“I don’t remember the title but it had a blue book cover.”
We occasionally have folks come into the library bookstore looking for a particular book but can’t remember the author or title or plot or genre. But they do recall the color or size of the book, or remember who recommended it or where they were when they saw it last. Here we’ve made an arrangement of blue books to help patrons looking for the right color.
I've also had bookstore patrons ask for: income tax forms, income tax advice, reading glasses, envelopes, stationery, babysitting services, tools, watch repair, sketch pads, scrap paper, art supplies, pens, phone chargers, stamps, deck of cards, lottery tickets...even porn tapes. None of which is available (for purchase), but I do manage to scour up some scrap paper.
Of course, these are not the strangest requests I’ve heard while working the used bookstore at the library. There are many entertaining exchanges — some surprising, many bewildering, some shocking, a few mind-boggling.
Take a look sometime at a delightful book called Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops by Jen Campbell (London, 2012) followed by her More Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops (London, 2013). Clearly, there are enough weird things said in bookstores to fill two books, maybe more.
Did Anne Frank ever write a sequel? (from Weird Things...)
Why did you put Hilary Clinton's book in non-fiction? It’s all made-up lies.
Would you mind if I took this cookbook home so I can try out the recipe first?
I’m going on a cruise and just learned that the ship doesn't have a library. So I’m buying these 2 bags with 20 Harlequin romances.
My husband loves me and supports my reading and book buying. He treats me like a pedestal.
Why do you have these books by Darwin and Dawkins? They’re atheists.
Can you recommend a book? I just got out of jail and would like something not too demanding.
Do you have Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Six? No, I'm sure it's Nineteen Eighty-Six. I remember it because that was the year I was born. (from Weird Things...)
You have more books on Bill Clinton than on George Bush. Why?
Your sign says this book is a best-seller. But I've seen this same book here for a month.
This bag says "10 Romance Novels $1." Why are they so cheap?
I don't like this label you use here, "Christian Fiction."
I don’t use an e-reader. Are the books in Kindle hardback or paperback? (from Weird Things...)
Would you mind if I took a couple of books down to the cafe to read while I have lunch?
Do you have any novels by Justin Beiber?
Why don't you have any books on Scientology? I'll bring you some.
I'm looking for a magazine called Chicks & Ammo.
All the self-help books are for women. Don't men need help too?
Why is To Kill a Mockingbird under Classics? I hated that book in high school.
Do you believe in science fiction?
I don’t think you should have books on the circus or zoos because they mistreat animals.
I thought Hunger Games was a book about eating disorders.
Are all the homosexual books in with normal fiction? (from Weird Things...)
The jigsaw puzzle box says it has 1,000 pieces. Can you guarantee it?
I can get cheaper books at the flea market.
I'm decorating my living room in earth tones. Do you have any earth tone books?
Do you have Lionel Ritchie and the Wardrobe? (from Weird Things...)
My husband donated books here, but he gave you the wrong ones. Can I get them back?
I don’t like your plastic bags from Dollar Store. They have a smell.
Why do you put so many books on the bottom shelf?
When I travel l never self-identify as a teacher or an American. Everybody always has something negative to say about teachers, and lots of foreigners don’t like Americans. So when I travel, I tell people I am a Canadian pediatrician.
Do you have the book called Hamlet for Dummies? My son is studying it in school but doesn’t want to read it.
Why is Oprah on so many magazine covers?
Are all those Harry Potter books really any good?
Why are you still carrying these Bill Cosby books? Do you think he's funny?
What playwright was afraid of Christmas? Noel Coward. Ha Ha.
Why do you have more cookbooks than diet books?
I don't understand a word of this Stephen Hawking A Brief History of Time. He just died. Can you explain it to me?
Who died and left all these books on orchids?
Do you sell Bibles? Real ones, not fake ones.
The Goldfinch would make a great doorstop.
Can you tell me which Stephen King books I’ve read?
Do you have that book, something like Fifty Gray Sheds? It's about perverts.
Why is Great Expectations under Classics? I hated that book in high school.
I don't like this travel book on Paris. All the hotels have French names.
What do the colored dots on the book mean? Is that like a rating system, books you like or don't like?
Books make me nervous.
My friend told me A Gentleman in Moscow is a good book. But I think it's about Communism.
I'm not from here. I see you have these old AAA maps of Pinellas County for a quarter. You think they're ok? Has the area changed that much in 20 years?
Why do you have so many National Geographics? My grandfather had thousands of these.
This display calls these books "Coffee Table Books." I don't like coffee.
I don't think Bill O'Reilly should be able to use titles like Killing Jesus. He's OK with Killing Lincoln and Killing Reagan and Killing Kennedy, but not Killing Jesus.
Do all your audio books have sound?
Why do you put so many books on the top shelf?
Why don't you have any Erma Bombeck? I love Erma Bombeck. Now she was funny! She's funnier than Bill Cosby. Why are you still carrying his books?
Do you have a book on the Enlightenment? My son's studying it in school. It's all about the light bulb being invented, right? (from Weird Things...)
I see you have LPs and VHS tapes. Do you repair VCRs here?
I wish you had some Kama Sutra pop-up books.
I want something that looks like real books. Do you have any of those Reader’s Digest Condensed Books?
Ben Wiley, one of our Creative Loafing film reviewers, is also an advocate for paper and print. Dead trees, if you will. He volunteers at a local library bookstore and enjoys engaging with readers and their books. Our series BookStories will highlight some of these Ben, Book & Beyond encounters. Contact him here.