Since I bought my Sony e–reader I spend less time in bookshops than I used to. After reading Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops by Jen Campbell I think I should go more often. Here is a selection from the book:
CUSTOMER: Hi, I just wanted to ask: did Anne Frank ever write a sequel?
CUSTOMER: I really enjoyed her first book.
BOOKSELLER: Her diary?
CUSTOMER: Yes, the diary.
BOOKSELLER: Her diary wasn’t fictional.
BOOKSELLER: Yes… She really dies at the end – that’s why the diary finishes. She was taken to a concentration camp.
CUSTOMER: Oh… that’s terrible.
BOOKSELLER: Yes, it was awful –
CUSTOMER: I mean, it’s such a shame, you know? She was such a good writer.
CUSTOMER (holding up a copy of a Harry Potter book): This doesn’t have anything weird in it… does it?
BOOKSELLER: You mean, like, werewolves?
CUSTOMER: No (whispers) – gays.
BOOKSELLER: . . . right.
(A child is playing with a book on the floor and rips it)
CHILD’S MOTHER: Oh, Stephen (she tuts in a non-serious way). Do be careful. (She takes the book off the child and puts it back on the shelf)
BOOKSELLER: Excuse me?
CHILD’S MOTHER: Yes?
BOOKSELLER: Your son just ripped the head off the tiger who came to tea.
CHILD’S MOTHER: I know. Children, ey?
BOOKSELLER: Yes, but we can’t sell that book now. It’s damaged.
CHILD’S MOTHER: Well I don’t know what you expect me to do about it.
CUSTOMER: Do you have any Robin Hood stories where he doesn’t steal from the rich? My husband’s called Robin and I’d like to buy him a copy for his birthday, but he’s a banker, so …
CUSTOMER: Do you have Agatha Christie’s Death in Denial?
CUSTOMER: Who wrote the Bible? I can’t remember.
CUSTOMER’S FRIEND: Jesus.
CUSTOMER: Do you have any books signed by Margaret Atwood?
BOOKSELLER: We have many Margaret Atwood books, but I’m afraid we don’t have any signed copies.
CUSTOMER: I’m looking for a birthday present for my wife. I know she’s really love a signed copy. You couldn’t fake a signature could you?
CUSTOMER: Do you have an LGBT fiction section?
BOOKSELLER: We don’t have a specific section, but we do have LGBT literature – Sarah Waters, Ali Smith, Jeanette Winterson, Christopher Isherwood etc. Which author were you looking for?
CUSTOMER: Don’t worry, I’ll have a look through the fiction section – thanks for your help.
OTHER CUSTOMER: Sorry, did I hear you right? Did you just say that all the homosexual books are in with the normal fiction.
BOOKSELLER: All our fiction is one section.
(Other Customer looks suspiciously at the book she’s holding and slides it back on the shelf)
CUSTOMER: These books are really stupid, aren’t they?
BOOKSELLER: Which ones?
CUSTOMER: You know, the ones where animals like cats and mice are best friends.
BOOKSELLER: I suppose they’re not very realistic, but then that’s fiction.
CUSTOMER: They’re more than unrealistic; they’re really stupid.
BOOKSELLER: Well, writers use that kind of thing to teach kids about accepting people different to themselves, you know?
CUSTOMER: Yeah, well, books shouldn’t pretend that different people get on like that and that everything is ‘la de da’ and wonderful, should they? Kids should learn that life’s a bitch, and the sooner the better.
Do you have any books in this shade of green, to match the wrapping paper I bought?
So . . . this Kindle. Are the books on that paperback or hardback?
CUSTOMER: Do you have this children’s book I’ve heard about? It’s supposed to be very good. It’s called ‘Lionel Richie and the Wardrobe.’
CUSTOMER: My children are just climbing your bookshelves. That’s ok, isn’t it? They won’t topple over, will they?
(Customer is reading a book from the shelf, pauses and folds the top of one of the pages over, then puts it back on the shelf)
BOOKSELLER: Excuse me, what are you doing?
CUSTOMER: I was just reading the first chapter of this book, but I’m going to be late meeting a friend for lunch. So, I’m just marking it and I’ll finish reading it when I stop by tomorrow.
CUSTOMER: I’m just going to nip to the supermarket to do the weekly shop. I’m going to leave my sons here, is that ok? They’re three and five. They’re no bother.
CUSTOMER (holding up a copy of Ulysses): Why is this book so long? Isn’t it supposed to be set in one day only? How can this many pages of things happen to one person in one day? I mean, I get up, have breakfast, go to work, come home… sometimes I might go out for a drink, and that’s it! And, I mean, that doesn’t fill a book, does it?
CUSTOMER: Can you point me to your military history section, please?
BOOKSELLER: I’m afraid we’re such a small shop that we don’t actually have one.
CUSTOMER: WHAT? No war section AT ALL? Have you no respect for the fallen?
BOOKSELLER: I can order in any title you’re after. Or you’ll find a decent selection of war poetry and novels inspired by war.
CUSTOMER (ignoring this): You mean to tell me you have no shelf on weaponry?
BOOKSELLER: I’m afraid not.
CUSTOMER: Are you a pacifist or something?
CUSTOMER: It’s amazing, isn’t it, how little we really know about writers’ lives? Especially the old ones.
BOOKSELLER: I guess the lives of writers have changed a lot.
CUSTOMER: Yes. And don’t forget about those women who used to write under male names.
BOOKSELLER: Yes, like George Eliot.
CUSTOMER: I always thought Charles Dickens was probably a woman.
BOOKSELLER: . . . I’m pretty sure Charles Dickens was a man.
CUSTOMER: But who’s to say?
BOOKSELLER: Well, he was pretty prominent in society; lots of people saw him.
CUSTOMER: But maybe that was all a show – maybe that was her brother, whilst Charlene was at home, writing.
BOOKSELLER: . .
CUSTOMER: I’m always on night shift at work.
BOOKSELLER (jokingly): Is that why you’re buying so many vampire novels?
CUSTOMER (seriously): You can never be too prepared.
CUSTOMER: I’d like to buy your heaviest book, please.
You know how they say that if you gave 1,000 monkeys typewriters, then they’d eventually churn out really good writing? Well, do you have any books by those monkeys?
Do you have any pop-up books on sex education?
CUSTOMER: I’m looking for a book for my son. He’s six.
BOOKSELLER: How about this one – it’s about—
CUSTOMER: Yeah, whatever, I’ll take it.
Did Charles Dickens ever write anything fun?
CUSTOMER: If I were to, say… meet the love of my life in this bookshop, what section do you think they would be standing in?
CUSTOMER: Do you have a section on religion?
BOOKSELLER: Sure, it’s just over here.
CUSTOMER: You’ve got Richard Dawkins’s books on here next to copies of the Bible.
BOOKSELLER: That section is for all kinds of books relating to religion.
CUSTOMER: I hope you know that’s a sin. And you will go to hell.
CUSTOMER: Do you have any security cameras in here?
CUSTOMER: Oh (CUSTOMER slides a book out from inside his jacket and places it back on the shelf).
CHILD: Mummy, can we buy this book?
MOTHER: Put that down, Benjamin. We’ve got quite enough books at home!
CUSTOMER: Have you read every single book in here?
BOOKSELLER: No, I can’t say I have.
CUSTOMER: Well you’re not very good at your job, are you?
CUSTOMER: Hi. I was wondering if you could help me. I’m looking for a book for my niece. She’s six and I’ve no idea what to buy her.
BOOKSELLER: Sure. What kinds of things is she in to?
CUSTOMER: I don’t really know. I don’t see her very often – my sister lives abroad.
BOOKSELLER: OK, what’s her name?
BOOKSELLER: Ah, well, have you considered the Dick King Smith Sophie series? There’s even a book called Sophie’s Six.
CUSTOMER: OK, sure, that sounds like a good idea.
BOOKSELLER: Do you want me to double check that we have those in stock? I’m pretty sure we do.
CUSTOMER: No, it’s OK. I’m just going to order them online.
BOOKSELLER: But… we just gave you the recommendation.
CUSTOMER: I know, and I appreciate it. It’s a pain that Amazon don’t have a physical person I can ask about this sort of thing. Still, I can always rely on you guys for advice.
CUSTOMER: What books could I buy to make guests look at my bookshelf and think: ‘Wow, that guy’s intelligent’?