do a Fun Run.
I don't want to Wear a Ribbon.
I don't want to Wear a Bonnet or a T-Shirt.
I don't want people to clap when I cross the Finish Line at some Fucking Fundraiser.
I don't want to start a Website of my Battle.
I don't want a website with a Flower Patterned Background.
I don't want to write Updates.
I don't want a Guest Book where Friends can Wish Me Well.
I don't want people to cook for me.
I don't want to write Thank You Notes.
I don't want people to be Concerned.
I don't want people to look at me THAT WAY.
I don't want my picture on the front of some Brochure.
I don't want a Foundation in My Name.
I don't want an Engraved Stone in some Goddamn Park.
I don't want to Battle Cancer with Courage.
"Battling" is Vietnam.
"Courage" is Normandy.
Cancer is just fucking unfortunate.

He maintains this sort of pragmatism throughout his memoir while he is fortunate enough to know someone who can gain him purchase into an experimental clinical trial in the UK. Glenn manages to alienate people in the US, Canada, and the UK while he obtains treatment that many are unable to receive.

I like the clean, crisp Dragnet style of prose that is "Just the facts, Ma'am" and is absent of fluff and weighty descriptions.

One of the things I love about books in general is discovering why the Author chose the title. Some are straightforward: The House at Pooh Corner, Under the Dome, or The Time Traveler's Wife...We are not left wondering what it means. With Rodeo in Joliet we have not a hint of where that might come from but are drawn to the play on words just the same. I am not going to reveal why Glenn chose this title but I think the title in itself deserves to be lauded.

Love Glenn or hate him...it doesn't matter...I think you'll appreciate his story and walk away with more of an understanding of everyone you know who doesn't want to be a cancer patient anymore.

A Million Little Pieces

Monday, November 15, 2010

A Bryson Kind of Day

It was a Bill Bryson kind of day.

My first two customers asked about a book by Bill Bryson. The first, a woman maybe in her 60's, short, very black hair, asked about his new book. She owned (but hadn't read) A Walk in the Woods. I told her about his older books (which she didn't know about), took her to the travel writing section where most of them are, told her that my favorite of those is I'm a Stranger Here Myself. She told ME that he is coming to town as part of the visiting author series. Tickets are going fast. I'd love to see him someday.

The second customer wanted Bryson's newest book, At Home, which I'd just finished reading that morning.

At Home describes the history of houses, but not just the structures and things in them, there is much, much more...

"What I found out is that whatever happens in the world - whatever is discovered or created or bitterly fought over - eventually ends up, in one way or another, in your house...So the history of household life isn't just a history of beds and sofas and kitchen stoves, as I had vaguely supposed it would be, but of scurvy and guano and the Eiffel Tower and bedbugs and body snatching and just about everything else that has ever happened. Houses aren't refuges from history. They are where history ends up."

The Eiffel Tower? Well, indeed. In his chapter about building materials used to make houses he talk about iron. For a short while (a very short while), iron was used as a building material. It was sturdy. It was also very very heavy, so it didn't last long as a construction material. The Eiffel Tower is made of iron. An incredible feat of engineering, it is the largest and one of the last structures ever made out of iron.

"The Eiffel Tower wasn't just the largest thing that anyone had ever proposed to build, it was the largest completely useless thing.

"It wasn't a palace or a burial chamber or a place of worship. It didn't even commemorate a fallen hero...even he (Monsieur Eiffel) admitted that mostly he wished to build it simply for the strange pleasure of make something really quite enormous."

Chock full of facts, At Home doesn't feel like a history lesson, just as his Short History of Nearly Everything didn't feel like a science lesson, because of Bryson's own delight in what he's learning and sharing with us. Putting his own engaging style on what he's learning, Bryson has, as my dad would have said, done his homework...

"Eighty-four percent of people who die in stair falls at home are 65 or older. This is not so much because the elderly are more careless on stairs, but just because they don't get up so well afterword...People in good shape fall more often than people in bad shape, largely because they do a lot more bounding and don't descend as carefully and with as many rest stops as the tubby or infirm."

      At Home: A Short History of Private Life          Bryson's A Short History (A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson (Paperback - Sept. 14, 2004))

Bill Bryson is one of my favorite authors. At Home is another entertaining addition to the Bryson compendium.

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Sunday, November 14, 2010

Someone Had a Stroke

A woman came in and was checking out at the register. Her eye was caught by Dr Suess's The Cat in the Hat that was up at the register.

          The Cat in the Hat

"Hmm, this is easy to read. My husband just had a stroke and it affected his language. He might be able to read this."

I told her that my mom had had a stroke that affected her language as well. My Mom couldn't find the words she wanted to use for things, and couldn't remember the meanings of some words if I just said them. For instance, when the speech therapist pointed to the clock on the wall and asked her what that was, she couldn't remember the word "clock". However, when the therapist asked her what time it was, Mom said (correctly), "10:51". Different parts of our brains are used for naming things than are used for things like telling time.

Mom wouldn't know who I was talking about if I just said the name of someone, but if I showed her a picture AND said the name, then she knew right away who it was.

It seemed as though this woman's husband had the same kind of stroke that my mom did. She was still sort of in shock and trying to figure things out. When I asked, she told me he'd just had his stroke at the end of August. She's just at the beginning. She said he's still driving, and doesn't have any physical effects.

My mom didn't have physical effects either (drooping, etc.) , but she wasn't driving. She didn't know where she was half the time, nor how to get back to where she should be. I wondered if her husband should be driving.

I felt sadness well up in my chest while we were talking.

She asked how my mom is doing now. "My mom died.", I said, though quickly added that her diabetes really complicated things. The woman nodded. "I'll have to come back and look at the children's books," she said.

"Good luck with everything," I said.

"Thanks for your help," she said.

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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Nursing...and Massage

A woman called on the phone. She's a nurse doing a research project and was referred to us from nursing schools. In her project, she's making the case to have nurses incorporate massage into nursing care. Back in the day, hospital patients received a 15 minute massage every night before bed. It was part of the daily routine. Other tasks have taken the place of massage. This woman wants to find out if massage is even being taught in nursing schools any more, so needed to be able to know what books are being used as texts.

There are many books with different authors and different publishers titled (some variation of) Fundamentals of Nursing. Each nursing school only chooses ONE of those as the text they use, so the woman had already been to a few schools of nursing, each of which only had one text. She wanted to see, across the spectrum, what is being taught in nursing schools. Is massage being taught in any of them? How much? Is massage considered an important part of nursing care? Is massage even mentioned as a part of nursing care at all? Her theory is that it is not, but she needed to see some texts to find out for sure.

I referred her to our website, which, if you put in "fundamentals of nursing", gives LOTS of options, and at least she can get some names, authors and publishers.

Fundamentals of Nursing    Fundamentals of Nursing: The Art and Science of Nursing Care (Fundamentals of Nursing: The Art & Science of Nursing Care)    Fundamentals of Nursing: Human Health and Function (Craven, Fundamentals of Nursing: Human Health and Function)    

If I ever have to go to the hospital, I'd like to get a massage. I wished her luck with her project. Interesting!

You can send email to: 2of3RsATgmailDOTcom. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Why Do You Want to Know?

E. takes a phone call. He puts the customer on hold and comes to me and one of the managers.

"This caller is mad. At me. She wants to know something about Buddhist books and I don't know enough so she's mad."

"What does she want to know?", I ask.

"I don't know, she wants to know some popular Buddhist authors, and I don't know any, so she's mad because she doesn't think I know anything. I'm Jewish, I don't know much about Buddhist writing!"

"Okay, don't worry about it, I'll talk to her," I said. In my mind I'm thinking that if she's so mad, maybe she could benefit from some Buddhist books.

I answer the phone and ask how I can help. "Yes. I need to know some things. There's a book...something about a motorcycle?"

Because E. said she was looking for Buddhist (Eastern religious) books, I thought of Robert Pirsig's book. "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance?", I ask?

"Yes, yes, that's the one!", she said. "And then there's that author, the popular author, who is it?"

"This 'popular' author, do you know anything that this author wrote?"

"I need to know that really popular author, the one who writes about Buddhism."

"Well, there's the Dalai Lama and Thich Nhat Hanh and Pema Chodron..."

"No, no, it's a really normal name. Don't you know what it is?"

The manager has been listening to me talk to the customer. "Jack Kornfield?", she suggests.

I say, "Jack Kornfield?"

"That's it! Do you know what he wrote?"

I pull up his name in our computer system and start reading her the list of books he wrote, "The Wise Heart: A Guide to the Universal Teachings of Buddhist Psychology, A Path With Heart: A Guide Through the Perils and Promises of Spiritual Life, The Art of Forgiveness, Lovingkindness, and Peace..."

"But which is his most popular?"

"Well, The Buddha is Still Teaching: Contemporary Buddhist Wisdom is his most recent, it just came out last month," I said.

"I need to know which is the one that's the most popular," she insists.

"I don't know that, unless I go into the system for each one and see how well each is selling. Is there one you'd like me to hold for you?", I ask.

"No, I just need to know which is the most popular. And that first title, that was Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance? And it's Jack Kornfield that is the Buddhist author?", she asks.

"That's right," I said.

"Well that's all I need, then. Thank you very much for your help," she said.

"You're welcome," I said, glad I could help, but a little frustrated that she didn't seem to want to buy anything, and that she got mad at us because we didn't seem to know what she wanted.

After the call, I went over to where the manager was standing. "She didn't want to know if we had any of the books in the store," I said. "She asked who was the most popular Buddhist author."

"A good question to ask the customer is, 'And why do you want to know?'," she said. "Maybe it's for a crossword puzzle and she just needs an answer," she said smiling.

"Oh good grief," I said.

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: an Inquiry Into Values        The Art of Happiness, 10th Anniversary Edition: A Handbook for Living

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Sunday, November 7, 2010

Sending Books...to Jail

Sometimes people come into the bookstore and want to send books to jails or prisons. There are strict rules about how books can be sent, as well as which ones can be sent. People can't select books in the store and have us send those exact books to a correctional facility. We have to order them from the warehouse to be sent. Most facilities won't let prisoners accept hardcover books, and anything of questionable content (porn, dealing with weapons or drugs) are not allowed. Books usually have to be sent by postal service, because often facilities won't sign for packages from UPS, so the inmate never receives the package intended for them.

Two women came up to the information desk. One looked to be about in her 60's, graying shoulder length hair, a worn pale pink fleece jacket and jeans. The other woman was younger, fairly tall, about 5'10", long hair dyed burgundy, dark red lipstick with almost black lip liner. She had a black cap on with skulls on it. They had three books with them, The Lost Symbol, Michael Crichton's Pirate Latitudes, and John Grisham's newest The Confession, which is only in hardcover.

The Lost Symbol        Pirate Latitudes

"We'd like to have these sent to a facility. To my husband who's there," the older woman said quietly. She seemed kind of out of it. "We've done it before," she said. "All the information should already be in there," she pointed to the computer.

"Sure," I said. When I checked, I found out that her information is in there, not her husband's. I told her that the computer saved some of her information, but not the mailing information about the prisoner. "I'll have to get the information about where it's going and who will be receiving it."

"I thought that was already in there. We've done this before." She sighed.

"Sorry about that, the computer saves your information, but not the sending information. I need the SID number (prisoner identification number), do you have that?"

They started to recite it from memory, the older woman said to the younger one, "I don't remember the rest of it, do you have it?" She sighed, her eyes kind of unfocused. The younger one dug in her purse and got the information. I got it entered into the computer.

"My understanding is that they won't accept hardcovers, and the Grisham book is only in hardcover," I said.

"We've done it before," they said. "He really wants to read this."

"Okay, that's fine, I just want to let you know that we've heard that some facilities don't accept hardcovers."

"We've done it before. We just want to send these." I printed the order and the older woman confirmed that the mailing information was correct. They took the printed order to go pay for it.

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Thursday, November 4, 2010

(Staff) Recommendations Through the Year

For October, the staff was asked to select the scariest book they have ever read. I chose The Exorcist, a book that, when I read it in high school, gave me nightmares for months. I never saw the movie (either version) and never will. The book was plenty scary enough for me.


Stephen King featured predominately. The Shining. It. Cell.

Cell: A Novel   It   The Shining

Nancy Drew made an appearance (one of the books was scary to the bookseller when she was a child when Nancy Drew appeared as a ghost...of herself!). C.S. Lewis also made the staff rec list with The Screwtape Letters(...I didn't say it couldn't be Christian fundamentalist scary!) Several people wanted to recommend Mark Danielewski's The House of Leaves, which I have been told is super scary (and funny and romantic and adventurous...). Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde was also featured on the bay, as was Chelsea Cain's Heartsick. And what collection of scary books would be complete without Silence of the Lambs?

House of Leaves    Heartsick    The Silence of the Lambs (Hannibal Lecter)

As we move into the holiday season, the theme I'm proposing is to recommend something that they'll be giving this year as a gift.

One person is choosing Dash and Lily's Book of Dares, another is choosing Shark vs Train, a very cute children's book about who would win if a shark went up against a train in various contests (the shark wins at high diving, natch). Another children's book recommended by someone who has a pug is Chick 'n' Pug. The illustrations are delightful as Chick meets Pug, a dog that can do no wrong, even if he is a little, well, slow moving.

Chick 'n' Pug      Dash & Lily's Book of Dares

One person asked if they could recommend a book they really liked receiving as a gift (absolutely!), so he'll be recommending National Lampoon's Tenth Anniversary Anthology.

I'll be recommending Lane Smith's It's a Book, in which a monkey and a mouse try to explain to a jackass what a book is. "How do you scroll down?", the jackass asks. "You don't. I turn the page. It's a book." The jackass surprises himself and becomes engrossed in reading an actual book. I love this book, and will be giving it to my own children who are in their 20's.

                    It's a Book

Someone is recommending Paul Harding's Tinkers, another is choosing a lovely leatherbound edition of the complete series of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Someone else has chosen The Dictionary of Imaginary Places.


I love seeing what everyone else likes!

You can send email to: 2of3RsATgmailDOTcom. Thanks for reading!