Some years ago I worked in a bookshop for a few months and remember how many extremely funny things I’ve heard there. People were looking for the most amazing things. Not always books. Unfortunately I don’t remember many anecdotes, I just remember that I laughed or chuckled quite a bit. Lucky for us, Jen Campbell’s memory is still intact and she wrote down the funniest things she heard or overheard people say or ask in the bookshop she worked in. Apart from those stories she contributed herself, there are numerous examples from other bookshops as well.
I’m glad I downloaded Weird Things Customers Say In Bookshops on the kindle as it has only 100 pages and can be read in little more than an hour or two. Today I saw it in a bookshop and the way it is presented, with the very colorful cover and the drawings between the episodes (you have those in the e-book as well), I thought that this is one of those books which make a nice present.
Many of the examples are funny because the people asking or saying things don’t know a lot about literature. Clearly someone wondering whether Jane Eyre has written other novels isn’t entirely familiar with the Brontës. While we laugh about such things, we occasionally may also feel somewhat unkind. But there are many other examples which people probably would also ask in other types of shops and which do not reveal some possible cultural gap but sheer silliness or cheekiness like the mother asking whether it is ok that her children are climbing the book shelves.
Since I don’t want to spoil the book for anyone who loves this type of anecdotes but to still give you an idea , I’ll only quote a few at random, leaving out the funniest or most surprising.
Customer: “Do you have a copy of Nineteen Eighty Six?
Bookseller: Nineteen Eighty Six?
Customer: Yeah, Orwell.
Bookseller: Oh – Nineteen Eighty Four.
Customer: No, I’m sure it’s Nineteen Eighty Six; I’ve always remembered it because it is the year I was born.
(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: There was a book in the eighties that I loved…but I can’t remember the title.
Bookseller: Can you remember anything about it?
Customer: I think it was called 360 fairy tales.
Bookseller (searches on British library catalogue): Nothing under that name sorry.
Customer. I might have got the number wrong. Could you just type in fairy tales and see what comes up?
Bookseller: …. That could take a while.
I remember one thing I’ve overheard once in a book shop which struck me as very funny. I was standing there browsing some novel or other when I noticed one of the walls was decorated with Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s. It was the book’s 50th anniversary. Next to me a guy talking to someone spotted the books on the wall as well and shouted really loud “Oh, boy, what a great idea, this Capote guy has actually written a book about that song … “. Yeah, well…
All in all Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops is a slim book but many of the anecdotes which capture human ignorance and folly are really hilarious.
Have you heard people say funny things in book shops?