Saturday, December 29, 2012
A friend of mine (and co-worker at the bookstore where I work) recently asked how Therapist and I met.
"Through Bookcrossing," I told her. I explained how Bookcrossing worked (go to bookcrossing.com to find out more, or http://www.bookcrossing.com/mybookshelf/2of3Rs/ to see my own bookcrossing "bookshelf")
"Some of the Portland area Bookcrossers got together once a month to talk about books and releases and Bookcrossing. I'd been going to these get-togethers for a couple of years, and Therapist came to one of the meetings shortly after she moved to the area. She and I agreed to organize the following month's get-together after Wordstock that year."
I went on to talk about Bookcrossing, how one of the features is to join a Bookcrossing "ring". Someone can start a "ring" by offering to send a book to people who are interested in reading it. Different than a "wild release" where a book is left in a public place for some unknown person to pick up and take home, people sign up to be part of the ring. The first person sends a book to the second person who reads it and then sends it to the third person and so on. The book still travels, and lots of people get to read it.
"Therapist has made the point to me that 'rings' may not be the best for the book industry. She and I, if we hear about a book we're interested in, try to obtain it somehow, quite often by purchasing it. If people just participate in 'rings', then there is less purchasing going on," I told my friend.
"I get that, about how Bookcrossing rings might result in less sales sometimes," she said, "but I think it's always a good thing to have books in the hands of people. To have people reading different things, just reading, that can only be good."
"Well, that's a point," I said. "When I taught third grade, one of my goals every year was to get the kids to read more. We had 20 minutes of reading time in class every day, and I required them to read for an hour every week-end. Some of the kids hated it at first, there was eye rolling and fidgeting, but by the end of the year, even the eye rollers were reading. And liking it."
"I get parents in the store who complain that their child will only read one kind of book, whether it be THE DIARY OF A WIMPY KID, or POKEMON or whatever," she said. "They want to get their kids to branch out, to read other things. I tell them that at least the kids are reading. They are holding books in their hands, and just by doing having books in their hands, they are knowing what it feels like to read. If they keep reading, even if their book selection isn't very broad, if they enjoy it, they'll learn that reading is fun and they'll choose reading as an activity. And they will branch out in their reading choices."
"I agree," I said. "I tell that to parents too. I love it when I hear that kids are reading, and that parents are encouraging them."
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Thursday, December 20, 2012
I have to confess that I don't do The Holidays well. At least not lately. Not since I started working The Holidays at the bookstore.
Some see The Holidays as a time to gather with loved ones, prepare special meals, and prepare gifts to give to family and friends.
I work in retail. And yes, it's books, which I adore and are the reason I put up with a retail environment. This time of year, however, it's a lot more about volume and getting people through the line quickly, rather than the thoughtful kind of book browsing and discussion that I love. Dozens and dozens of people are asking questions and needing the exact right book, cashiers and registers are working at full speed, phones are ringing off the hook. If there is a (rare) lull in the busy-ness of customer interactions, we are all frantically racing around trying to straighten and restock shelves so we can be ready for the next onslaug...uh, wave.
Customers are what keep our doors open, and we all try to be upbeat, even as we try to answer constant questions, gather books for customers and ring efficiently at the register. I don't think I can convey how exhausting a day like that is. For me, anyway.
The Holidays are tiring.
The Christmas music we have playing is slightly stale, sometimes strange, and does not inspire a merry disposition in this bookseller. There is a version of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer that is arranged and sung with the song Tom Dooley. Yep, that's Tom Dooley, that peppy song about a murderer who got hanged. So festive. Some of the songs sound as though they were sung by the Lennon Sisters. Nothing wrong with the Lennon Sisters...50 years ago. There's a song that has lyrics that start..."Mamacita, donde esta Santa Claus?" Um...I guess they provide a little comic relief.
A friend of mine is going through cancer treatment. She's young, has school-age children, and this should not be happening to her (not that it should be happening to anyone). She is blogging about it. I hate to use the word inspirational, because that sounds sappy and lame, and she is anything but those things. She is a stand-up comedian, fiercely sarcastic, and brings her humor and attitude to her blog...and to cancer (Weird Cancer Guy, be gone!). (Keep an eye out for more about her blog in a future post of mine!) One thing she does in her blog posts is list Three Positives...and I so appreciate that she is doing this.
During The Holidays I can easily lose sight of The Positives in my life. She, through her blog, has been reminding me how important it is to be aware of the positives.
So. Three Positives for me about working The Holidays in retail:
1. Customers have been, almost all of them, really patient and polite, with us and to other shoppers. I know that shopping during The Holidays is hard too.
2. People are buying books! I love seeing people who buy some of my favorites, either for themselves or for others. I get to talk with people about books, like the woman who was buying GONE GIRL and when I commented on how much I liked it, asked me what I've been reading that I really like. (THE DOG STARS by Peter Heller is what I told her. Really great. There will be a blog post about it.)
3. Most of my co-workers are fun to work with and can joke around and they really make the intensity of The Holidays bearable. They've also readily pitched in when I've asked for help, even though I know they've had tons of things that have needed to be done themselves. I am grateful for their humor and work ethic.
4. (Do I get extra credit for doing four?) It's almost over. Yes, after Christmas Day there are clearance sales and many many returns (we really believe in gift receipts! please get gift receipts!), so the busy-ness doesn't dramatically drop off after Christmas. But the end is in sight. Hallelujah.
Thanks for stopping by! Clicking on the underlined book title may take you to Barnes and Noble's web page for each book. Purchasing through these links helps support the blog. You can subscribe directly to the blog here on this page. You can also send us email: 2of3Rs(AT)gmail(DOT)com. You can also "like" us on our facebook page, NOT The New York Times Book Review. Happy Holidays!
Friday, December 14, 2012
Tuesday I was in the breakroom at work. One of the managers came in and asked, "Do you know anyone at our Clackamas store?"
"Yeah, lots of people, why?", I answered, thinking of my former co-workers who are now working at that store.
"There's been a shooting at the mall. One of the managers from over there called to let us know that they are all all right, just so we know."
"Oh my god," I said. I immediately texted a few of my friends who work at that store. Employees there was okay, though they were all on lockdown in the breakroom with some customers.
All afternoon and into the evening, staff and customers at my store were checking in with each other and with people we knew from other stores. The gunman had killed two people and then himself.
Last night I went to play trivia with some of my former co-workers, some of whom work at Clackamas and were there the day of the shooting. I wouldn't say that we were all sober and serious. There was joking and laughing and, of course, trivia (we came in second). There was also checking in, asking how everyone was doing, no really. And there were honest answers about being shaken up and scared. There was also a deeper note of being glad to be there, of being glad to see people face to face and know that friends were okay.
This morning's news about the shooting in Connecticut is beyond shocking. An elementary school, for God's sake. At least 26 dead, 18 of them children. I can't even begin to wrap my mind around the terror that this school and community has experienced and will live with forever.
My hope is that Newtown and Clackamas receive support and love they will surely need to live through these horrific events and beyond.
My thoughts and prayers are with them.
Thursday, December 13, 2012
"Do you charge people to use the bathroom?", he asked.
"Um, what was that?", I said, not sure I was hearing right.
"Do you charge people to use the bathroom here? You really should," he said. "If people haven't bought an actual book here, then they shouldn't be able to use the bathrooms."
The man, tall with greying hair, unshaven face, wearing a blue rain jacket and jeans, stood by the register to talk to me at the bookstore where I work.
He continued, "People use the bookstore to browse, and they they go home and buy a digital copy of the book. They are using your bookstore to find out what they want, but they aren't supporting you guys. If people think there's no reason for brick and mortar, see how they do if they can't use the bathroom." He was emphatic.
"You've got a point," I said.
"It would be worth it to have someone by the restrooms checking to see if customers have a receipt," he went on, "and then charge them to use the bathroom if they haven't bought anything. Really, you guys should do that."
"Interesting idea," I said.
I smiled, thinking of how a fee to use the bathroom would go over.
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Friday, December 7, 2012
Therapist and I were talking recently about characters in a book and how we like them.
"I like Amy in Gillian Flynn's GONE GIRL," she said.
"You like Amy?", I said. "I didn't really like her," I replied.
"I liked her as a character," she said.
"Ah." I paused. "Interesting distinction," I said. "It seems that when people talk about 'liking a character', they are talking about whether they like the character as a person. They are talking about whether they would want to be friends with that character, not necessarily that the character was written well."
"No," she said. "I'm talking about liking the character as it is written in the book. Amy is a brilliant character. Gillian Flynn did such a good job of portraying her motivations and actions, her struggle against being 'Amazing Amy', and how that all played out so diabolically in her relationship with Nick."
"She absolutely did," I agreed.
I've read Gillian Flynn's SHARP OBJECTS and DARK PLACES. As with GONE GIRL, these other books have believable characters that are not necessarily likable people.
Who are your favorite literary characters? And do you like the characters as people? Or are they your favorites because they were created at the hands of a skilled writer?
You can comment here on the blog, or on our facebook page, NOT The New York Times Book Review. You can also send us email: 2of3Rs(AT)gmail(DOT)com. Clicking on the underlined book title may take you to Barnes and Noble's web page for each book. Clicking on the book cover will take you to Amazon's web page for each book. Purchasing through these links helps support the blog. Thanks for reading!
Sunday, December 2, 2012
For our holiday book drive, we're asking customers to donate books that we will give to a school in the area that has been flooded several times.
One of my co-workers was talking to a man about the book drive, "The school was flooded, and we're trying to help them build up their library. I have some books here, and there are some back here..." she pointed to the shelves behind her, full of dozens of children's books.
"I'd like to donate, I'm just not sure which one," the man with greying hair, wearing a long brown raincoat and brown hat, said.
She pointed to the book closest to her register, "There's this one. They could learn about lightning."
"Sure," the man said, "that's a good idea. They already know about flooding."
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