Once upon a time I used to work in a bookstore.
I have a library science degree, and it seemed like the right place to work until I figured out what I wanted to do with that. I loved the experience of working in a bookstore, so much I ended up working there for six years, until they closed.
There are many things I loved about working there, from introducing customers to new writers they’d never read before to discussing my favorites with equally well-read coworkers, but hands down the second best part of the experience was the books. I’ll get to the first part later.
I enjoyed discovering new books, and sharing those discoveries with others. My batting average wasn’t terribly high when it came to predicting best sellers, in fact I can’t think of a single book I foisted on others that hit the best seller lists until well after I had moved on to other material, and several that I thought were terrible that became runaway hits. I was like Sheldrake in Sunset Boulevard, with a soft spot for hopeless talents like Joe Gillis while passing on Gone With the Wind. Seriously, I finished the proof of Da Vinci Code and thought it was like Robert Ludlum if Ludlum had forgotten how to write. The book came in and I saved the boxes to pack up all the unsold copies once it tanked. As much as I disliked that book, though, there were plenty more I loved and shoved into the hands of readers. From an economic standpoint I was pleased people were buying books, but that didn’t stop me from wishing they would put down Dan Brown and pick up Glen David Gold instead.
This summer there are a few titles I’m excited for, that I hope will have better legs than some of the titles I picked in my bookseller days. I mean, Justified, Game of Thrones, and The Walking Dead are done for the year, and you need something to occupy yourself while you’re waiting for Prometheus or The Dark Knight Rises to start.
First up is a leap of faith; Year Zero, Rob Reid’s first novel. Reid is the creator and founder of Listen.com and Rhapsody, and gave a fantastic TED Talk on piracy’s actual impact on the entertainment industry (not as severe as people think) and more effective ways to address it. His novel is Sci-Fi and deals with alien life, pop music, and copyright infringement, and sounds a whole lot funnier than I just described. There’s a lot of humorous science fiction out there, if this is half as good as Connie Willis’s Bellwether and even a fraction of Douglas Adams, it’ll absolutely be worth reading.
Second is The Prisoner of Heaven, by Carlos Ruiz ZafÓn. Here I’m going to assign a little reading. This is the third book in a proposed four book series set in Barcelona before and after World War II. The first is Shadow of the Wind, and the second is the Angel’s Game. Both are deliriously entertaining, labyrinthine reads weaving detailed world-building with rich, three-dimensional characters. The descriptions of Barcelona make a strong case for it replacing Paris as fiction’s go-to city of dreams. Reading ZafÓn makes you feel like you’ve been there and long to return. It’s a little ridiculous the first two are so consistently good, and it’ll be a thrill to see if he can stay as strong with book three.
Third is Ransom River, by Meg Gardiner. I learned about Ms. Gardiner, who used to be published only in England, through an article written by Stephen King a few years back. I’ve followed King’s recommendations for reading material and found, for the most part, he hasn’t steered me wrong yet. Gardiner’s first two series are fast, funny, and clever, and her writing is whip-smart. Her blog is one of the best on the ‘net to boot.
That’s my list so far, not counting the half finished books littering my home, begging for attention. As I read these I’ll update with reviews, I also look forward to hearing what’s on your lists for the summer and beyond. If I’m going to try and sway you to one of the gems above, it’s only fair I let you sell me on your recommendations. Discovering new writers has been an important part of my life, and has brought me more happiness than I can ever possibly express, no matter how long I maintain this blog. After all, the best part of working at a bookstore is that it’s led to more joy and adventure than anything else I’ve ever done.
After all, it’s where I met my wife.