July 27, 2009

Browsing for Godot

What do Neal Pollack and the author of Homo Thug have in common? For one, both are grossly misunderstood by the bookstores that peddle their wares.

Pete Croatto

When I worked at a big-box bookstore from 2006 to 2008, the apparent objective was to eliminate guesswork for both customers and employees. That's why we had two information desks, managers aplenty, and cash registers that did everything but count out change.

What's confounding is that, for all the assurances that everyone knew what was going on, I'd be shelving books, heading toward a section I believed to be a book's rightful place, and ask myself if the system had collapsed. After all, what was Malcolm Gladwell's self-described "intellectual adventure story" The Tipping Point doing amidst the blameless inner children and benign assurances of self-help? Alternadad, Neal Pollack's account of being a first-time dad and full-time writer, was in the rather forbidding sections of general family psychology and general childcare, a few spines away from the Oprah-approved recipes in Deceptively Delicious. Susan Orlean's The Orchid Thief, about the whirl of history, scandal, and passion behind orchids? Be sure to stop by the gardening section.

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- Books
- posted on Jul 28, 09

Very nice piece, both in concept and scope; English wasn't bad, either (for an American, that is).

Has this guy written anything else? If not, somebody ought to hire him as an editor-at-large.

- Books
- posted on Nov 11, 10
But But But...

As a bookseller who is able to decide for myself what categorisations apply to my books, I converse with my colleagues several times a day about the best place to put a title. And there's rarely an easy answer. Most books can live in many places, and any attempt to apply a concrete genre will necessarily ignore important connections. Having said that, I do like the concept of genre as a general indicator of theme.
A mini example: Catching The Big Fish by David Lynch. Does this belong in Film, alongside books about Lynch? Or, as a book on transcendental meditation, should it reside in the spirituality section? Or, as a commentary on the creative process, should it be shelved with other artists talking about their medium, and about what it means to create? A conundrum indeed.

- Books
- posted on Jan 12, 12

I work at a bookstore and it's so frustrating to see books go to what is obviously the wrong "home" for them. "The Tao of Pooh" helped me understand the basics of Taoism using Winnie the Pooh stories as analogies. It is shelved in Humor.

Article by Pete Croatto

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