I’m working at the Hebrew Book Fair, as I told you guys a few days ago, but I’ve been tossed around a couple of times since then, from one sales area to another. I was moved from outside the mall to inside the store, and then from there I was stolen by a very nice woman with dark hair to work with her in the little area right outside the store that’s separate from it but still owned by the same company. Confused? Yeah, so was I. Anyway, none of this is really relevant.
I’m now acting as a boss/manager even though I’m still paid minimum wage. I get to be in charge of the register at the end of the day, as well as the two seventeen-year old high school kids who are working with me.
That’s not the point either. The point is that Book Week, as lovely a concept as it is, is about sales. Pure and simple. It’s about making money. Whenever a certain book isn’t selling, I need to start recommending it to customers after having just read the back cover or inside flap. I need, in short, to lie about having read and liked books. I’m not above an occasional white lie, but in this case… well, it bothers me. As a reader, I want sales-clerks’ honest opinions about books, and I don’t want to cause anyone to buy a book they might not enjoy.
But bookstores are businesses, and the cash register needs to show a certain amount of profit every day. Still, while I’ve recommended books that I haven’t read, I’ve only told people that I’d heard good things about the book. I also never tried to foist a book on someone who didn’t want it after I showed it to them. And, most importantly, I still recommend the books I know and love most of all.
How do you feel about lying, or at least bending the truth and exaggerating, in order to make sales? Have you done it before? Do you feel guilty or do you see it as all part of the job?
McKenzie inspired me to do this, as well as a friend I spend time with this week. I’ve always been a big reader, but I’ve never kept track of the books I’ve read. I simply look on my shelves, and I know which books I’ve read and which I haven’t. I’ve never, so far, had a doubt as to whether or not I’ve read a certain book, so I’ve never had a problem of deciding which books I should buy when I go to a bookstore. But I thought that this year, for fun more than anything, I’ll keep track.
Behold, the list of books I’ve read so far in 2010:
- Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
- Death in Holy Orders by P. D. James
- Gone by Jonathan Kellerman
- Obsession by Jonathan Kellerman
- Death of An Expert Witness by P. D. James
- The Mozart Season by Virginia Euwer Wolff [reread]
- The Secret Life of Amanda K. Woods by Ann Cameron [reread]
- Three Junes by Julia Glass
- One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
- Dupont Circle by Paul Kafka-Gibbons
- Dreams Underfoot by Charles de Lint
- The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
This is the way it’s always been:
Once I enter the large wood-framed glass doors, whether they’re in the mall or next to Ralph’s, my world shifts subtly, becoming a place of beauty and opportunity and most of all, calm. My cares drift away, and I let myself go, knowing I’m in a safe place. I wander the carpeted walkways, the halls, sometimes going up and down escalators. I gaze appreciatively at this corner or that, checking also if any of the chairs in the nooks are taken and if I might have a chance of collapsing into one later.
As a child, my steps, guided by a parent’s or relative’s hand, led me to the section with the big “JR.s” sign above it. All the shelves were at reachable child level, there were dolls and games in a corner and there was the same hand that had led me before, pointing out titles and pictures, helping me pick and choose.
Later, as I grew older, I would venture into that section alone, looking for the taller shelves. I would find my heart’s desires there – whether they were embodied by girls who rode horses and lived in the country or by boys and their dogs or detectives or super heroes. When my hands were too full to carry any more, I would plop myself down on the floor and lean against the shelves or recline in one of the comfy chairs by the windows and wait until my mother and brother were ready to go and pay.
Today, I feel the echoes of these times with me whenever I stride confidently through the vast halls and floors of Barnes&Noble. I focus my energies on the Fantasy-and-Sci-Fi section and the Young-Adult section – for it often holds fantasy novels as well and some adorable easy reading material besides. Whenever I am in the US, most specifically my beloved LA, I beg to be left alone in the shop for a couple hours so I can make my purchases and buy myself a strong coffee and read, cracking the spines of the new books with joy.