Wednesday, January 25, 2012

How Can You Work in a Bookstore and Not Read Any of the Books?

I used to love to read. As a child, I almost lived in the library, reading volumes and volumes of not-so-fine literature, including Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators (my favorite), and every book about UFOs that I could find.  As I grew older, I graduated to Stephen King and Dean Koontz novels, and my college buddy introduced to me to the Shannara series by Terry Brooks.

I always thought how fun it would be to work in a bookstore, to be surrounded by all those books, and to be able to read anything and everything.

Then, I graduated with a degree in journalism, and took a job as an editor at a small newspaper, a job that entailed reading/editing newspaper articles for eight hours per day from early afternoon to late evening.  Needless to say, by the time my shift was over, my eyes were pretty much fried, and I really didn’t feel like reading anything more. 

Upon leaving the newspaper, I took a job as a technical editor for an engineering firm, again reading for eight hours a day. I went from reading current events to reading engineering reports.  The job paid more, but reading the reports was about as exciting as watching paint dry, and again my eyes were pretty much fried by the end of the day.

Needless to say reading for pleasure wasn’t a very high priority.

Now, flash forward about 20 years, and I work in a bookstore. OK, so it’s an online bookstore, but I am surrounded by books, books, and more books. And I haven’t read any of them.

I really hadn’t thought about the irony of the situation until I culled some books, CDs, and VHS tapes, and brought them into the engineering firm to give away.  As coworkers sorted through the box, they occasionally would ask me my opinion of a certain tome.  I sheepishly had to tell them that I had not read it.  Others would question my viewing habits while looking at some of the more controversial videotapes.  I again had to admit to not watching them.  And, no, I hadn’t listened to any of the CDs in the box, either.

After all was said and done, and the books and stuff mostly given away, I looked back and realized that I was just a little embarrassed. I had always considered myself a student of the media, and here I was surrounded by all kinds of media, and I wasn’t taking advantage of the vast amount knowledge right under my nose. After all, I had access to more than 3500 titles; surely, there was something that I wanted to read, watch, or listen to.

So, I picked out a book one evening, and was determined to read it cover to cover. I was actually pleased with myself for doing so. It seemed like a step in the right direction toward being a more well-rounded bookseller who could offer up opinions about the titles in his inventory.

It sold to a customer in California during the night.

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