Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The bookseller as counselor

Sometimes my job is awesome. I mean I get to read books (ARCs or Advanced Reader's Copies, but more commonly known as galleys) -- on my own time, of course. But then I get paid to tell customers how great these books are. How I couldn't put this one down. How I cried over the ending of this book. Or laughed out loud throughout this book. Or how this book didn't work for me. Or I couldn't get past chapter 2 of this book.

Let me repeat: I get paid for that.

Of course, I also have to shelve the books, straighten and alphabetize, pull books that aren't selling so they can be returned, clean up empty coffee cups and crushed Cheerios after the customers leave.

But then there are parts of the job that are more difficult. Like hairdressers and bartenders, we hear all the stories. People tell us details of their lives, their hopes, their dreams. We hear that someone's 2-year-old grandson is a genius who is already reading. We hear that a child is jealous of a new sibling, and is there a book for that? (yes, of course, several). We hear that a child is sick or has a broken leg or just lost a grandparent (or, worse, a parent) and is there a book for them? Always.

Today ranked right up there with the most difficult days. I just learned last night that my 19-year-old son's former classmate died suddenly over the weekend. And today, at work, his older sister came in with a neighbor to buy a guest book. For the funeral. The neighbor could barely bring herself to ask me, in a whisper, if we had something appropriate. Ahh. Of course we did and I found the guest books for her. But I'd rather not have to do things like this.

RIP, Matthew.

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