Monday, March 12, 2012

on choosing a Staff Favorite

It can be hard, after 18.5 years of working in a bookstore, to come up with a new Staff Favorite. We read so many good books, and so many good books don't need our help. The perfect fit for the Staff Faves display is an excellent book that most customers have yet to read, so one can revel in the joys of spreading the good word about a great book.

My best Staff Favorite ever was A Fan's Notes by Frederick Exley, because:
  1. Many people had never heard of it;
  2. My shelf-talker was passionate and convincing (something about how cheated
    I felt that I had lived 26 years on this earth before someone told me about this great novel);
  3. it's awesome; and
  4. booze played a prominent role in the book, and San Franciscans love their booze (and boozy books).

My latest Staff Favorite was a bit of let-down, sales-wise. It was The Corrections, truly one of the best novels I've ever read. But almost everyone who might read it already has, so I was preaching to the proverbial choir.

My newest addition to the Staff Faves display is Fahrenheit 451. This pick could go either way: everyone has heard of it, but I'm hoping that many readers have just never gotten around to it, as I hadn't until a long plane trip to Nicaragua last month.

The thing about a book like this is that you think you "get it," even if you haven't read it. It's become so ingrained in our consciousness, like Pride and Prejudice or Moby Dick, that anyone who reads books pretty much "gets it."

But you can't, you don't, until you really do read it. Or at least that's what happened to me. The reason Fahrenheit 451 has held up for long is not just the easily imagined dystopian world in which books are burned, but in the powerful narrative, the eerie unexplained parts, Bradbury's prescience about wall-mounted TVs, the humor and lust and loss.

You just have to read it.


Amy said...

My current staff pick is the Twin by Bakker. It came out awhile ago but is easily overlooked and amazing.

Spiros said...

A factor which may have effected sales of THE CORRECTIONS from the "Staff Favorite" display: the 200 or so copies which appeared on our remainder table right after you put it on the "Staff Favorites". I know I directed several customers to the $5.98 copies.

Pete said...

I LOVED The Twin. Somehow the IMPAC Dublin award, once it turned me on to Out Stealing Horses, got my attention annually, and The Twin WAS great. Quite and powerful. We've sold lots, too!

And Spiros: guess what remainder we got in after I posted this? Yep. F451. Rrr, Buzzsaw!

Spiros said...

Used to happen to John P. all the time.

npb said...

We actually have Fahrenheit 451 and The Twin on remainder right now!