I don’t know how many of my readers have worked in bookstores, but I’ve served time in a number of them, and I can join Ed Brisson, the creator of this comic strip, in asserting: “It’s all true, folks!”


  1. We hear the same in libraries. My favorite: “Who was Art Nouveau?”

  2. Some of these shouldn’t be problematic. The first guy is plainly talking about Francis Xavier, though he’s a bit off in the chronology. The girl complaining about “Angela’s Ashes” is simply stating her opinion and trying to make conversation with the bookseller, which is supposedly one of the advantages of friendly independent bookstores. The last guy is making a decent point, most stores have already changed the name of the section to “SF and Fantasy” so why isn’t this store with it.
    However, the others are amusing.

  3. Non-fiction novels? Tha’ts what Truman Capote
    called In Cold Blood. I’d also point him to Hunter S Thompson, Norman Mailer, and probably Philip Roth.

  4. Or maybe Matteo Ricci.
    I met a guy once who was a great admirer of the Spanish poet Anonimo. I feel that Anonimo’s poems don’t really match those of the Italian poetess Ignota, however.

  5. My favorite from 30+ years as a bookseller:
    I need a book for a class. It’s called Madame Ovaries (this literally caused me to fall to the floor and stick my head in the safe to avoid laughing in the customers face.)

  6. Doubleday made Kenneth Rexroth title his autobiography “An Autobiographical Novel” for fear of lawsuits. Later, he wrote, “Substantially, it’s all true.” When I researched his boyhood years in Elkhart, Indiana, it turned out that it contained a lot of fiction, at least in literal terms. His maternal grandfather’s first name (Charles, not George Reed), for instance. And sadly, the story of that same grandfather and Eugene Debs “sitting in their socks with their feet up on the railing of the front porch, eating roast chicken and drinking straight whiskey,” is almost certainly apocryphal. Elkhart circa 1910 was an interesting place, but it would have been absolutely fascinating were Rexroth’s tales literally true.

  7. Damaged Goods says

    Well, it isn’t always just the customers… A few years back I was kicking myself for not knowing where the Bosporus was. So I asked a guy at B & N if they had any books about it, and he didn’t even know WHAT it was…

  8. Richard Hershberger says

    I’m with Christopher Culver on this. The Francis Xavier one in particular: the customer is seeking help, and has provided ample information. This is just the sort of help that a good bookstore should be able and happy to provide. If the staff of the bookstore finds the information provided insufficient, perhaps the bookstore isn’t quite as good as they like to imagine. (The Dostoyevsky question is also, strictly speaking, perfectly answerable, though I would have to look up which is his ‘latest’.)

  9. Give ’em credit. At least these inquiring minds found their way to the bookstore!

  10. I used to work in the Classical Studies department of a university bookshop, and we stocked a general reader account of the Graeco-Persian wars called “The Year of Salamis”. A surprising number of customers seemed to think it was about Italian sausages.

  11. See, if I saw that in some list of “cute things customers say,” my enjoyment would be marred by the suspicion that it was invented, but your comment is utterly convincing and cracked me up.

  12. Elkhart, Indiana is probably still a rather interesting place. From some friends in Indiana, I heard that as of 1991, a fast food place there was still refusing service to Blacks.

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