I saw a lovely Leunig cartoon last week. In it a man was standing at a table which was heaped high with books. The sign on the table said, “There is one good book on this table, good luck in finding it”. This triggered three thoughts , one immediate, the second not long after and the third just today.
The immediate thought was regarding the heaps, literally thousands, of books which are published each month and how many of them make one wonder, ‘why?’. Bronwyn, our children’s book buyer, and I spend a lot of time every week carefully sifting through publishers lists to ensure that our customers are not faced with a table like Leunig’s. Each month we select between 200 and 300 new titles to put into stock so there is always lots of interest to enjoy without wading through heaps of dross – Bronwyn and I have already done that bit!
The second thought was about how important it is that a bookseller avoid being/becoming a literary snob. Books are after all about entertainment and education and both of these can be achieved at many appropriate levels.
A good example of literary snobbery was when years ago some booksellers refused to stock Choose-your-own Adventure books. These books were aimed at young boys and at the end of each short chapter the reader had to decide what happened next. Did the hero go through the door or jump through the window for instance. If the door you had to turn to page 36, if the window turn to page 48. Now the literary level was pretty low which was why some people refused to stock them. But these books encouraged boys to read because they enjoyed the adventure and, at the same time, they learned to concentrate when reading because if they didn’t they couldn’t make ‘the decision’. Many a young boy cut his reading teeth on CYO books just as many other boys and girls have cut their teeth on Enid Blyton whose books are hardly literary masterpieces.
Today came the third thought. Having patted myself on the back for our careful selection of books and on not being a literary snob (well not too often) I was reminded how humbling bookselling can be. It is a simple fact that with so much publishing being done the longer one is in the bookselling the more one doesn’t know! And there is always going to be a wonderful author who gets ‘missed’. Today I discovered one I had missed. I immediately put 3 of her titles on order so we should have them next week. I will tell you about her in my next blog.
In the meantime perhaps you would like to tell us which ‘not particularly literary’ books have launched you or your children on a reading career.
Remember, each month we are giving away one $50 Brays Voucher and two $30 Brays Vouchers for the best/most interesting comments!